Thursday, March 18, 2010

San Patricio, John Mearsheimer: Taking Sides

San Patricio

NY Times Editorial
March 17, 2010

On this day of all days in the Irish-American calendar, when ethnic pride
swells, let's raise a toast: Here's to the Irish, and here's to the rest of
us. May we never forget where we came from. Nearly all of us were Mexicans
once. That is: the new immigrants, poor and reviled, propelled by hope and
hunger into America's prickly embrace.

What brings this juxtaposition to mind is "San Patricio," a new album from
Paddy Moloney of the great Irish traditionalist band the Chieftains. It
commemorates a historical footnote: the San Patricio battalion of
Irish-immigrant soldiers who deserted the United States Army and fought for
Mexico in the Mexican-American War of 1846-48. They picked the losing side,
were captured, executed or branded as traitors, and then forgotten, except
by Mexicans.

Mr. Moloney, a musician of restless curiosity, saw it as a tale of tragedy
and loss, but also a chance for creative collision. "If the Irish were
there, there would most certainly have been music," he says. The same goes
for the Mexicans. He invited Irish, Mexican and American musicians to play
and sing, to see what would happen.

What happened was not all dolorous lamentation, though there is some of
that. The rest is joy, thoroughly Mexican yet utterly Irish, carried aloft
by tin whistles, skin drums, pipes, harps, guitars and stomping feet. It's a
mix you've never heard, but eerily familiar. Listen to the classic "Canción
Mixteca," sung in Spanish by the Mexican supergroup Los Tigres del Norte,
accompanied by accordion, bajo sexto, tin whistle and uilleann pipes.

"How far I am from the land where I was born! Immense longing invades my
thoughts, and when I see myself as alone and sad as a leaf in the wind, I
want to cry. I want to die of sorrow."

That old song, woven into the Mexican soul, is as Irish as it gets. And it's
an American song, too. We are all people who have lost our land in one sad
way and found another. Whether we lament and celebrate in a pub or cantina,
whether our tricolor flag has a cactus on it or not, we are closer to one
another than we remember.


From: John Jones

Taking Sides

AIPAC's pressure on Congress to support Netanyahu over Obama.

By John Mearsheimer
London Review: 17 March 2010

In the wake of Vice President Joe Biden's ill-fated trip to Israel last
week, many people would agree with the Israeli ambassador Michael Oren's
remark that 'Israel's ties with the United States are in their worst crisis
since 1975. a crisis of historic proportions.' Like all crises, this one
will eventually go away. However, this bitter fight has disturbing
implications for Israelis and their American supporters.

First, the events of the past week make it clear in ways that we have not
seen in the past that Israel is a strategic liability for the United States,
not the strategic asset that the Israel lobby has long claimed it was.
Specifically, the Obama administration has unambiguously declared that
Israel's expansionist policies in the Occupied Territories, including East
Jerusalem, are doing serious damage to US interests in the region.

Indeed, Biden reportedly told the Israeli prime minister, Binyahim
Netanyahu, in private:
'This is starting to get dangerous for us. What you're doing here undermines
the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and
Pakistan. That endangers us, and it endangers regional peace.
If that message begins to resonate with the American public, unconditional
support for the Jewish state is likely to evaporate.'

Right after Biden's remarks were reported by the Israeli newspaper Yedioth
Ahronoth, Mark Perry, a Middle East expert with excellent contacts in the US
military, described a briefing that senior officers working directly for
General David Petraeus, the head of Central Command, gave on 16 January to
Admiral Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The
central message Petraeus sent to Mullen, according to Perry, was that
'Israeli intransigence on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was jeopardising
US standing in the region. and could cost American lives.' Apparently,
Mullen took this message to the White House, where it had a significant
impact on the president and his chief advisers. Biden's comments to
Netanyahu appear to reflect that view.

Israel's supporters in the United States have long defended the special
relationship between the two countries on the grounds that their interests
are virtually the same and therefore it makes sense to back Israel no matter
what policies it adopts. Recent events show that claim to be false, however,
which will make it hard to defend the special relationship, especially if it
is putting American soldiers at risk.

