Tag Archives: Middle East

Melania goes scarf-less? Heaven forbid!

Melania Trump has arrived with her husband, the president of the United States, in Saudi Arabia.

She and her husband, Donald Trump, strode down the stairway from Air Force One and greeted the Saudi king.

Oh, but wait! Her head was uncovered. She wasn’t wearing a scarf, per Muslim custom. Where’s the outrage? The recrimination? The howls of disrespect?

There wasn’t any. Nor should there be.

Hey, let’s hold on! Michelle Obama did the same thing when she and her husband, also the president of the United States, went to the Middle East a couple of years ago. Her head was uncovered, too. Oh, but the conservative media went semi-nuts.

So did at least one notable Republican politician. His name? Donald John Trump! That, truth be told, is what makes this an issue worthy of a brief blog post.

Being of a more tolerant strain as it regards religion, I am not bothered in the least that non-Muslim female dignitaries don’t cover their heads when they travel to Muslim-majority nations. They aren’t “dishonoring” their hosts.

Let’s stay focused on the aim of these visits, which has nothing to do with making fashion statements.

How does a ‘one-state solution’ work?

Let’s revisit for a moment Donald J. Trump’s statement that backs away from a decades-old U.S. policy in support of a two-state solution for lasting peace in the Middle East.

The president, meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said he could support a “one-state solution” if both sides agree to it.

Hmmm. How would that work?

One side would be the Israelis. The Palestinians are on the other side. A one-state solution, I am going to presume, suggests that Israel would be the sovereign state that would operate under a peace agreement. How do you suppose the Palestinians — who say they want an independent sovereign state — would react to that? My take is that they wouldn’t stand for it.

This is why previous presidents of both parties have supported a two-state solution that would allow Israel and the Palestinians to live side by side.

Yes, there remains a huge hurdle to clear: The Palestinians must accept Israel’s right to exist and they must cease the terrorist attacks — launched by groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah — against Israeli citizens.

If there can be an accord reached, it appears that the only option is for a two-state solution.

Why, then, did the president back away from what all of his predecessors have sought for the embattled Middle East?

Trump: Who needs a ‘two-state solution’?

Donald J. Trump has performed yet another amazing diplomatic deed.

While visiting today with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump managed to pull back from the United States’ traditional support for a “two-state solution” in the search for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Trump now all but indicated he’d support a “one-state solution” that doesn’t allow a Palestinian state that could live peacefully with Israel.

Ugghhh!

I’ve long sought to give Netanyahu support in his fight against terrorists who keep bringing violence to Israel. I believe the Israelis deserve to protect themselves using any means necessary to defeat the forces of evil that seek to destroy their nation.

However, U.S. presidents of both political parties have been correct for decades in seeking a peace agreement that sets up an independent Palestinian state that would function alongside Israel.

I understand fully the difficulty facing Israel and the Palestinians in achieving a full-fledged peace. Terrorist groups operating in Gaza, which is run by the Palestinians, keep launching rockets and other ordnance against Israel. West Bank operatives keep bringing havoc as well.

However, to deny the Palestinians an opportunity to have their own state is an utterly insane strategy. It is counterproductive in the extreme. It would inflame the terrorists and it would result in continued violence, death, mayhem and heartache.

How do the two sides reach a “two-state accord”? I have no idea. Neither do the principals. However, they must continue the effort.

For the president of the United States — as the premier broker in seeking a lasting peace agreement — to forgo the search for such an agreement is irresponsible to a maximum degree.

‘Rolling Thunder 2.0’ … perhaps?

B52

Bring on the B-52s.

The Pentagon has deployed an unspecified number of the Cold War-era strategic bombers to Qatar to take part in the fight against the Islamic State.

The brass says the aircraft bring “multi-platform” forms of firepower to rein down on the terrorists. The Air Force describes the weaponry as precise and finely tuned to hit military targets.

Good to hear!

The B-52 remains one of the U.S. Air Force’s most potent weapons. It went into operation in the 1950s and has gone through several upgrades over the decades.

It poured thousands of tons of ordnance on North Vietnamese and Viet Cong targets during the Vietnam War. The planes played a key role in softening up Iraqi troop positions during the Persian Gulf War in 1990-91.

Now the Islamic State is about to feel the wrath of a weapon that our nation’s enemies always have feared on the battlefield.

My very first visual sight of the Vietnam War occurred as I peered out the window of a jetliner en route to Bien Hoa, South Vietnam in the spring of 1969. I looked down and saw a flight of the big birds flying out over the ocean after, I presume, completing a bombing run over South Vietnam.

Once I settled in at our Army aviation base near Da Nang, I could hear the thunder to our west as the planes fulfilled their mission. It was music to our ears, but it meant something quite different to those on the receiving end.

