Peter Beinart | In Biden’s Foreign Policy, What Is ‘Rules-Based Order?’ – The New York Times

Mr. Beinart is a contributing Opinion writer who focuses on American foreign policy.

“Anyone who slogs through the diplomatic verbiage generated last week by President Biden’s inaugural overseas trip will notice one phrase again and again: “rules-based.” It appears twice in Mr. Biden’s joint statement with Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain, four times each in the communiqués the United States issued with the governments of the Group of 7 and the European Union, and six times in the manifesto produced by NATO.

That’s no surprise: “Rules-based order” (or sometimes, “rules-based system”) is among the Biden administration’s favorite terms. It has become what “free world” was during the Cold War. Especially among Democrats, it’s the slogan that explains what America is fighting to defend.

Too bad. Because the “rules-based order” is a decoy. It’s a way of sidestepping the question Democrats should be asking: Why isn’t America defending international law?”

Peter Beinart | Palestinian Refugees Deserve to Return Home. Jews Should Understand. – The New York Times

Mr. Beinart, a contributing Opinion writer who focuses on politics and foreign policy, is an editor at large of Jewish Currents, where a version of this essay appeared.

“Why has the impending eviction of six Palestinian families in East Jerusalem drawn Israelis and Palestinians into a conflict that appears to be spiraling toward yet another war? Because of a word that in the American Jewish community remains largely taboo: the Nakba.

The Nakba, or “catastrophe” in Arabic, need not refer only to the more than 700,000 Palestinians who were expelled or fled in terror during Israel’s founding. It can also evoke the many expulsions that have occurred since: the about 300,000 Palestinians whom Israel displaced when it conquered the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967; the roughly 250,000 Palestinians who could not return to the West Bank and Gaza after Israel revoked their residency rights between 1967 and 1994; the hundreds of Palestinians whose homes Israel demolished in 2020 alone. The East Jerusalem evictions are so combustible because they continue a pattern of expulsion that is as old as Israel itself.

Among Palestinians, Nakba is a household word. But for Jews — even many liberal Jews in Israel, America and around the world — the Nakba is hard to discuss because it is inextricably bound up with Israel’s creation. Without the mass expulsion of Palestinians in 1948, Zionist leaders would have had neither the land nor the large Jewish majority necessary to create a viable Jewish state. As I discuss at greater length in an essay for Jewish Currents from which this guest essay is adapted, acknowledging and beginning to remedy that expulsion — by allowing Palestinian refugees to return — requires imagining a different kind of country, where Palestinians are considered equal citizens, not a demographic threat.

To avoid this reckoning, the Israeli government and its American Jewish allies insist that Palestinian refugees abandon hope of returning to their homeland. This demand is drenched in irony, because no people in human history have clung as stubbornly to the dream of return as have Jews. Establishment Jewish leaders denounce the fact that Palestinians pass down their identity as refugees to their children and grandchildren. But Jews have passed down our identity as refugees for 2,000 years. In our holidays and liturgy we continually mourn our expulsion and express our yearning for return. “After being forcibly exiled from their land,” proclaims Israel’s Declaration of Independence, “the people kept faith with it throughout their Dispersion.” If keeping faith that exile can be overcome is sacred to Jews, how can we condemn Palestinians for doing the same thing?  . . . “

Peter Beinart | Let’s Cut Our Ridiculous Defense Budget – The New York Times

Mr. Beinart is a contributing opinion writer who focuses on politics and foreign policy.

“President Biden loves spending money. Last month, he signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan to stimulate the economy. Now he’s pushing the $2 trillion American Jobs Plan to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure. He vows to follow that with the American Families Plan to improve health care, child care and education, which could cost billions or trillions more.

The more money Mr. Biden tries to spend, the more loudly critics ask where he’s getting it. He borrowed the funds for the stimulus. He wants corporations to pay for the infrastructure plan. With every legislative battle, finding the money grows harder. All of which raises a question: Will Mr. Biden try to cut defense?

Early reporting suggests that his administration’s first budget, which is expected later this spring, may not reduce military spending at all. That’s particularly remarkable given that, according to the Center for International Policy, today’s military budget, adjusted for inflation, is far higher than the post-World War II average.

It’s not as if there aren’t places to cut. In 2016, Bob Woodward and Craig Whitlock of The Washington Post disclosed that, according to an internal study, the Defense Department could save $125 billion over five years simply by trimming its distended bureaucracy. The department, the study found, employed close to 200,000 people in property management alone. After a summary of the report became public, Mr. Woodward and Mr. Whitlock noted, the Pentagon “imposed secrecy restrictions on the data making up the study, which ensured no one could replicate the findings.” It remains the only federal agency that has never passed an audit.” . . .

David Lindsay Jr.

David Lindsay Jr.Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:

The writer would like to see the Biden Administration cut the military budget by 33%. We would still be spending twice as much as China, but would have to forgo many unneeded nuclear carriers, submarines, and stealth aircraft. CT would have learn to make some non-military hardware. We need to build back better, as the Biden team likes to say, so we have something here that is worth protecting, instead of an oligarchy of billionaires.