Sunday, May 15, 2016

Bernie Is Showing The Donald Where To Beat Hillary

By Paul Sperry
The New York Post
May 15, 2016

Hillary Clinton shouldn’t be so quick to write off her recent string of Rust Belt losses to Bernie Sanders. While they won’t spell an upset in the Democratic primary, they do portend similar losses in the general election to Donald Trump, who has a wide lead over her on the issue of handling jobs and the economy.

Exit polls in West Virginia and Indiana show Democratic voters see jobs and the economy as the top issues facing the country, and they think global trade is hurting American workers. Growing anxiety over the economy, which is softening in President Obama’s final year, propelled Sanders over Clinton in these and other states — and it’s an issue perfectly tailored for Trump’s blue-collar billionaire populism.

A whopping nine in 10 voters in the West Virginia primary said they’re worried about the economy, and 52 percent of them went for Sanders. Only 34 percent favored Clinton on that issue. More than half say trade with other countries costs US jobs, and 54 percent of them voted for Sanders.

Likewise, 84 percent of those who voted in Indiana’s Democratic primary said they’re worried about the direction of the economy. Most of them favored Sanders over Clinton (57 percent to 43 percent). Nearly half say trade robs US workers of jobs, and 54 percent of them voted for Sanders.

Exit polling found similar results in Sanders’ Michigan and Wisconsin upsets. And though Clinton won Pennsylvania, she lost 47 percent to 52 percent to Sanders among Keystone State voters who say they’re “very worried about the direction of the economy over the next few years.”

Pennsylvania is a must-win for Clinton in the general. Democrats held it in the last two elections. But Trump is increasingly popular there. In a new Quinnipiac poll, Pennsylvania voters by 51 percent to 42 percent said that Trump would do a better job than Clinton handling the economy. In a head-to-head match-up overall, the two virtually tied.

In another critical Rust Belt state — Ohio — Trump edges Clinton 43 percent to 39 percent, thanks to Trump crushing Clinton on jobs and the economy (52 percent to 40 percent). A win there would be pivotal for Republicans, who lost Ohio in 2008 and 2012.

To hold any lead, however, Trump would have to poach a large share of Sanders voters. Is that possible? At least one poll says yes. Nearly half the voters in the West Virginia Democratic primary who backed Sanders say they would vote for Trump in November, CBS News found. Only 23 percent say they’d support Clinton.

Of course, the poll reflects anger at Clinton over her recent vow to “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.” Clinton tried to walk it back, even apologizing directly to coal families, but they aren’t forgiving her.

And they won’t forget come November. Even some local Democratic officials have declared she’s “not welcome in our town.” Trump, on the other hand, is wildly popular in Coal Country, as well as the Rust Belt.

If Pennsylvania Democrats join West Virginia in turning on Clinton, it could be all over for Democrats. It’s not unlikely: The whole Appalachian region — which covers not only West Virginia but portions of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia and North Carolina — has been trending away from Democrats on the local level, as liberals escalate their eco-wars on coal and fracking.

Ironically, Clinton risks losing the blue-collar voters who made up the base of her supporters in 2008 — the same voters Obama maligned as uneducated rubes who bitterly “cling” to their guns and Bibles.

Now they’re Trump voters. And they don’t like the economic policies or record Clinton’s inheriting from Obama. The more she defends them, with the same air of indifference as Obama, the more vulnerable she looks.

Almost 25 years ago, a political upstart named Bill Clinton beat President George H.W. Bush by focusing on jobs and the economy, reciting like a mantra, “It’s the economy, stupid!” Trump may use that same playbook to defeat Bill’s wife.

Article Link to the New York Post:

The Next US Victory In Iraq May Just Mean Another Crisis

By Judith Miller and Charles Deulfer
The New York Post
May 15, 2016

President Obama could end his presidency with a crisis in Iraq of his own making.

In April, the president said the conditions for liberating Mosul from the Islamic State should be in place by year’s end. But Sunni Iraqi tribal leaders and Kurds are quietly warning that “doing Mosul” is likely to result not in military victory but a humanitarian and political disaster.

First, Iraq’s second-largest city is home to 1 million to 2 million people. ISIS, which hasn’t hesitated to slaughter fellow Arabs and flatten cities, has had ample time to prepare to take hostages and booby-trap buildings.

Consider the Iraqi government’s recent “victory” in Ramadi, with a population far smaller than Mosul. ISIS virtually flattened it before being ousted in January. ISIS is even more deeply embedded in Mosul, which it has occupied since June 2014. Its fanatics haven’t hesitated to use chemical weapons in Syria and against Kurdish peshmerga forces.

