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Why the U.S. Must Assume a More Direct Approach to Rolling Back Iranian Power

Dec. 18 2017

Although the Trump administration has abandoned its predecessor’s commitment to partnering with Iran and respecting Tehran’s so-called “strategic equities” in Syria, Lebanon, and elsewhere, it still follows an indirect approach to countering Hizballah. Tony Badran argues that Washington must start confronting the terrorist organization and other Iranian proxies more aggressively, and abandon its commitment to an illusory stability in Lebanon:

The area between Damascus, south Lebanon, and the Golan Heights is now an Iranian zone. And, most recently, Hizballah and Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have connected with their Iraqi units on both sides of the Syria-Iraq border.

These developments represent a strategic setback for the United States and its allies. . . . But the overriding U.S. interest in Syria has not changed: to disrupt this Iranian territorial link [with Lebanon via Iraq and Syria] and to degrade Hizballah, the IRGC, and their weapons capabilities in Syria and Lebanon. This is a priority that the United States still can, and should, pursue, even if it requires a more direct involvement today than it would have done a few years ago.

Iranian forces are vulnerable. They are overstretched and, in certain cases, they are operating in exposed terrain. The new military structures they are building are equally exposed. Israel has been exploiting these vulnerabilities to target military installations, bases, and weapons shipments, as well as senior IRGC and Hizballah cadres. The Russian presence has not deterred the Israelis. The United States should reinforce this Israeli policy by adopting Israeli red lines as its own. And, using the considerable elements of U.S. power in the region, it can expand this campaign against Iran’s and Hizballah’s military infrastructure, arms shipments, logistical routes, and senior cadres. Local Syrian groups in eastern and southern Syria, and their sponsors, should also be empowered to take part in this endeavor.

Having the United States behind this policy strengthens Israel’s position vis-à-vis the Russians and provides it with more room to maneuver, especially in the case of a conflagration with Hizballah that expands to Lebanon. Throughout the Syrian war, the U.S. position has held Lebanese stability sacrosanct, even as Lebanon was the launching pad for Hizballah’s war effort in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, and even as the group multiplied its stockpile of missiles aimed at Israel. Should the targeting of IRGC and Hizballah assets lead to an escalation that encompasses Lebanon, the United States should offer full backing to Israel as it destroys Iran’s infrastructure in Lebanon and degrades its long arm on the Mediterranean. Lebanon’s stability, insofar as it means the stability of the Iranian order and forward missile base there, is not, in fact, a U.S. interest.

Read more at Caravan

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Politics & Current Affairs, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy

Hannah Arendt, Adolf Eichmann, and the Jews

Feb. 23 2018

In 1963—a year after Adolf Eichmann’s sentencing by an Israeli court—reports on the trial by the German-born Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt appeared in the New Yorker and were soon published as a book. This “report on the banality of evil,” as the book was subtitled, outraged many Jews, including many of her erstwhile friends and admirers, on account of her manifest contempt for the entire preceding, her disgust for the state of Israel, her accusation that a wide array of European Jewish leaders (if not the majority of the victims) were complicit in their own murder, and her bizarre insistence that Eichmann was “not a monster,” or even an anti-Semite, but a mindless, faceless bureaucrat. While extensive evidence has been brought to light that Arendt was wrong both in her claims of Jewish passivity and her evaluation of Eichmann as the head of the SS’s Jewish section, her book remains widely read and admired. Ruth Wisse comments on its enduring legacy:

When Arendt volunteered to report on the Eichmann trial, it was presumed that she was doing so in her role as a Jew. . . . But Arendt actually traveled to Jerusalem for a deeper purpose—to reclaim Eichmann for German philosophy. She did not exonerate Nazism and in fact excoriated the postwar Adenauer government for not doing enough to punish known Nazi killers, but she rehabilitated the German mind and demonstrated how that could be done by going—not beyond, but around, good and evil. She came to erase Judaism philosophically, to complicate its search for moral clarity, and to unseat a conviction [that, in Saul Bellow’s words], “everybody . . . knows what murder is.”

Arendt was to remain the heroine of postmodernists, deconstructionists, feminists, relativists, and internationalist ideologues who deny the stability of Truth. Not coincidentally, many of them have also disputed the rights of the sovereign Jewish people to its national homeland. Indeed, as anti-Zionism cemented the coalition of leftists, Arabs, and dissident minorities, Arendt herself was conscripted, sometimes unfairly and in ways she might have protested, as an ally in their destabilizing cause. They were enchanted by her “perversity” and were undeterred in their enthusiasm by subsequent revelations, like those of the historian Bernard Wasserstein, who documented Arendt’s scholarly reliance on anti-Semitic sources in her study of totalitarianism, or of revelations about her resumed friendship with Martin Heidegger despite his Nazi associations.

At the same time, however, the Arendt report on the Eichmann trial became one of the catalysts for something no one could have predicted—an intellectual movement that came to be known as neoconservatism. A cohort of writers and thinkers, many of them Jews from immigrant families who had turned to leftism as naturally as calves to their mother’s teats, but who had slowly moved away from the Marxism of their youth during the Stalin years and World War II, now spotted corruption and dishonesty and something antithetical to them in some of their very models of the intellectual life.

They and their Gentile colleagues had constituted the only European-style intelligentsia to flourish in America. Most of them were only one generation removed from Europe, after all, so what could be more natural than for them to serve as the conduit of European intelligence to America? Arendt’s ingenious twist of the Eichmann trial showed them how Jewish and American they actually were—and how morally clear they aspired to be.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Adolf Eichmann, Hannah Arendt, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Neoconservatism, New York Intellectuals