October 18, 2018

Sunday Reads: The death of the Obama doctrine, On Putin’s agression & Israel, The genius of S.Y. Agnon


Jeffrey Goldberg declares the death of the Obama doctrine:

The curious thing is that Donald Trump is also not interested in having his own Iraq. And yet here he is. Obama was known for an overly cerebral commitment to the notion of strategic patience. Trump seems more committed to a policy of glandular, non-strategic impatience. Obama may have been paralyzed by a phobic reaction to the threat posed by the slippery slope. Donald Trump now finds himself dancing at the edge of the slippery slope his predecessor so assiduously avoided.

Robert Kagan believes that a one-time missile strike is not enough to take care of the mess in Syria:

American missile strikes against Syria are a critical first step toward protecting civilians from the threat of chemical weapons, and President Trump deserves credit for doing what the Obama administration refused to do. But Thursday’s action needs to be just the opening salvo in a broader campaign not only to protect the Syrian people from the brutality of the Bashar al-Assad regime but also to reverse the downward spiral of U.S. power and influence in the Middle East and throughout the world. A single missile strike unfortunately cannot undo the damage done by the Obama administration’s policies over the past six years.   


Avi Issacharoff takes a look at what the recent strike in Syria means for Russia-Israel relations:

Nonetheless, Israel has several causes for concern as things heat up across the northern border. Russia has been doing everything possible to entrench Assad’s power, whatever the price or the means may be. It has become increasingly difficult to distinguish between Assad, Hezbollah and Iran in the Syrian theater of war. They are working in full coordination, and Russia is unlikely to give Israel too much leeway as Jerusalem attempts to prevent Iran from establishing itself in Syria alongside Hezbollah.

Mazal Mualem discusses PM Netanyahu’s tense personal relations with his ministers:

The man who once so highly praised the communication minister that he told his other ministers to “be Kahlons” has become an all-out credit thief. Beyond the folklore that has evolved around his inability to commend anyone else’s work, the habit is strongly indicative of the soured relations between Netanyahu and his senior partners in the Likud and the government.

Middle East

Thomas Jocelyn thinks that US policy in Syria should reflect the complexities on the ground:

America cannot and will not work with Bashar Assad. And perhaps the U.S. should push for his removal from power, along with many of his worst minions. But when some look at Syria, all they see is Assad and Iran. They pretend that vanquishing Assad will have some sort of domino effect, necessarily leading to a more stable country. But the groups fighting him—and one another—present their own challenges. And the policy debate should reflect this simple reality. There are multiple bad actors on the ground in Syria today, including the two most dangerous Sunni jihadist groups on the planet.

Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky write about America’s next move in Syria and the region:

Assad has Russia and Iran as his wingmen. Where are America’s friends in the long fight against Assad? It might be reasonable to assume that, with the administration’s courtship of the Sunni Arabs, now would be the time to press them to do more in Syria; after all, the victims of the latest chemical attacks are Sunni Arabs. But one of the more stubborn realities of the Syrian conflict is that America’s Sunni Arab partners—with the exception of small Jordan and vulnerable Lebanon—have talked tough but done little in the way of absorbing refugees or contributing forces to the actual fight against ISIS. H

Jewish World

Dave Rich discusses anti-Semitism in the British left:

A tribunal of Labour’s National Constitutional Committee found Livingstone guilty of bringing the party into disrepute with his claim that Hitler “was supporting Zionism” – a claim he has repeated and expanded in the year since he first made it – but decided that his offence was not worthy of expulsion… This was not a decision that can be pinned on Jeremy Corbyn or his far-Left clique at the top of the party. Nor can Livingstone’s non-punishment be put down to a lack of familiarity with the issues at hand. This was an institutional decision by the party’s regular disciplinary body, having gone through all of its formal processes and a mountain of evidence – and as such it points to an institutional problem.

Robert Alter reviews a new English edition of the works of “the great genius of Jewish literature” S.Y. Agnon:

Yet he conceived art—as becomes clear in Shira, his posthumously published novel about eros and art, art and disease—to be the vehicle of a more profound, more perilous and painful order of knowledge than could be attained through any institution of learning, pious or secular. Endorsed by a community, whether in a yeshiva or a research library, such learning could lead one only so far. It is, finally, in his view, the artist who is prepared to take the dangerous last step into the forest where ultimate contradictions must be confronted, where he must put himself beyond the pale of received values, like his secret brother, the outlaw.