An offensive would spread panic among the city’s beleaguered residents, who would be trapped inside Mosul along with their occupiers. Baghdad’s plans to liberate the city include strangling ISIS by laying siege to Mosul in preparation for a full assault. If Ramadi is any example, liberation could turn Mosul into an uninhabitable ghost town.

Second, Mosul’s Sunnis still distrust Baghdad. Many fear Iraq’s semi-independent Shiite militias, some backed by Iran and encouraged by former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, pose a greater long-term threat to them than ISIS. Horrific images of Shiite militia-inflicted atrocities vie on Sunni smartphone screens with ISIS’s beheadings and corporal punishments. Every family has a relative whom the militias have brutalized and killed.

Third, even if the US-backed Iraqi forces succeed in expelling ISIS from Mosul, then what? Who will occupy and administer the city? After the US occupation of Baghdad in April 2003, American officials gave Sunnis little stake in the planning for and future of a post-Saddam Hussein era. Why should Mosul’s Sunnis believe that the chaotic central government in Baghdad has their interests at heart? Many Sunnis continue to view the 2007 “surge” as a “bait and switch” by Washington, at their expense.

Fourth, Iran seems determined to continue fomenting conflict within Iraq as long as possible. Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Quds Force who fought against Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war in 1980-1988, has greater control over some militias than the nominal political leadership in Baghdad. Few Sunnis in Mosul believe that Baghdad can protect them.

Fifth, chaos in Mosul could trigger even greater chaos in Baghdad. Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi seems to be trying to limit corruption and run a more inclusive regime. But trying to reclaim Mosul before Sunnis derive benefit from his efforts is risky, and American officials have signaled deep concern about the Abadi government’s stability.

No strong Sunni voices in Mosul have expressed support for the invasion/liberation of their city by Iraqi forces. They know all too well America won’t be there to protect them. Many continue to see the growing influence of Iran and its surrogate militias as a longer-term threat to their survival than ISIS, particularly given the nuclear deal with Iran, yet another signal of

America’s realignment in the Middle East.

Obama faces a tough choice, perhaps more consequential than his decision to launch the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Should he try to encourage Iraqi forces to retake Mosul before leaving office to claim another victory over the radical jihadis he has vowed to “degrade and destroy,” or encourage Baghdad to wait until a more cohesive government is in place?

While reclaiming Mosul would enable Obama to claim yet another “legacy” achievement, liberation of the city under current conditions is likely to result in more bloodshed, higher casualties, greater destruction and the creation of thousands more refugees in Iraq — a tragic, but utterly predictable coda to the Obama presidency.

Article Link to the New York Post:

Clinton Caught In End-Of-The-Primary Trap

The Democratic front-runner needs to start focusing on Donald Trump. But she can't do that without alienating Bernie Sanders' supporters.

By Gabriel Debenedetti
May 15, 2016 

There are no ads ripping Donald Trump on the swing state airwaves, and no formal Republicans-for-Hillary effort has surfaced. Trumpet-blaring shows of Democratic Party unity are nonexistent.

Other than a daily stream of news releases, surrogate calls, Web videos and campaign trail broadsides, the public turn toward Trump by Hillary Clinton’s campaign in the two weeks since he became the presumptive GOP nominee has been a far cry from the kind of scorched earth offensive that’s likely to be necessary to stop him this fall.

It’s not entirely Clinton’s fault. Her hands are tied.

She can’t switch her campaign apparatus into general-election mode because of the risk of alienating Bernie Sanders’ supporters, who continue to hold out hope that he will emerge as the Democratic nominee. She can’t organize disaffected Republicans without exposing herself to criticism from liberals who already accuse Clinton of being too far to the right. Then there’s the ongoing primary: Short of the magic delegate number in her fight against Sanders, she’s still forced to burn ad dollars in places like Kentucky, a state that holds a Democratic primary Tuesday but won’t be competitive in November.

“People, both in the campaign and supporters, are generally frustrated because the outcome is not in doubt but we’re all acting as if math is not a science,” said one former congressional Democrat who is close to Clinton, noting that the candidate herself has been especially careful not to express that concern out loud, even in private. “There is a material deleterious effect to the situation that we’re in. This isn’t just, ‘Oh, how interesting that Republicans got settled first.’ There is a whole situation with the Republicans jumping ahead of us.”

The frustration is beginning to show. A fundraising email sent to rank-and-file backers on Friday spelled it out: “Right now, Hillary is the only candidate waging two campaigns, which means we need twice as many resources as Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump.”