I welcome the news of the B-52 coming back into active wartime duty. I’m quite certain the terrorists who are about to find themselves on the receiving end of some serious pain will not.

 

What will president say about his tenure

right_way

President Obama vows a different kind of State of the Union speech.

Such events usually involve a lengthy laundry list of policy proposals. Frankly, they bore the daylights out of me.

I prefer loftier rhetoric for these events.

What might the president say? The pessimists have laid down their marker. The country is going to hell; we’re in danger of being attacked; the economic recovery isn’t as good as it should be; most Americans think we’re heading along the “wrong track.”

My hunch is that Barack Obama is going to sound significantly more optimistic. To wit:

  • We’ve added millions of new jobs over the past seven years.
  • Joblessness has been cut in half.
  • The budget deficit, which was more than $1 trillion annually when Obama took office, has been cut by more than half.
  • Automakers, the housing industry and financial institutions are back.
  • Stocks are way up (the recent correction notwithstanding).
  • We’re still the most powerful nation on Earth . . . by a long shot.
  • We haven’t been attacked by a terrorist group.
I’m not naïve to think there are no problems. Yes, the Middle East remains a powder keg. Then again, when has it not been?
Barack Obama will have much on which to hang his hat by the time he leaves office.
But he’s not going to assuage the critics. Not for a second.

Nation founded and built by refugees wants what?

immigrants

I feel like the Linda Blair head-spinning character in “The Exorcist” while I listen to some of these arguments that we need to ban refugees from entering the United States of America.

Why?

Well, consider that our very founding occurred because Europeans sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to flee religious persecution. They came here, set up villages and encampments and eventually founded a secular government that expressly forbids the creation of a state-sponsored religion.

Our nation then grew. We received a statue in the late 1880s, erected it in New York harbor and welcomed more refugees to our land.

Throughout the centuries, refugees and other immigrants helped build the greatest country in world history. My four grandparents were among those who came here, not as refugees, but as immigrants looking to create better lives for themselves.

Now the discussion has devolved into whether we should accept refugees who are fleeing civil war in the Middle East. Many of us fear that those refugees will include terrorists burning with the desire to harm Americans.

I share the concern. Really, I do. However, I refuse to believe we should act fearfully. Yes, we need to be vigilant to protect our nation against those who seek to do harm. Then again, we’ve always had that concern. The United States — or any nation with an open-door policy toward immigrants — always has been vulnerable to attack from those posing as mere opportunity-seekers.

But are we a nation founded and built by immigrants that is now going to slam the door shut on those who still believe this is the Land of Opportunity?

I hope this is not what we’re becoming.

 

Good call on Person of Year, Time magazine

angela-merkel

OK, so Time didn’t pick Donald Trump as its Person of the Year after all.

Instead, the venerable magazine went with someone who’s actually accomplished something, been a force for positive change and has earned her spurs leading a continent that’s going through some monumental change.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel gets the nod as Person of the Year.

I am fascinated by Time’s description of her upbringing.

She grew up in East Germany, which used to call itself the “German Democratic Republic.” As Time notes, the communist-run dictatorship was neither “democratic” or a “republic.” It was run by tyrants. Thus, young Angela developed an early craving for freedom and liberty.

She and the rest of her country got it when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 and the communist dictatorship fell apart.

Merkel’s ascent to power was dramatic. Once there, she became Europe’s most powerful leader, which is saying something, given that the continent is populated by several powerful heads of government — such as the British prime minister and the president of France.

Check out this passage from Time’s article on the selection: “At a moment when much of the world is once more engaged in a furious debate about the balance between safety and freedom, the Chancellor is asking a great deal of the German people, and by their example, the rest of us as well. To be welcoming. To be unafraid. To believe that great civilizations build bridges, not walls, and that wars are won both on and off the battlefield. By viewing the refugees as victims to be rescued rather than invaders to be repelled, the woman raised behind the Iron Curtain gambled on freedom. The pastor’s daughter wielded mercy like a weapon.”

The reference here is to the refugee crisis exploding in the Middle East. Merkel has “wielded mercy like a weapon.”

Let’s pay attention on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

 

Women play key role in defending Israel

female pilots

This picture showed up on my Facebook news feed today and it brings to mind something I witnessed six years ago during a four-week tour of Israel.

Yes, more women fly F-16s than drive cars in Saudi Arabia. I’m not going to thrash Saudi cultural norms. I am, though, going to remember one of the major takeaways from my tour of Israel.

It is that the country must rely on every single able individual — men and women — who are able to serve in the armed forces.