Second, the Obama administration has gone beyond simply expressing anger
over the 1600 housing units that Israel announced it would build in East
Jerusalem just after Biden landed at Ben-Gurion Airport. According to press
reports that have not been challenged, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
has demanded that Netanyahu reverse his government's decision approving that
construction. This demand is unprecedented; the United States has often
complained about settlement building, and Obama asked Israel to freeze
temporarily the construction of new settlements in 2009, but it has never
asked Israel to reverse a building plan that the government has already

Israel will surely fight tooth and nail against Clinton's demand, and so
will the main groups in the lobby. The Netanyahu government is filled with
hard-line opponents of a two-state solution, many of whom also believe that
East Jerusalem is an integral part of Israel, and it is hard to see how
Netanyahu's coalition could survive if he agreed not to build those 1600
housing units. Yet Obama has powerful incentives to stand his ground as
well. After all, he backed down last year when Netanyahu refused his request
that Israel completely freeze settlement building in all of the Occupied
Territories - including East Jerusalem - and that act of spinelessness has
cost him dearly in the Arab and Islamic world. More important, we now know
that the president and his lieutenants believe that new construction in East
Jerusalem threatens American lives, which makes it even harder to see how he
could back down without suffering political damage.

Still, it is hard to imagine the Obama administration engaging in a serious
fight with Israel over the fate of those 1600 housing units, given that the
lobby wields extraordinary influence inside the Beltway. The president is
also not inclined by temperament to engage in public brawls and he has so
many other problems on his plate that he surely does not want to get bogged
down in a costly fight with Israel and its American supporters. In the end,
there is likely to be a rather muted, protracted dispute between the two
sides over those housing units and the many others that the Netanyahu
government plans to build in East Jerusalem. This ongoing conflict will be a
constant reminder to Americans that Israel and the United States have
conflicting interests on a very important issue.

The third reason that this crisis is so troublesome for Israel and the lobby
is that it forces the latter to choose sides in a public way. There is
little doubt that almost all of the mainstream organisations of the lobby
will back Israel to the hilt and blame the Obama administration for the
crisis. This tendency to defend Israel no matter what it does is reflected
in the recent comments of Abraham Foxman, the head of the Anti-Defamation
League. He issued a press release about the Biden visit in which he said he
was 'shocked and stunned at the administration's tone and public dressing
down of Israel on the issue of future building in Jerusalem'. It was, he
said, 'a gross overreaction to a point of policy difference among friends'.
He will have plenty of company in the weeks ahead from his fellow
hard-liners in the lobby, who will not miss an opportunity to defend Israel
and lambast Obama and his advisers.

Siding with Israel against the United States was not a great problem a few
years ago: one could pretend that the interests of the two countries were
the same and there was little knowledge in the broader public about how the
Israel lobby operated and how much it influenced the making of US Middle
East policy. But those days are gone, probably for ever. It is now
commonplace to talk about the lobby in the mainstream media and almost
everyone who pays serious attention to American foreign policy understands -
thanks mainly to the internet - that the lobby is an especially powerful
interest group.

Therefore, it will be difficult to disguise the fact that most pro-Israel
groups are siding with Israel against the US president, and defending
policies that respected military leaders now openly question. This is an
awful situation for the lobby to find itself in, because it raises
legitimate questions about whether it has the best interests of the United
States at heart or whether it cares more about Israel's interests. Again,
this matters more than ever, because key figures in the administration have
let it be known that Israel is acting in ways that at best complicate US
diplomacy, and at worst could get Americans killed.

The crisis will undoubtedly simmer down over the next few weeks. We are
already hearing lots of reassuring rhetoric from the administration and
Capitol Hill about 'shared values', 'unbreakable bonds' and the other
supposed virtues of the special relationship. And the lobby is hard at work
downplaying the importance of the crisis. For example, Congressman Gary
Ackerman, a fervent supporter of Israel, described recent events as a
'mini-crisis, if even that'. Michael Oren is now denying - rather late in
the game I might add - that he ever said that relations between Israel and
the United States are at a 35-year low. He claims to have been 'flagrantly
misquoted'. And to show how Orwellian the lobby can be, Israel's supporters
are also trying to make the case that Biden too was flagrantly misquoted and
indeed, he never told Netanyahu that Israel's policies were putting American
troops at risk.

This concerted effort to rewrite history and generate lots of happy talk
about the special relationship will surely help ameliorate the present
crisis, but that will only be a temporary fix. There will be more crises
ahead, because a two-state solution is probably impossible at this point and
'greater Israel' is going to end up an apartheid state. The United States
cannot support that outcome, however, partly for the strategic reasons that
have been exposed by the present crisis, but also because apartheid is a
morally reprehensible system that no decent American could openly embrace.

Given its core values, how could the United States sustain a special
relationship with an apartheid state? In short, America's remarkably close
relationship with Israel is now in trouble and this situation will only get

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