The problem, as many of Clinton’s allies see it, isn’t simply that Republicans are getting a head start on November while Clinton must spend time and resources on Sanders. It’s that Democrats may have an unprecedented opportunity to win over the significant number of GOP voters who say they will not support Trump at the top of the ticket — and the Clinton campaign is unable to take full advantage.

“As the realization of Donald Trump comes in for senators, [Democratic House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi and others, it becomes very serious as to what our opportunities are now that didn’t exist [before Trump became the presumptive nominee], to potentially take the House back, take the Senate back,” said Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, a Clinton backer, peering toward the end of the Democratic primary. “So that reality is going to circle around all Democrats. These opportunities don’t come around very often, so we need to be sure we take advantage. The momentum of that possibility should speed this process along.”

But with the Democratic Party political machinery formally out of service until her nomination is official, Clinton has been unable to exploit the Republican division. She held events in Northern California the day after GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan’s recent announcement that he wasn’t ready to support Trump, but didn’t appear with Pelosi on her home turf. Pelosi, who has yet to officially endorse Clinton — she has said it’s because she doesn’t want to depress voter turnout in other races — was instead returning from a trip abroad.

Without the benefit of a coordinated messaging program that would fall into place once there is an official nominee, Clinton’s campaign has been sounding a different tune about Republicans than some of her party’s campaign committees. While the Brooklyn-based effort has focused on highlighting GOP leaders’ distance from Trump with a Web video and a series of campaign emails, operatives working on House and Senate campaigns have sought to tie individual candidates to Trump as part of an effort to brand them as too extreme.

Even Clinton’s campaign schedule reflects the current uncertainty. Despite allies’ pleas to branch out into general election swing states, she has held just two open events in Ohio and Virginia in recent weeks, intent on remaining in places with upcoming primaries lest she appear to be looking too far beyond Sanders.

Still, some of Clinton's fundraisers recently began actively reaching out to Republican campaign donors, particularly those associated with Jeb Bush, and Clinton herself has talked about her intention to woo Republicans in television interviews.

But even those initial steps have come at a cost. Top allies of Sanders — who remains in the race despite facing long odds — have reacted with suspicion, and some disbelief, at Clinton’s initial attempts to win over GOP voters, viewing it as proof that the former secretary of state is no true progressive.

The senator’s camp recently blasted out via email the full text of a series of news stories about Clinton’s attempts to win over specific Republicans, an attempt to remind Clinton that she still has work to do to unify her own party before she can fully turn her attention to leveraging the Republicans’ divide.

The Sanders team also sent his backers a fundraising note based on a Politico report about Clinton supporters’ mission to bring on GOP donors, headlined, “Hillary Clinton’s ‘right-wing mega-donors’” — parroting the description Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook chose early in the campaign cycle to describe Bush’s funders. Signed by Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver, the missive said Democrats have a chance to take “our democracy back from the oligarchy that Trump and Jeb Bush represent.”

“Going after the Bush Rangers on Wall Street is every bit the proof of what we have said all along: You can’t trust her on this front, and that’s really where they are and where they come from,” said a senior Sanders aide.

But Clinton can’t afford to veer too far left either, fear some of her supporters — not if she hopes to win over many Republicans in November.

“Look, not every Republican is an insane person like Donald Trump, or Ted Cruz, or et cetera,” said one New York-based Clinton fundraiser. “You have a couple — Mark Salter [a long-time John McCain aide] — people like that are endorsing Hillary. But how many [will] follow if she’s having to appeal to the Bernie crowd?”

“Thinking and sane Republicans who are so horrified at Trump that they really might vote for her or support her, or contribute to her? If she keeps lurching to the left to please Bernie, it’s going to become less likely [that they’ll back her].”

Article Link to Politico:

Iran Takes Credit For Saving Jews And Denies Holocaust At Same Time

Over the years the Iranian narrative of Iran being “tolerant” of Jews has become louder.

By Seth J. Frantzman
The Jerusalem Post
May 15, 2016

Remember the “Iranian Schindler” who saved Jews during the Holocaust? That was the gist of the headline of a BBC article from 2012 profiling a book by Fariborz Mokhtari highlighting the role of Abdol-Hossein Sardari, an Iranian diplomat in Paris who saved Iranian Jews from the Nazis. Three years later, Iran is once again hosting a Holocaust denial cartoon contest, even as its diplomats try to wriggle out of their shameful intolerance by presenting Iran as having saved the Jews during the Nazi period. How can you save people, and then mock and degrade their genocide? How can you take credit for doing good, while mocking mass death and suffering? If you are Iran you can; part of a carefully orchestrated charade in which the country boasts tolerance for Jews while trampling on history.

