Barry Rubin of the Gloria Center, one of the Middle East’s shrewdest analysts,
was in an unkind mood recently, as he himself admitted.
element joining President Barack Obama’s three appointments last week – Senator
John Kerry for secretary of state, Chuck Hagel for secretary of defense and John
Brennan as director of the CIA – is, in Rubin’s view, that “they are all stupid
people” of the worst sort – “stupid, arrogant people, with terrible
Unfortunately, there is little to contradict Rubin’s harsh
judgment. Each holds views that make it impossible for them to understand Middle
East reality, much less do anything about it. Hagel, for instance, is a
“realist,” which is, as we shall see, a doctrine having little to do with
reality. Among the central planks of realist doctrine is that the
Israel-Palestinian conflict is at the center of all the Middle East’s problems,
and that the United States’ interests are significantly damaged by the lack of
resolution of that conflict.
Speaking at J Street’s first annual
conference in 2009, Hagel said, “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is central,
not peripheral, to US vital security interests in combating terrorism,
preventing an Iranian nuclear weapon, stability in the Middle East and US and
global energy security.”
Each one of these examples is patently
Though Iran might use a nuclear weapon to strike at Israel, that
is not the primary purpose for which it seeks nuclear weapons. Ayotallah
Khomeini defined the 1979 Iranian revolution from the start as an Islamic
revolution. He and his successors identified nuclear weapons as a potentially
important tool in spreading that revolution and immunizing Iran to
countermeasures from the West.
And Israel has precious little to do with
the instability of the Middle East, as the events of the past year have made
abundantly clear. Israel has not kept Egypt from being able to grow enough grain
so that it does not have to import from the rest of the world (though Israel
would certainly be able to help Egypt in this regard).
Israel does not
keep Saudi men from working, or looking down on those who do. Israel has nothing
to do with the second-class status of women in almost every Muslim society, and
the lost potential that follows.
Israel is not responsible for the high
rates of illiteracy and paucity of academic production of the Arab world (though
again it could help to alleviate them). The Sunni-Shi’ite divide that continues
to roil Muslim countries pre-existed the State of Israel by more than a
Israel was not an issue in during Arab Spring, or in the
Libyan civil war, or in the Syrian civil war. Israel did not cause Iraq to
invade Kuwait or have anything to do with the Iraq-Iran war that claimed more
than a million lives. Israel had nothing to do with the Algerian civil war, or
with the slaughter of 400,000 black Muslims in Darfur by their co-religionists.
The blood shed in all the Israel-Arab wars since 1948 is chicken feed in terms
of Middle East bloodletting.
It is the perpetual backwardness of Arab and
Muslim societies that causes such resentment and hatred of the West, of which
the US is the principal representative – the Big Satan. Al-Qaida’s propaganda
justifications for the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon centered
on the US, and its defiling presence on holy Saudi soil. Israel was only added
later as an afterthought because attacks on Israel have a special status for
much of the Western Left. But again, Israel bears no responsibility for the near
universal backwardness of Muslim societies.
In short, to refute one of
“realism’s” central premises all one needs is half a brain cell and eyes in
ONE OF the central corollaries of the realist emphasis on the
centrality of the Arab-Israel conflict is that America should impose a
settlement on the conflict.
In 2002, when Palestinian terrorism against
Israelis was still in full swing – terrorism which Hagel justified as “desperate
men do[ing] desperate things” – he opined that the time for negotiations had
passed. “An endgame must be brought to the front, now,” he said.
short, the US must impose a solution on the parties, even when the Palestinians
have yet to show any willingness to accept Israel’s existence.
But if the
Palestinians refuse to accept a two-state solution, such an imposed solution,
however it was drawn, would be life-threatening for Israel, since it would
certainly put Israel in a less defensible situation than today.
It is not
just Israelis, but also impartial observers of the Middle East who have finally
come to see that there is no Palestinian acceptance of Israel’s existence. As
Walter Russell Mead wrote last week, “The real problem is what it has been for
60 years, deeply rooted Palestinian opposition to a two-state
Mead even argues that the Palestinian opposition is not wholly
irrational, for the truth is that “the West Bank and Gaza together are not
enough to support the existent Palestinian population. But rational or not, as
long as no Palestinian leader could sell a twostate solution to his people, the
Israelis cannot help but doubt that a peace agreement would be honored even if
it were signed. They will not trust to the tender mercies of Hagel and President
IN MANY respects, the nomination of Obama’s counter- terrorism
chief John Brennan to head the CIA is an even worse disaster. How can someone
whose vision has been blinded by the dictates of political correctness possibly
give the president the quality of analysis he needs? Unfortunately, Brennan,
like Hagel, has been deliberately picked by the president precisely because of
his ardent political correctness.
