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Sunday Reads: Accepting America’s decline, Iran’s peacemaking efforts, Power on anti-Semitism

[additional-authors]
November 16, 2014

US

Rosa Brooks argues that admitting American power is in decline is essential for the formation of a coherent foreign policy:

Unfortunately, American political leaders share a bipartisan inclination to deny these realities. Mostly, they succumb to the Lake Wobegon effect: “Declinism” and “declinist” have entered the American political vocabulary, but only as purely pejorative terms.

This is both stupid and dangerous. How can we adapt our global strategy to compensate for the ways in which U.S. power has been declining if we refuse to admit that decline?

Max Boot suggests an alternative ISIS strategy:

Critics will call this strategy too costly, alleging that it will push the United States down a “slippery slope” into another ground war. But while this approach will undoubtedly incur greater financial cost and higher risk of casualties, the present minimalist strategy has scant chance of success and risks backfiring — the Islamic State’s prestige will be enhanced if it withstands half-hearted U.S. airstrikes. Left unchecked, the Islamic State could expand into Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey or Saudi Arabia, making a major ground war involving U.S. troops more likely. By contrast, this strategy would enhance the odds that the group could be defeated before Obama leaves office.

Israel

Uri Savir points out that, like in the case of the accord with Egypt, any peace agreement Israel reaches is bound to be an imperfect arrangement with hostile forces:

In other words, we want to have peace with a friendly country. The bad luck is that peace is made with enemies. It is imperfect and takes a long time to realize, but produces long-term strategic benefits, as it did with Egypt. Luckily it was Menachem Begin who was prime minister at the time and not Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu would still today be negotiating security arrangements and would never evacuate the Israeli settlements from Sinai. Thanks to the peace with Egypt, thousands of lives of young Israelis and Egyptians were spared.

Ben Dror Yemini doesn’t think that the leaders of Israel’s Arab parties reflect the true sentiments of Israel’s Arab population:

Most Israeli Arabs are loyal citizens – and when I say most, I mean the vast majority. Within a population of around 1.25 million people (excluding East Jerusalem) there are not only hundreds of hooligans, but thousands, who are likely to have the support of an additional percentage or two.

Troubled times see the extremists flourish. On the backdrop of Islamic Movement leader Raed Salah's ongoing incitement, it would only take one incident to set the sector ablaze. The majority don't attend the demonstrations. But hundreds of youths do. Maybe even thousands. The impression created stains the entire Arab minority.

Middle East

The Middle East Institute’s Alex Vatanka takes a look at Iran’s involvement in Caucasian peacemaking:

There can be no question that the ongoing process of détente between Iran and the United States can radically change the regional political dynamics in the South Caucasus. On the one hand, there are undoubtedly those in Yerevan who see a less isolated Iran as a boon for Armenia and as a way of more easily circumvent the Azerbaijani-Turkish cordon. From an Iranian perspective, however, better ties with Western states should be seen as an opportunity to be less fixated on a Western footprint in the South Caucasus.

According to Tom Rogan, ISIS leader al-Baghdadi’s words should be carefully headed:

But while al-Baghdadi’s message will inflame the hearts of terrorists, we must listen to his words with strategic clarity because they testify to the I.S. agenda. This is not a group defined by a narrow purpose. Rather, insulated by their theological insanity, the Islamic State’s leaders want to recruit an army to conquer the earth. Unless challenged urgently and effectively, they will continue to spread global chaos in that pursuit.

Jewish World

Here is Samantha Power’s bold speech on the threat of European Anti-Semitism and the insufficient action of European governments:

frankly, it is deeply concerning that even as anti-Semitism is rising in Europe, a third fewer countries are participating in the 2014 conference than took part in the 2004 conference; and only one in three of the countries that sent a foreign minister or other cabinet level official in 2004 has sent one at that level to this conference. Now this is not meant in any way to disrespect the high-ranking officials who are here today or the members of parliament who have such an important role to play in this cause. But it does beg the question: Doesn’t this issue – at the very least – merit the same show of solidarity and commitment from governments today as it did a decade ago?

Jonathan Sarna believes that many of our Pew-generated fears concern religion in America, not just the Jewish community:

In brief, what students of contemporary Jewry view in narrowly Jewish terms are problems confronting contemporary American religion, period. Recognizing this fact—namely, that America society is mired in a religious recession—points, in turn, to a somewhat different conclusion from the one offered by Wertheimer and Cohen. Theirs is a linear analysis (“if current trends continue… ”); but the history of American religion has been decidedly cyclical. Time and again, prophets-of-doom have railed at the disappearance of cherished beliefs and practices, and, time and again, religious revivals have arisen “miraculously” to give the lie to those warnings. Thus, religious decline in the aftermath of the American Revolution was followed by the Second Great Awakening, and the great “religious depression” of the 1920s and 30s was succeeded by the postwar revival of the 1950s.

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