The back story to the Iran Holocaust cartoon contests is perplexing. In response to a Danish daily newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, publishing cartoons of the Islamic prophet Mohammed in 2006, an Iranian newspaper named Hamshahri decided to mock the Holocaust. The newspaper claimed that it was standing up to “Western hypocrisy” on free speech. There is a kind of tragic irony here. The Holocaust was a European crime against the Jews. In order to respond to a European newspaper mocking Islam, the Iranians decided to bash the Holocaust. In doing so they didn’t hurt Europe or Jyllands-Posten, they simply added to what European nations had already done to the Jewish people.

In 2015, after the jihadist attack on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris in which 12 people were murdered, the Iranian “house of cartoon” decided to host a second annual Holocaust cartoon contest. It’s fascinating that the knee-jerk Iranian response to a French magazine’s perceived insulting of Islam was to mock the deaths of six million Jews.

At the same time Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, the smiling face of Iran’s nuclear deal-makers, was on a charm offensive. He stressed in an interview with NBC in March that “Iran saved Jews three times in history...during the Second World War.” In the interview Zarif also said it was important to distinguish between Jews and Israel and boasted that there were 20,000 Jews in Iran, noting that “we’re not about annihilation of Jews.” The story of the “Iranian Schindler” is part of a narrative whereby Iran is presented as a savior, even though the 1943-era diplomat in question would probably be outraged by the sickening denials of the modern Iranian regime.

Yet the Holocaust cartoon contests continually make reference to the need to mock the Holocaust not only to get back at the West for its “free speech hypocrisy,” but also because the Holocaust was “pretext for the creation of Israel.” As such many of the cartoons show Palestinians dressed as Holocaust survivors.

Over the years the Iranian narrative of Iran being “tolerant” of Jews has become louder. The Jews of Iran are used by the regime to burnish its “diversity” credentials. The regime finds willing Orientalists abroad who soak up the myth.

Roger Cohen at The New York Times in 2009 claimed, “I say the reality of Iranian civility toward Jews tells us more about Iran – its sophistication and culture – than all the inflammatory rhetoric.”

What rhetoric? “The annihilationist anti-Israel ranting, the Holocaust denial,” according to Cohen.

Zarif made a similar point in his NBC interview, beginning a sentence with, “if we wanted to annihilate Jews...”

and then boasting of their paltry numbers in the Islamic Republic. Iran somehow gets credit for not exterminating Jews and, despite official Holocaust denial, for being “civil” to Jews. It’s like an American president being pro-slavery and expecting praise for not actually annihilating African- Americans. Yes, they were “civil” in the Old South.

To mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day in January, Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei released a video questioning whether the Holocaust was “a reality or not,” featuring Holocaust deniers and claiming the West was “ignorant” for not challenging the history of the Holocaust. Iran boasts that it saved Jews from an event that it also claims didn’t happen.

When Zarif was interviewed by The New Yorker in April he was asked about the Holocaust denial cartoon contest.

Realizing it was harming Iran’s new image as a “moderate” country, he claimed the contest was not endorsed by the government. Then he argued the existence of the contest was akin to the presence of the Ku Klux Klan in the US.

“Is the government of the US responsible for the fact that there are racially hateful organizations in the US? Don’t consider Iran a monolith.”

Except Iran is a monolith when it comes to free speech; it wouldn’t host a cartoon contest denying the crimes of the Shah or mocking Islamic suffering. Ishaan Tharoor at The Washington Post points out that the organizations historically involved in the cartoon contest, Owj Media and Sarsheshmeh Cultural Center, have “ties to organs of the Iranian government.”

If Iran wanted to pretend the cartoon contest is akin to the KKK, then its leading officials would all condemn it and those hosting it would be pariahs. Instead its Fars media trumpets the contest as challenging the “West’s double-standard [of] behavior toward freedom of expression as it allows sacrilege of Islamic sanctities.” No one in Iran can explain how the logical “revenge” for being offended by Western sacrilege is bashing Jews. If Iran wants revenge on the West, then mock the French president, mock Danish cuisine – why is Iran’s response every time it is angry at the US or Europe an attack against Jewish people and Jewish history? At the opening of the cartoon contest organizer Masuod Shojai Tabatabaei claimed the contest had nothing to do with denial. Then he provided the talking points that it was aimed at criticizing the West for “double standards” on free expression. “Holocaust means mass killing... we are witnessing the biggest killings by the Zionist regime in Gaza and Palestine.” The conclusion: the Holocaust is funny. Europeans mock Islam and to get back at them we will defame Jewish history. If there was a Holocaust, it’s happening to Palestinians, and there’s nothing funny about that.

