Monday, November 22, 2010

The Friend of My Enemy ...

Potential rapprochement between Israel and Cuba, sparked by Fidel Castro's surprisingly direct condemnation of anti-Semitism in relation to anti-Israel politics, now looks to be off, thanks to the timely intervention of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), incoming chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Ros-Lehtinen has a reputation for being pro-Israel, but an even stronger one for being anti-Castro, and was exceptionally displeased at seeing the wide rift between Israel and Cuba be even partially bridged. Prime Minister Netanyahu has apparently written a letter of apology to Rep. Ros-Lehtinen.

I don't want to overstate things -- it was hardly the case that Israel and Cuba were on the verge of becoming besties until Ros-Lehtinen stepped in. And likewise, I don't consider what Ros-Lehtinen did to be inappropriate -- she has policy preferences which she is entitled to exercise, and furthering the isolation of Cuba matters more to her than countering the isolation of Israel. That's useful knowledge for me to have, but we're allowed to have differences of opinion.

I do think that Jeffrey Goldberg's wry comment about the relative power of "lobbies" is well-taken. But more fundamentally, this whole notion about who "controls" whose foreign policy -- that it is some unique abomination if the US adopts anything but a reckless, devil-may-care attitude towards how our foreign policy decisions impact other countries -- is substantively absurd. Countries (particularly, we'd hope, friendly countries) are constantly in dialogue with each other and adopt their policies to match the desires of their friends. Sometimes that means Israel varies its policies to suit allies in the US, and sometimes vice versa. Of course, here I think the policy Israel is being forced to pursue to appease Rep. Ros-Lehtinen is substantively bad for both them and us, but the process itself is decidedly normal.


joe said...

Another way to interpret Mr. Goldberg's "wry comment" is that he thinks it's perfectly fine to ascribe endless power to a lobby for which he feels no particular kinship. And why not? Recent developments in Goldberg-land hold that it's perfectly fine to racially profile air travelers. Just as long as no one lays a hand on his own male privilege during a pat-down.

N. Friedman said...

joe writes: "Recent developments in Goldberg-land hold that it's perfectly fine to racially profile air travelers."

And, that is supposed to mean what exactly?

joe said...

Just that when people say we need to do profiling of passengers (as Mr. Goldberg has) they mean racial profiling, no matter what qualifications they try to offer, because race is what it will, in fact, come down to. When Charles Krauthammer says we need profiling, he means racial profiling. When Sarah Palin says we need profiling, she means racial profiling. I fail to see what distinguishes Mr. Goldberg's call for profiling, save that he hangs out with a more liberal crowd.

Then again, I failed to see what distinguished his call for war in Iraq a few years back, too, save for some especially tasteless jokes on his part afterward.

N. Friedman said...


Ok. You have answered the question.

I am not quite sure whether your analysis of what people mean or, to be more charitable, what the result of what would occur if Mr. Goldberg's approach were followed is correct. It might be. On the other hand, if the goal is to find terrorist, I would think that focusing solely or even mostly on race would be a waste of time. So, there is also the possibility that you are wrong.

As for the current arrangement, I went through the new scanner when I flew a few weeks ago. I gather someone got to see me naked. C'est la vie! However, I do understand that the new scanners are a temporary fix, so to speak, because terrorists will move on to the next stage, involving swallowing explosives or planting them in their rear ends, etc.

Which, at some point, leads to the question of whether there is a better way. My kids have traveled to and from Israel and, amazingly, Israeli security is less personally intrusive. Arabs fly and are, it turns out, not generally harassed. I have heard Israeli security experts say that it is not what the person looks like but how he or she behaves, which can be determined in a few seconds from how a few questions are answered.

Assuming that what this expert says is in part propaganda and that Israeli profiling is, to some extent, focused on Arabs, the question still becomes, so what? Arabs are disproportionately engaged in acts of terror. Is it really wrong to focus attention on those most likely to be the source of potentially acts of mass killing?

Bertolt Brecht, famed writer and playwright - certainly a man of the Left - has a character in The Threepenny Opera sing, "first feed the face, then talk right and wrong." The point being, for those flying on a plane, it is more important to arrive safely than to be polite to the group most likely to attack a plane.

I do not see that sentiment as racist. I think that the opposite view is anti-survival, which is a sin against nature. Which is not to say I recommend adopting the Israeli approach. It is merely to note that throwing terms around like racism as you are doing is really reprehensible.

joe said...

As is often the I never said racism, no one here said racism until you brought it up.

But bringing it back to my original point: Isn't it funny how the groups folks want to get that little extra bit of scrutiny - for fear of safety, lawlessness, hearing loud rap music, you name it - just always happens to be a group they don't have the inconvenience of being a member?

How fortuitous that we (meaning people in general, the whole world round) can make these wonderful speeches about just wanting what's best for the children without our own children ever having to bear the cost of the scrutiny!

N. Friedman said...


The word you wrote was "racial profiling." You said it again and again.

N. Friedman said...


I would ask the question, since you seem to question whether your comment focused on racism:, what, if the concern is not racism, is the concern you have with racial profiling?

joe said...

1. Fairness, aka the Golden Rule. See above: if I don't buy that a policy's advocates would be accepting of it if the shoe were on the other foot, that's a good indication the policy is not just.

2. Not treating anyone as guilty until proven innocent, i.e. basic respect for liberty.

Though I would hasten to add that the racism shoe probably fits for the many folks who do demand racial profiling but immediately start crying about judging by the content of our character (the one MLK quote conservatives seem to like, as I'm sure this blog has pointed out) whenever the conversation turns to affirmative action. But in any case, Eric Holder was undoubtedly correct when he said we're a nation of cowards when it comes to race, such that many people see no kind of gradation of racism between the KKK and the rest of society. So as a tactical matter I choose not to go with "racism" as a label for many behaviors when I think it will generate more heat than light.

But fascinating as it is for me to sit here educating, I think that's all I have to say since it's an off-topic detour.