Brennan oversaw the purging from all US
government counter-terrorism and law enforcement manuals any reference to
radical Islam, Islamism or jihad.
Jihad, he writes, is a “holy struggle
to purify oneself or one’s community,” a line that could have been taken
directly out of the propaganda of Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated American Muslim
He deliberately ignores the fact that jihad in
contemporary Islamic discourse almost always refers to military action to spread
He consistently defines the terrorist threat as al- Qaida and
affiliated organizations, without ever mentioning or appearing to notice that
al-Qaida is only one of a large constellation of Islamic terrorist
And in a discussion of the sources of terrorism, he writes
of violent extremists as victims of “political, economic, and social” forces,
but never of religious forces.
Religion, or the one particular religion
whose adherents are behind almost every terrorist attack in the world, is never
allowed to intrude into Brennan’s analyses. Thus he told Congress that the
Muslim Brotherhood is a moderate secular group, and has urged the greater
inclusion of Hezbollah into the Lebanese political system. His confidence in the
moderating impact of political participation is apparently unlimited, when it
comes to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hezbollah, and we are today witnessing the
fruits of what can only be described as a pro-Muslim Brotherhood policy in
Brennan claimed as proof of Hezbollah’s path toward moderation the
fact that it includes in its ranks doctors and lawyers. Well, Hezbollah’s
arch-terrorist Imad Mughniyeh, Osama bin Laden’s replacement Al-Zahrawi, the
pioneer of air hijacking George Habash, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and Josef
Mengele were all doctors, and Yasser Arafat an engineer.
That is hardly
proof of moderation.
Brennan’s analysis is on par with the 80-page
government report on the Fort Hood massacre, which made no mention of the
perpetrator’s religious beliefs, even though he shouted “Allahu Akbar” as he
shot 13 people.
The report even managed to conclude that “religious
fundamentalism alone is not a risk factor,” though it did not suggest what other
risk factors might have led to Dr. Nidal Hassan’s murderous
After a while, such relentless political correctness and
whitewashing of Islamic extremism cannot but cloud analysis. What cannot be
mentioned is eventually not thought about. Thus the Christmas airplane bomber,
who narrowly missed blowing up a commercial airliner carrying over 200
passengers above Detroit, was never placed on an American watchlist, despite
warnings from British intelligence based on the terrorist’s father’s expressed
concerns about his growing religious fanaticism.
BRENNAN’S ENTIRE career
seems to consist of one faulty judgment and failure after another. On the eve of
the Obama presidency, he recommended rapprochement with Iran based on a policy
of advancing rather than trying to thwart Iranian interests. Since the expressed
goal of the current Iranian regime is the spread of its own form of theocracy,
it is hard to know what “Iranian interests” he had in mind. In any event, we
know how well that turned out.
Brennan enthusiastically endorsed the 2007
National Intelligence Estimate, which concluded that Iran had halted work on its
nuclear weapons program based on a ridiculously narrow definition of nuclear
weapons program, which did not even include the 3,000 centrifuges openly
enriching uranium at Iran’s Natanz site as the report was issued. The opening
statement, which was belied by almost everything else in the report, was
carefully crafted by the US intelligence community to forestall president Bush
from seeking new sanctions against Iran and even more so from military
Even The New York Times now admits that US counter- terrorism
policy overseen by Brennan in North Africa, starting with the decision to
intervene in Libya, has been a “comprehensive failure.”
Oh, and just in
case you were wondering, Brennan is no friend of Israel. Besides his
endorsements of Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood, he also recommended that
the US engage Hamas. Again, the failure is the total inability to take seriously
Hamas’s theological call for the extinction of Israel. He often refers to
Jerusalem as Al-Quds, and when addressing a Muslim group at NYU complained,
“It’s tough, but we are not going to separate ourselves from
Could someone in the White House be sending Israel a message?
The writer is director of Jewish Media Resources, has written a regular column
in The Jerusalem Post Magazine since 1997, and is the author of eight
biographies of modern Jewish leaders.