The Iranian regime has to be confronted for it’s pathological obsession with the Holocaust. It’s sickening the degree to which every time the regime is offended by something in the West, its knee-jerk response is to insult Jews. Why are European insults to Islam answered by insults to the victims of European genocide? At the same time they heap insult on the Holocaust, there is an attempt to pretend Iran “saved” Jews from the Holocaust, side by side with the argument that the only “real” holocaust is being perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinians.

The only thing Iran has done is internalize Western anti-Zionist tropes and Holocaust denial. That’s the supreme irony of the supreme leader. To highlight “Western lies,” Iran has embraced them. If it wanted to “get back” at the West, embracing the true history of the Holocaust and recognizing the lessons of that era would be a true rejoinder.

Donald Trump: Brexit Would Not Impact US Trade Deal

On UK and EU he said: ‘I think if I were from Britain, I would probably not want it.’

Politico EU
May 15, 2016

Republican likely presidential nominee Donald Trump said on Sunday that Brexit would not have an impact on trade between the U.S. and Britain – if he was in the White House, of course.

Speaking to ITV’s Piers Morgan, Trump said that he had “big investments” in the U.K. but added that he had “no preference” on the outcome of the June 23 referendum on Britain’s future in or outside of the European Union. He added that he intends to “treat everybody fairly, but it wouldn’t make any difference to me whether they were in the EU or not.”

“I think if I were from Britain, I would probably not want it. I’d want to go back to a different system,” he said in the interview, which will air Monday on Morgan’s breakfast show.

When pushed to answer if the U.K. would go “to the back of the queue” if Britain chose to leave, Trump said: “certainly not.”

This references U.S. President Barack Obama’s assertion that the U.S. would not start talking trade with Britain separately if they chose to leave the EU. During a speech in London, Obama said the U.S.’ “focus is in negotiating with a big bloc” like the EU.

Article Link to Politico EU:

Obama And Congress Are About To Go To War Over War Funding

Republicans want to use OCO money to pay for extras in the regular budget.

By Daniel R. DePetris
The National Interest
May 15, 2016

One of the most basic responsibilities of the U.S. government—if not the most basic—is providing for the national defense. What this general phrase means is subject to interpretation depending on whether you happen to be a defense hawk or a fiscal hawk in the Tea Party mold, but the concept is nonetheless self-explanatory: to be safe, prosperous and a stalwart ally to friends around the world, politicians in Washington need to ensure that the U.S. armed forces have the tools, money, and flexibility to do their job.

While this may sound like a simple prescription and something Republicans and Democrats could agree on (who, after all, wants a U.S. military that is weak and decrepit?), providing for the common defense has deteriorated into another partisan issue. Congressional Democrats and the Obama administration refuse to contemplate more money for defense unless congressional Republicans allow a similar increase in nondefense spending. Republicans, meanwhile, view the 1:1 ratio as not only adding to America’s ever-growing national debt, but a scheme that places leftist politics above national-security needs.

As is so often the case, which side is being principled and which side is playing politics depends on which political party you happen to support.

The fight over defense spending almost resulted in another federal government shutdown last year. Indeed, before Congress passed the Bipartisan Budget Agreement, the risk of the second shutdown in three years was very much on the table. Fortunately, the BCA was a vehicle [4] that granted both parties a win—Democrats received the additional nondefense money that they were demanding, and Republicans in exchange were able to avoid a return to sequester levels that most defense experts inside the Beltway consider a national-security threat to be avoided at all costs.

Unfortunately, the fight over the defense budget is set to once again be one the biggest squabbles in Congress this year. The fact that the House Armed Services Committee’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act [5] passed by a 60-2 margin doesn’t do the story justice. While Chairman Mac Thornberry is dressing up the HASC-version of the bill as a bipartisan accomplishment, the reality is that House and Senate Democrats are very troubled that Republicans are attempting to tap into Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funds [6] to resource items in the base budget that the Defense Department isn’t requesting. Chairman Thornberry has argued strongly that transferring $18 billion from OCO into the base budget is absolutely necessary if the U.S. military is to be restored to full readiness. For Defense Secretary Ash Carter, however, decreasing a wartime account specifically designated for wartime spending during a time of war is the height of irresponsibility.

What Chairman Thornberry is doing, Carter said, is not only against the spirit of the Bipartisan Budget Agreement but also, more importantly, detrimental to the special-operations personnel and military advisers currently in the field against the Islamic State, Al Qaeda and the Taliban. “It’s another road to nowhere, with uncertain chances of ever becoming law, and a high probability of leading to more gridlock and another continuing resolution,” remarked Carter [7]. “I cannot support such maneuvers as secretary of defense.”

