Israelis Don’t Support Iran Strike Without U. S.

A new Jerusalem Post poll shows that a majority of Israelis support an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities if the U. S. leads, but only a minority support an attack by Israel alone.

This comes at a time when some top current and former Israeli officials are publicly opposing an attack, and when it seems clear that Benjamin Netanyahu will need to hold elections this fall, rather than next year as he had planned.

The former head of Israel’s domestic security service, Yuval Diskin, recently said that Netanyahu and his defense minister, Ehud Barak, can’t be trusted on Iran because they are moved by “messianic feelings.”

The current army chief of staff, Benny Gantz, said that the Iranian threat is less imminent than Netanyahu suggests, and that he believes Iran has not yet decided whether or not to build a nuclear bomb.

Mitt Should Keep His Mouth Shut

This is a challenging moment in our relations with China.  We have been getting cooperation from them on Iran, Syria, North Korea, and the valuation of their currency.  Now, relations are strained because of dissident Chen Guangcheng’s escape from house arrest and flight to the U. S. embassy in Beijing.  The Obama Administration wants to help Mr. Chen and his family without derailing the progress we have made with China on vital national security issues.

The timing is especially bad, given that Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner are on their way to China for long-scheduled meetings.

So when he should just shut up and let the President handle this crisis (which some are calling the most serious with China since Tiananmen Square back in 1989), Mitt Romney jumps in to declare that we must confront the Chinese on their one-child policy.  The President is in a delicate diplomatic situation, and Mitt uses the moment for a purely political shout-out to the pro-life Republican base.

Great pandering, Mitt!  Leadership?  Statesmanship?  Not so much.

Quote of the Day

“I’m stunned by how oblivious he [Paul Ryan] is to the pain his policies would cause people.  What amazes me is that someone that nice personally has such a cold, almost academic view of what the impact of his policies would be on people.”  Former Wisconsin Democratic congressman David Obey.

GOP — It’s Not Me, It’s You

Sometimes I wonder if I exaggerate how extreme and insane the GOP has become.  Then I find something like “Let’s just say it:  the Republicans are the problem,” in which one of the co-authors is from the super-conservative American Enterprise Institute.*  So I’m reminded and reassured that when it comes to the GOP, it’s not me, it’s them:

“We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional.  In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted.  Today, however, we have no choice by to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics.  It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

“When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.

“While the Democrats may have moved from their 40-yard line to their 25, the Republicans have gone from their 40 to somewhere behind their goal post.

“But the real move to the bedrock right starts with two names:  Newt Gingrich and Grover Norquist.

“But the forces Gingrich unleashed destroyed whatever comity existed across party lines, activated an extreme and virulently anti-Washington base — most recently represented by tea party activists — and helped drive moderate Republicans out of Congress.

“Norquist, meanwhile, founded Americans for Tax Reform in 1985 and rolled out his Taxpayer Protection Pledge the following year.  The pledge, which binds its signers to never support a tax increase (that includes closing tax loopholes) had been signed as of last year by 238 of the 242 House Republicans and 41 of the 47 GOP senators, according to ATR.

“We understand the values of mainstream journalists, including the effort to report both sides of a story.  But a balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon distorts reality.

“If they [voters] can punish ideological extremism at the polls and look skeptically upon candidates who profess to reject all dialogue and bargaining with opponents, then an insurgent outlier party will have some impetus to return to the center.  Otherwise, our politics will get worse before it gets better.”  Emphasis added.

* Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, WaPo

The Futility of Afghanistan

We all read about the coordinated Taliban suicide attacks in Kabul and three other Afghan cities on April 15.  But you had to read almost to the end of a long article about Pakistan two weeks later* to find this:

“Officials have also identified a possible intelligence gap.  Ethnic infighting at the top of Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security, may have resulted in key people failing to pass on information that could have helped derail the attacks.”

So after a decade of fighting there, we still haven’t secured the top ranks of their intelligence agency not to work against us.  Time to go, people.

*  “U. S. Talks Fail As Pakistanis Seek Apology,” Declan Walsh, Eric Schmitt, Steven Lee Myers, NYT

Mitt and bin Laden

In response to the Obama campaign’s questioning whether Mitt would have authorized the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, Mitt is now saying that “of course” he would have, nothing to see here folks, move on.

But when you go back to the positions each candidate took in the primaries before the 2008 general, you find ample evidence to doubt Mitt.

In August 2007, Obama said, “If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.”

A couple of days later, Mitt attacked that position as wrong and specifically said he would not do a unilateral raid into Pakistan:  “I do not concur in the words of Barack Obama in a plan to enter an ally of ours.”

Would Mitt have gotten bin Laden?  Based on the record, I would say, “Of course not.”

Don’t Eat Your Peas

From “If Peas Can Talk, Should We Eat Them?,” Michael Marder, The Stone:

“Imagine a being capable of processing, remembering and sharing information — a being with potentialities proper to it and inhabiting a world of its own.  Given this brief description, most us will think of a human person, some will associate it with an animal, and virtually no one’s imagination will conjure up a plant.

“Since Nov. 2, however, one possible answer to the riddle is Pisumsativum, a species colloquially known as the common pea.  On that day, a team of scientists from the Blaustein Institute for Desert Research at Ben-Gurion University in Israel published the results of its peer-reviewed research, revealing that a pea plant subjected to drought conditions communicated its stress to other such plants, with which it shared its soil.  In other words, through the roots, it relayed to its neighbors the biochemical message about the onset of drought, prompting them to react as they, too, were in a similar predicament.

“Curiously, having received the signal, plants not directly affected by this particular environmental stress factor were better able to withstand adverse conditions when they actually occurred.  This means that the recipients of biochemical communication could draw on their ‘memories’ — information stored at the cellular level — to activate appropriate defenses and adaptive responses when the need arose.”