“. . . We now live in a broken-windows world. I would argue that it began a decade ago, when Barack Obama called on Americans to turn a chapter on a decade of war and “focus on nation-building here at home,” which became a theme of his re-election campaign.
It looked like a good bet at the time. Osama bin Laden had just been killed. The surge in Iraq had stabilized the country and decimated Al Qaeda there. The Taliban were on the defensive. Relations with Russia had been “reset.” China was still under the technocratic leadership of Hu Jintao. The Arab Spring, eagerly embraced by Obama as “a chance to pursue the world as it should be,” seemed to many to portend a more hopeful future for the Middle East (though some of us were less sanguine). . . . “
David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Nice column, but you reach too far, and fall short, though there are criticisms you approach that are valid. Comparing the Russian gas pipeline to other failures seems silly, like comparing apples to oranges. Everyone needs a little natural gas for the next 50 years or so. Even Biden didn’t cancel all the pipelines from Canada. Our walking out of Afghanistan doesn’t show that we are over as a great power, but that we are starting to act again like an intelligent as well as great power, with more fights in the future than just against the primitive Taliban. You are still right about several important and serious mistakes. We should be occupying Syria right now not Afghanistan. Ignoring the red line Obama had drawn himself was dumb, cowardly, and over cautious. But Afghanistan is history. We should be discussing an invasion or insurrection in Brazil, to save the rain forest. That is in our national interest.
David is a jack of all trades and master of none, and a military historian, who blogs at InconvenientNews.net.
“As of this writing, terrorists in Gaza — the word “terrorist” fits people who take indiscriminate aim at civilians to achieve political goals — have fired some 1,750 rockets at Israel since Monday.
That’s a number worth pausing over, and not just because it has had the effect of overwhelming Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense. Gaza is often said to be sealed off and utterly destitute. Yet Hamas, which rules Gaza, seems not to have had too much trouble amassing this kind of arsenal, or too many qualms employing it in a way it knew was sure to incur a heavy Israeli response.
The usual rule in life is that if you throw the first punch you can’t complain if you’re counterpunched. The test of Western policy and public opinion is whether they will let Hamas break this rule.
That’s a test the Biden administration has so far passed: Both the president and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have issued statements stressing that “Israel has a right to defend itself.” Good. It’s more than can be said for progressives such as Bernie Sanders, who blamed “the irresponsible actions of government-allied right-wing extremists in Jerusalem” for the fighting without adding a word of condemnation for Hamas.
The idea is either to keep Israel from returning fire or, if it does, reap the propaganda benefits from televised and tweeted pictures of wrecked buildings and human casualties and “disproportionate” Israeli-Palestinian death counts that obscure the fact that one side is doing what it can to protect civilian lives and the other side is doing what it can to endanger them.
The cynicism is breathtaking. It ought to be widely condemned as a form of terrorism against ordinary Palestinians, whose visible suffering is as central to Hamas’s global purposes as is the suffering of Israeli civilians to its domestic purposes. But if past experience is anything to go by, an errant Israeli mortar or missile will mistakenly hit a civilian target, generating furious claims that Israel has committed war crimes, along with intense diplomatic pressure for Jerusalem to “de-escalate” and seek a cease-fire — at least until the next round of fighting.
In that case, the result would be a political victory for Hamas, achieved not only at a heavy price in Palestinian lives but also at the expense of Palestinian moderates, who’d look like weaklings or fools for opposing the strategy of violent “resistance.” . . . “
Dear Bret, Thiscolumn is brilliant. You completely convinced me that the current form of Hamas leaves no room for peace. I think it was Thomas Friedman who taught me to see that Netanyahu sought and started the war with Hamas, to stop a new more moderate coalition in Israel from coming to power, that included the four Arab members of the Knesset. I would like to see you put forward your ideas for how to make peace. It seems to me that such ideas will make any writer appear stupid. We need both a two state solution, and equal rights for all Palestinians inside of Israel, both built on the grave of Hamas, as it is currently constituted, and many stolen properties, will have to be given back to Palestinians. Ultimately, there will have to be one country, since there is so little land, and it should be called something like, Israel and Palestine, or Palestine and Israel. Both peoples will have to live in peace and share equal rights. Is this totally naive. There are majorities on both sides that want peace instead of war. Neither of these majorities are currently in power.
“Imagine an alternative universe in which an enlightened Israeli government did almost everything progressive America demanded of it.