Todd Harrison, the go-to analyst on all things related to the defense budget, is not at all pleased with what the House Republicans are doing. In an email to me, Harrison paints a picture of a Congress that is returning to the very same budgetary gimmicks that almost sunk the defense authorization bill last year. “Using OCO to boost the base defense budget is certainly not a new trick—both the administration and congress have been doing it since the BCA was enacted,” Harrison wrote. “The difference now is the magnitude and how explicit it has become. It is an irresponsible way to manage the budget simply because OCO funding does not come with a plan for future years.” In other words, the House Armed Services Committee is hoping that the next president of the United States will be able to pass a wartime supplemental to make up for the $18 billion shortfall.

Whether we like it or not, expect the White House and a Republican-dominated Congress to return to the brink over defense spending. If public record is any indication, the Obama administration will not allow Republicans to increase the base budget by using OCO funds. It will be up to Republicans to either swallow their pride or press on—hoping all the while that the political heat during an extra-hot election year forces the White House to relent.

Article Link to the National Interest:

Should Obama Apologize in Hiroshima?

The purpose of presidential apologies.

By John Hemmings
May 16, 2016
The National Interest

Now that President Barack Obama has announced his intention to visit Hiroshima later this month, many questions have been raised about whether he will proffer regret or apologize for the dropping of two nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States in late 1945. Should he apologize? Given his past speeches in Cairo, Obama has been criticized by some conservative media in the United States as America’s “apologist-in-chief,” prompting the White House and Ben Rhodes to declare that the visit is to be “forward-looking,” and that it will “highlight his continued commitment to pursuing the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” Interestingly, the debate on Obama’s intentions raises all sorts of questions about modern understandings of history, and about apology politics in general. To what extent should state leaders apologize for historic crimes committed before their own time? Should the United States apologize for its wrongs? Should it apologize for Hiroshima and Nagasaki in particular?

Certainly, of the two, Japan has a long history of apologies. Japan’s current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has grappled with the historical legacy of Japan’s conduct during the Second World War, successfully proffering regret to the United States and Australia, though less successfully to South Korea and China. His speech to the Australian parliament in July 2014 expressed “sincere condolences.” His speech to a joint session of the U.S.Congress in April 2015 expressed “deep repentance” and “eternal condolences.” In both speeches, Abe seemed to acknowledge Japanese responsibility for instigating the war, though his language was constrained by the domestic political realities of his conservative supporters in Tokyo. Prior to these speeches, his views on the Kono Statement, and affiliation with Japanese historical revisionists like Toshio Tamogami raised the possibility that Abe agreed with such accounts. Chinese observers—for geopolitical rather than academic reasons—attempted to shape an isolating narrative around Japan because of these debates, but were stymied by Abe’s nuanced approach from 2014 onwards.

What of the United States? As the leading hegemon, victor in the Second World War and victor in the Cold War, should it apologize for actions it has carried out in the past? Many would agree with the old idea: “History is written by the victors.” However, this is less and less true in the modern world, as liberal norms affect expectations of state behavior in international politics. One only has to consider the whole range of “critical studies” in Western universities to see that in some states, at least, history has become a deeply contested area, continuously open to debate and self-criticism. Second of all, losers do actually often write their own histories. Turkey after the First World War, vis-à-vis the Armenians; North Korea on who started the Korean War; Russia after the end of the Cold War: these are but a small sample of states that maintain and protect—often using legal means—their own historically regressive narratives.

What is the United States’ relationship with its own past? As has been implied by the above examples, the domestic nature of the regime often determines the state’s attitude to history, though sadly some liberal states have flirted with state control of textbooks. The United States is a liberal democratic power with a strong set of ideals and values, which it subscribes to in its foreign-policy behavior. It does not always live up to its own standards, but very often civil society, American academics and journalists will swiftly point this out in the public arena. Like Japan, the United States has apologized for its past. Few foreigners will know that the United States has apologized to Native Americans and Hawaiians a number of times for historical grievances; while it has not yet atoned for the U.S.-Philippine War, it has attempted to redress the stripping of benefits from Filipino soldiers, who served on the American side in the Second World War. So, clearly, the people who constitute the United States believe that it should apologize for past grievances. What of the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima? Should the United States apologize for those specific acts? Here, the answer—like Abe’s speech to Congress—should be more nuanced.