Israel has a mandatory conscription law. If memory serves, men must serve three years in the military; women are called up for two. And, yes indeed, women are ordered to perform dangerous duty in defense of their country, such as flying high-performance tactical jet aircraft; for that matter, so are American women.

I arrived in Israel in early May 2009 as part of a Rotary International Group Study Exchange team. One of the first sites we visited was a military museum in Be’er Sheva, a modern city on the edge of the Judean Desert.

It was at that museum where we were told that enemy jets can cross the width of Israel in less than five minutes. The individual who told us that was a young woman who was serving in the Israeli air force.

Later on our tour, I stayed in the home of a family in Karmiel. One of my hosts was a young woman, the daughter of the couple who owned the home, who had just gotten out of the Israeli military. She informed me of her country’s insistence that all young people don the uniform of their country. Israel does grant religious exemptions to Hasidic Jews — which I also learned is a source of some tension among less-observant Israelis.

But the women of that small but mighty country are asked to step up and to do their part. Who should doubt that the entire country is on notice to serve? It comprises slightly more than 8,000 square miles; it is home to around 7 million residents. It is surrounded by nations with which it has gone to war multiple times since Israel’s founding in 1948.

Israel has peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt. However, it holds the Golan Heights, which once belonged to Syria … and we all know what’s happening there.

It’s good to put some things in perspective as we consider the cost of war and whether we’re asking everyone to commit to its defense.

In Israel, such a commitment becomes essential for the embattled nation’s very survival.

Refugees or criminals? Which is it?

immigration-9

One of my very best friends in the whole, wide world is a lawyer who lives in California.

I’ve known Tim Lundell since I was in high school. He was my best man and we’ve shared a lot of emotions over many years.

Tim posted this comment today on Facebook.

“Isn’t it funny? In Europe they have ‘desperate migrants, embarking on a perilous journey in search of a better life.’ Here, according to certain politicians, we have ‘illegal immigrants who rape and murder.’ I guess it’s just a matter of humanitarian perspective.”

The target of Tim’s barb, I’m certain, is Donald Trump, who’s gained considerable mileage over his rants about illegal immigrants who come to the United States from points south … meaning Mexico and beyond. Republican primary voters are eating this stuff up, giving Trump a tremendous boost in the current public opinion polling

I do not dispute the notion that some of those who come into this country without the proper documentation come here to do harm, just as Trump has said.

But many others do come here to seek a better life, just as those who are fleeing the Middle East and heading for places such as Greece, Italy, France and Germany are doing.

I’ll also acknowledge that the influx of immigrants into Europe has spawned a considerable backlash from right-wing extremists, who contend that the refugees present a considerable danger to the European way of life.

However, as we keep debating the issue of whether to deport all 11 million illegal immigrants from the United States, shouldn’t we keep in mind that many of them are here for the right reasons and are not here to commit crimes?

The blanket condemnation of illegal immigrants does not square with the reality of why many of them are here in the first place. They are here to make a better life for their families.

I am not suggesting they all should be granted amnesty, or that they shouldn’t be required to start the process of obtaining legal immigrant status.

Let us just try to understand that people come here for a lot of reasons — and many of them have no intention of committing crimes against the country they want to call home.

 

 

 

Where is LBJ when you need him?

Barack H. Obama needs to channel Lyndon B. Johnson.

In a big way.

President Obama’s negotiating team — led by Secretary of State John Kerry — has just brokered a deal that cuts off Iran’s path to obtaining a nuclear weapon.

But not only are congressional Republicans opposed to the deal — which is no surprise in the least — but congressional Democrats appear to be skeptical of the deal.

http://www.politico.com/story/2015/07/key-democrats-skeptical-of-iran-deal-120123.html?hp=t1_r

How does LBJ play into this? I’m trying to imagine congressional Democrats bucking ol’ Lyndon, who was legendary in his ability to cajole his former congressional colleagues into seeing things his way.

Vote with me, or else I’m going to make your life holy hell, he would tell friend and foe alike. There was not disputing LBJ’s sincerity. When he said he’d make congressmen and women’s lives uncomfortable, he meant it.

Former Amarillo College President Paul Matney, who is no slouch as a political observer, once told me he thought Obama’s greatest weakness as president was his lack of congressional relationships. He served only three years in the Senate before being elected president in 2008 and hadn’t built a large cache of friends on Capitol Hill upon whom he could depend when the going gets tough.

It’s going to get quite tough in the weeks ahead as the president seeks to sell the details of his Iran nuclear deal to members of both parties.

Imagine Democrats telling Lyndon Johnson that they’re skeptical of a deal negotiated by a presidential team of the same party.

As for President Obama’s efforts to sell this deal — which I believe has the potential for bringing a more comprehensive peace to the Middle East — well, good luck, Mr. President.