An immediate cessation of hostilities in Gaza. An end to Israeli controls over the movement of goods into the territory. A halt to settlement construction in the West Bank. Renunciation of Israel’s sovereign claims in East Jerusalem. Fast-track negotiations for Palestinian statehood, with the goal of restoring the June 4, 1967, lines as an internationally recognized border.
Oslo would be placing phone calls to Jerusalem and Ramallah in October, to bestow the Nobel Peace Prize on the Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Arab states such as Saudi Arabia would establish formal diplomatic relations with Israel. The international community would agree on a multibillion-dollar aid package for the new state of Palestine.
But there would be flies in this ointment. . . . “
David Lindsay Jr.Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Your column before this one was brilliant. You completely convinced me that the current form of Hamas leaves no room for peace. You taught me to see that Netanyahu sought and started the war with Hamas, to stop a new more moderate coalition in Israel from coming to power, that included the 4 Arab members of the Knesset. There are many issues with this next essay today. Please read carefully the comment about your wrong assumptions. I will add to that list, your first wrong assumption, when you started, imagine that Israel gave in to all the demands of the progressive Democratics. It is so incorrect to think that all progressives think only one way about most anything. You are an easy target to pick on, if bullying is what people are about. I did notice that inside your foolish assumptons, you still made good arguments in this very essay I am criticizing. Instead of re-editing it, I would like to see you put forward, as others here request, your ideas for how to make peace. It seems to me that such ideas will make any writer appear stupid. We need both a two state solution, and equal rights for all Palestinians inside of Israel, both built on the grave of Hamas, as it is currently constituted, and many stolen properties, will have to be given back to Palestinians.
“Years ago, Alexis Tsipras, the party leader of Greece’s Coalition of the Radical Left, surprised me with a question. “Here in the United States,” the soon-to-be prime minister asked me over breakfast in New York, “why do you not have this phenomenon of passing money under the table?”
The subject was health care. Greece has a public health care system that, in theory, guarantees its citizens access to necessary medical care.
Practice, however, is another matter. Patients in Greek public hospitals, Tsipras explained, would first have to slip a doctor “an envelope with a certain amount of money” before they could expect to get treatment. The government, he added, underpaid its doctors and then looked the other way as they topped up their income with bribes.
Take a close look at any country or locality in which the government offers allegedly free or highly subsidized goods and you’ll usually discover that there’s a catch.
France’s subsidized day care is, by all accounts, fantastic for working parents who get their children into it. Except there’s a perpetual shortage of slots. In Sweden, a raft of laws protects tenants from excessively high rent. Except wait times for apartments can be as long as 20 years. In Britain, the National Health Service is a source of pride. Except that, even before the pandemic, one in six patients faced wait times of more than 18 weeks for routine treatment. . . . “
David Lindsay Jr.Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
I feel a bit sorry for Bret Stephens and Ross Douthat, and other modern, young, conservatives. They deserve pitty for their bubbleheadedness. Or hardheadedness? Stephen’s attacks on France, especially for its high unemployment, contrasts with Paul Kruman last week, who reported that France has more woman working than the US does. One reason, is that they have state supported childcare. Their suicide rate is lower, and their life expectancy is higher. et cetera. I humbly suspect that the elephant in the room is that the real conservatives are more like myself, ardent climate hawks, deeply concernced about the environment. We recognize that income inequality has hurt the poor and gutted out the middle class. These young men are so bright and articulate, you suspect that they might accidentally wake up, and realize that the woke conservatives are now the right wing of the Democratic party. The Republicans turning to Trumpism, and no nothingism, white supremacy and anti-science and anti-democracy positions, left us little choice.
“Americans breathed a collective sigh of relief last week after Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd. The crime was heinous, the verdict just, the moral neat. If you think that systemic racism is the defining fact of race relations in 21st-century America, then Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck is its defining image.
But what about a case like that of Ma’Khia Bryant, a Black teenager who was shot and killed last week by Nicholas Reardon, a white police officer in Columbus, Ohio, at the instant that she was swinging a knife at a woman who had her back against a car?
Ben Crump, the Floyd family’s lawyer, accused the Columbus police in a tweet of killing “an unarmed 15yo Black girl.” Valerie Jarrett, the former Obama adviser, tweeted that Bryant “was killed because a police officer immediately decided to shoot her multiple times in order to break up a knife fight.” Jarrett wants to “Demand accountability” and “Fight for justice.”