Japan is one of the United States’ closest allies. It has played an extremely positive role in international society since the end of the Second World War, and is a strong supporter of the liberal international order and its attendance infrastructure. It is also deeply important partner in the American security strategy for the region. However, things have not always been thus. President Obama could take a pragmatic line with his Japanese audience in Hiroshima, and remind them of the ethical, strategic and geopolitical reasons for dropping the nuclear weapons. The classical argument—from the American side—is that the United States was fighting a “just war” against Japanese aggression. A stronger ethical argument was that the bombings actually saved lives. The idea that Operation Downfall (the planned invasion of Japan) would cost millions of casualties is bolstered by the large numbers of casualties involved in the invasion of Okinawa (150,000 casualties in three months). It is also bolstered by the fact that the bombings were the crucial element in Japan’s Emperor Hirohito’s push for peace. Obama might have argued that both targets were hubs of military industry. He might also have argued that a costly invasion of Japan might have led to Soviet involvement, and ultimately the Cold War partitioning of Japan into two halves. Given Korea’s continued dismemberment, it is impossible to gloss over the human suffering that such an event would have cost Japan in the long run.

However, the most important function of any apology is the implicit promise that one will not repeat the offensive behavior. Without this commitment, apologies are meaningless. Abe’s speeches in both Australia and the United States both held that implied commitment. Japan—he stated—valued “freedom and democracy.” It held “human rights and the rule of law dear” as “a member of the Western world” and would never again “fall back onto force or coercion.” Japan had—he said clearly—changed.

President Obama’s decision to speak on nuclear nonproliferation is thus a masterful symbolic gesture in this direction. It expresses regret, without having to face the apology debate head-on. It is, within itself, a form of apology. Indeed, it is a nuanced, thoughtful approach to the whole historical debate that permeates Asia Pacific narratives of the Second World War. It speaks to the sense of pain that Japanese still feel on the bombings, without entering the pragmatic arguments above. Though these are strong, they are unlikely to serve this function. The primary danger is that his visit panders to some elements within Japan who see the bombings as symbols of Japan’s victimization. Such narratives derive from revisionists, who tend to overstate Japanese suffering and underplay Chinese and Korean suffering. However, if handled correctly, President Obama’s presence in Hiroshima, his message of peace, and nuclear non-proliferation will provide their own balm to the wider nation of Japan and its very real sense of suffering.

If one considers the needs of the U.S.-Japan Alliance for what promises to be a rocky regional future, such a conversation—between old friends—is vital to the long-term strength and integrity of the alliance. What could be more American than a face-to-face attempt at closure between two old friends?

Article Link to the National Interest:

Bill Clinton’s Palestinian State

By Jonathan S. Tobin
May 15, 2016

While campaigning in New Jersey on Friday for his wife, Bill Clinton was interrupted by a pro-Palestinian heckler. “What about Gaza?” the person yelled. What followed was an interesting exchange with the clearly exasperated former president that says more to inform the current attempts by both the Obama administration and the French to revive Middle East peace talks than it does about Hillary Clinton and what she might do if elected in November.

That Clinton would be heckled about the Palestinians is not a surprise. The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is one of the few issues on which Sanders has not pulled Hillary Clinton to the left. She has tried, often without success, to match Sanders’ enthusiasm for massive expansions of government power and expenditures and new entitlements. But on foreign policy she has attempted to walk a fine line between the Democratic base’s basic isolationism and her own internationalist/interventionist instincts while noting differences with her rival on temperament and experience rather than on substance. But she has not been shy about drawing strong differences with Sanders on Israel and the Palestinians.

Though she was the “designated yeller” at Prime Minister Netanyahu during President Obama’s first term, Clinton has also tried to position herself as a mainstream supporter of Israel and sharply disagreed with Sanders’ belief in U.S. neutrality and his willingness to spread canards about Israel’s attempts to defend itself against Hamas that have at times exceeded even those of the terrorists when it comes to inaccuracy.

So if Sanders’ fans are going to hound Hillary or her chief surrogate on any clear difference between them it’s as likely to be about her not being as willing to attack the Jewish state as the Vermont socialist. That’s what happened on Friday but what Bill Clinton said in reply to the heckler’s cracks about Clinton’s unwillingness to join Sanders in condemning Israel was significant because it brought up something that is rarely discussed in the mainstream media coverage of the Middle East: Palestinian rejectionism.

While his wife has never stopped whining about the “vast right-wing conspiracy” that she blames for their problems rather than their own misconduct, Bill Clinton’s chief post-presidential complaint has been about how Yasir Arafat robbed him of the Nobel Peace Prize he was counting on. In July 2000, Clinton hosted Arafat and then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in a summit at Camp David that he hoped would mark the culmination of the Oslo Peace Accords that had been signed on the White House Lawn seven years earlier. In order to secure a final resolution of the conflict, Barak went farther than any Israeli leader had ever dreamed of going in terms of concessions to the Palestinians. To the delight of the Clinton administration, he was put on the table a peace offer that gave the Palestinians a state in almost all of the West Bank, a share of Jerusalem and all of Gaza. That was essentially everything that the Palestinians wanted, the two-state solution on a silver platter with an American president prepared to back up the Israeli leader even though the plan was far ahead of what most Israelis at the time said they were willing to risk.