An alternative view: Maybe there wasn’t time for Officer Reardon, in an 11-second interaction, to “de-escalate” the situation, as he is now being faulted for failing to do. And maybe the balance of our sympathies should lie not with the would-be perpetrator of a violent assault but with the cop who saved a Black life — namely that of Tionna Bonner, who nearly had Bryant’s knife thrust into her. . . . “
“I once boarded a flight from Dubai to Kabul alongside a team of Afghan soccer players — teenage girls in red uniforms, chatting and laughing much as they might have anywhere else in the world. I thought of those players again after President Biden announced plans for America’s complete military withdrawal from Afghanistan.
I hope they have the means to get out before the Taliban take over again, as sooner or later will most likely happen.
The United States did not go into Afghanistan after 9/11 to improve the status of women. We did so anyway. Millions of girls, whom the Taliban had forbidden to get any kind of education, went to school. Some of them — not nearly enough, but impressive considering where they started from and the challenges they faced — became doctors, entrepreneurs, members of Parliament. A few got to watch their daughters play soccer under the protective shield of Pax Americana.
Those women are now being abandoned. So is every Afghan who struggled to make the country a more humane, hospitable, ethnically and socially tolerant place — some by taking immense personal risks to help U.S. troops, diplomats and aid workers do their jobs. As George Packer writes in The Atlantic, there are some 17,000 such Afghans waiting for the wheels of U.S. bureaucracy to turn so they can get their visas. . . . “
David Lindsay Jr.Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Thank you Bret Setphens for trying, but no thank you. In researching our fiasco in Vietnam, I discovered the writing of Sun Tzu, who wrote “the Art of War,” about the wisdom accued from about 300 years of civil war in ancient China. He collected a list of important ideas, which included: Never invade another country unless it is an emergency, and then, get in and get out, or the cost of the occupation will be more than any gain you achieved initially. He also wrote, know your enemy better than you know yourself, and, as correctly quoted in the movie “Wall Street,” don’t go into a fight unless you already know you will win. The Chinese are delighted that we waisted 2 trillion dollars in this hopeless occupation, and they would love to see us double our losses. We need to put gigantic sums into our infrastructure, and human capital, and research and developent. I admit that when David Brooks suggested last Friday on the News Hour, that we should maintain a small force as a long term deterent, I knew that that was the only viable argument. But while 500 hundred was enough in nothern Syria, 2500 wasn’t apparently enough in Afgahistan. It will be up the Afghan people to fight or change the Taliban.
David Lindsay Jr is the author of the Tay Son Rebellion about 18th century Vietnam, and blogs at InconvenientNews.Net.
” . . . But the administration would be foolish to suppose the surge will recede on its own. The years of relative economic prosperity in Mexico that, for a time, led to a net outflow of Mexican migrants from the U.S. are over, thanks to a combination of drug cartels, a pandemic and the misgovernance of its inept populist president. Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua are failing states. A “Plan Colombia”-style package of security assistance could help. But it will cost billions and probably take a decade for its effects to be felt.
In the meantime, the United States risks a version of the European migration crisis of 2015. That’s the one that contributed heavily to the Brexit vote, turbocharged the rise of far-right parties like France’s National Front and the Alternative for Germany, and paved the way to Trump’s election.
There’s little question that our own migration crisis is a political boon for immigration restrictionists. The wonder is why a serious Democratic administration would aid and abet their cause.
It’s also putting the interests of comprehensive immigration reform further out of reach. Congress has not passed a significant immigration bill in over three decades. Joe Biden came to office with an opportunity to get a bipartisan accord, but no Republican will sign on to legislation that widens the doors to legal immigrants, much less one that offers some form of amnesty to illegal ones, without a serious plan for border security. Nothing accomplishes that more visibly than a wall.
For Democrats, that’s an opportunity to defuse the political bomb Republicans would love to plant right under them. And it’s a jobs-creating infrastructure program to boot.
Will a wall solve all of our immigration problems? Hardly. It will take years to build, and some practical, regulatory and legal hurdles might be hard to surmount. But for anyone who hopes for America to remain a proud nation of immigrants, it has to be a part of the solution.” -30-
David Lindsay Jr.Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Thank you Bret for daring to think this through. You are right that if Biden isn’t stronger on illegal immigration, he will hand the government back to the Trumpsters. I don’t agree we should finish the wall with steel and bricks, that would be an environmental disaster. But I do agree that Biden has to secure the border, or probably lose power in the next few elections.
The list of reforms is daunting, but not impossible. We need e-verification of workers, and enforce that businesses can’t use illegals without permission and worker protections. We need to legalize or decriminalize all addictive drugs, to stop the gross drug war profits from destabilizing governments on both sides of the wall. As well as a US Marshall plan against climate change and to create new jobs in the US, we need another to help our neighbors to the south. We need to amend the 14th amendment, so you can’t gain citizenship here simply by being born here by either illegals, guest workers, or tourists. Family planning and zero or negative population growth are going to have to part of US foreign and domestic policy, to reduce humans to a sustainable number, and make room for other species, that are disappearing at an alarming rate.
You are right that Biden should finish the wall, but he should do it with all the ideas above, not physical barriers that will cause more endangered species to die off.
David Lindsay Jr is the author of the Tay Son Rebellion about Vietnam, and blogs at InconvenientNews.Net.
“In the First Cold War, the United States and our allies had a secret weapon against the Soviet Union and its satellites.
It didn’t come from the C.I.A. Nor was it a product of DARPA or the weapons labs at Los Alamos. It was Communism.
Communism aided the West because it saddled an imperialist Russian state with an unworkable and unpopular economic system that could not keep up with its free-market competitors. “They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work” — the quintessential Russian joke about working life in the workers’ paradise — goes far to explain why a regime with tens of thousands of nuclear warheads simply petered out.
Now we are entering the Second Cold War, this time with China. That’s the takeaway from this month’s U.S.-China summit in Anchorage, in which both sides made clear that they had not only clashing interests but also incompatible values. Secretary of State Antony Blinken bluntly accused China of threatening “the rules-based order that maintains global stability.” Yang Jiechi, his Chinese counterpart, replied that the U.S. had to “stop advancing its own democracy in the rest of the world.” ” . . .
“. . . Bret: The minimum wage hike is a terrible idea. It makes it more difficult for small businesses, like restaurants, to hire younger or unskilled workers. It encourages large franchises to move toward increased automation. The economy already got trillions of dollars in stimulus last year, most recently a $900 billion bill passed at the end of December. Shouldn’t the economy digest that meal before we move on to the next course? Otherwise we’re going to end up like Marcello Mastroianni in “La Grande Bouffe,” if you happen to recall that particular epic.”
David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
Dear Bret and Gail, this column is excellent, and good for all of us, keep it up. Bret, you sound a bit out of touch on poo pooing a hike in the minimum wage. I strongly recommend that you your read and report on a terrific book called “Nickel and Dimed.” “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America” is a book written by Barbara Ehrenreich. Written from her perspective as an undercover journalist, it sets out to investigate the impact of the 1996 welfare reform act on the working poor in the United States. The events related in the book took place between spring 1998 and summer 2000. The book was first published in 2001 by Metropolitan Books. An earlier version appeared as an article in the January 1999 issue of Harper’s magazine.” -Wikipedia.
On this same topic, I recommend you see and comment on the new film Nomadland, which made me remember “Nickel and Dimed.” The main character in the new movie, also, can’t make ends meet with the low wages she earns, and she doesn’t even have rent, just seasonal van repairs. I’m hearing good things about a compromise new minimum Federal wage of 12 dollars. Without a higher minimum, how do we ensure that adults who work full time aren’t also stuck in poverty? There is a related issue, poor people in jail for dept.
Ms. Collins and Mr. Stephens are opinion columnists. They converse every week.
Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times
“Bret Stephens: Gail, given what’s happened in the past two weeks, Martin Luther King Jr. Day feels particularly meaningful this year. It seems as if the country is just holding its breath, waiting for the next Capitol Hill mob to descend, somewhere, somehow, on something or someone.
Is this 1968 all over again, or do you feel any sense of optimism?
Gail: Well Bret, I was actually around in 1968 — politically speaking.
Bret: Ah, but do you actually remember it?
Gail: There were certainly a lot of … distractions, what with a cultural revolution around every corner. And a terrible string of assassinations — after King, I can remember when Robert Kennedy was killed in June, feeling like nobody was safe from crazy people and right-wing racists.
Bret: Now it’s like déjà vu all over again. Donald Trump spent five years stoking the paranoia and loathing of his crowds, and now it has been unleashed. We’ll be living with it for years.”
David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
Bravo to both of you. Bret, sorry to hear you write:” I also have my doubts about some of Biden’s other ideas, like raising the minimum wage to $15, since a lot of the hardest hit businesses — restaurants in particular — will struggle with the extra labor costs.” I read in this prestigious newspaper, that economists in Europe point out that fast food workers all get $23 in the Netherlands, and it only adds about 30 cents to the cost of meal. Didn’t you study the velocity of money in economics?Oh, you skipped economics. The high minimum wage in European counties is part of why they are statistically happier, healthier, and safer than Americans today.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion” and blogs at InconvenientNews.net. He also has an MBA from the Foster School of Business, University of Washington