But instead of grabbing the opportunity with both hands, Arafat said “no.” No matter how much Clinton, who saw his Nobel hopes going down the drain, Arafat wouldn’t budge, claiming that to accept the realization of the Palestinian dream of statehood would be his death sentence. What’s more, after shocking both the Americans and the Israelis with his refusal, Arafat doubled down on the refusal by launching a terrorist war of attrition after he got home. Seizing on the flimsy pretext of outrage about Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount, the Palestinians began a bloody campaign in which the Palestinian Authority police fired on the Israelis they were supposed to be cooperating with and Hamas and Fatah terror groups competed with each in launching horrifying suicide bomb attacks on Israeli civilians. Before it was over this second intifada would take the lives of over a thousand Israelis as well as thousands of Arabs and destroy a Palestinian economy that had boomed since Oslo.

It’s also important to note that Clinton and Barak didn’t take Arafat’s no as final and kept trying in their last months in office (Clinton was term-limited and Barak’s political fate was sealed by his failed initiative) to get him to relent. In the Sinai resort of Taba in January 2001, the U.S. and Israel tried to resolve Palestinian complaints about the generous peace terms they’d been offered by sweetening it with further Israeli concessions. Again, Arafat’s answer was no. There would be no Nobel for Clinton and no peace.

So when Bill Clinton says, “I killed myself to give the Palestinians a state,” he’s right. If they had wanted one, they could have had it. But they didn’t. Nor was Arafat’s successor Mahmoud Abbas willing to accept a state in 2008 when Ehud Olmert offered even more generous peace terms at the prodding of George W. Bush. Since then Abbas has refused to negotiate seriously even though the supposedly hard line Netanyahu has accepted a two state solution (as he repeated on Thursday) and again offered withdrawal from most of the West Bank during talks sponsored by Secretary of State Kerry.

The back and forth between the former president and the pro-Palestinian heckler about Hillary Clinton’s role during the fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza is interesting. Clinton did her best to restrain Israeli self-defense and brokered a cease-fire with the cooperation, as her husband helpfully pointed out, “the Muslim Brotherhood government of Egypt” during the period when the Obama administration was tilting toward those extremists after they seized power. Yet she has not been prepared, as Sanders has seemed to do, to excuse Hamas’s war crimes in using Gaza as a base for launching rockets at Israeli cities and terror tunnels while using civilians as human shields.

But the really important point to be gleaned from this story is that few in the international community or the press have bothered to ask why Clinton failed to give the Palestinians a state. It was not for lack of trying or, in the case of Barak, an Israeli government not prepared to take risks for peace as he declared his desire to give up settlements and divide Jerusalem. The problem was that the Palestinians were not prepared to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders were drawn. Making peace on those terms would have meant ending the conflict for all time rather than merely — as Arafat openly boasted — merely collecting concessions in a war of “phases,” that would enable them to resume fighting on more advantageous terms in the future. Even if we accepted the dubious proposition that a blood-soaked terrorist like Arafat wanted peace, the point is that if even a towering figure in Palestinian history such as he didn’t dare sign a deal accepting Israel then how could anyone else?

Bill Clinton was right on Friday when he said Israelis needed to know that the U.S. is concerned about its security in order for peace to be possible. But if Israelis regard pressure from the U.S. to demand even more concessions in the absence of a Palestinian change of heart to be insane, it’s because they remember what happened at Camp David and its aftermath as well as the ultimate results of Ariel Sharon’s unilateral surrender of all of Gaza in 2005: a Hamas terrorist state.

President Obama foolishly ignored this proof of the intentions of the Palestinians and made an already bad situation worse.We don’t know if Bill Clinton’s experience will chasten Hillary Clinton’s desire for her own Peace Prize if she becomes president or if this knowledge will ever find its way into the brain of a President Donald Trump who also appears to lust after the glory of a deal that would end this conflict. But it should. The next president needs to avoid being fooled by the false arguments of Palestinian apologists into giving Hamas a pass for terror in Gaza. But more than that, they need to understand that the only real obstacle to peace isn’t settlements or Netanyahu but the same Palestinian intransigence that cost Bill Clinton his Nobel Peace Prize.

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