In a 2009 book, Gideon Rose wrote that Americans think of wars as “street fights on a grand scale, with the central strategic challenge being how to beat up the bad guys.” The military leaders focus on the fighting, paying little attention to the long-term consequences. “But at some point, every war enters what might be called its endgame, and then any political questions that may have been ignored come rushing back with a vengeance.”
In the book, titled “How Wars End,” Rose found that a failure to fully think through political issues marked the United States’ involvement in six conflicts, from World War I to the Iraq War.
Last week, as Israel continued its military response to the October 7 Hamas terror attack, its political goals — and potential endgame — remained a source of huge controversy. The US has backed Israel’s right to defend itself, but President Joe Biden, under pressure from some in his party, has called for a “pause” in the war for humanitarian reasons.
Air power and terrorism expert Robert A. Pape of the University of Chicago recalled that “Israel invaded Southern Lebanon with some 78,000 combat troops and almost 3,000 tanks and armored vehicles in June 1982.”
“The goal was to smash PLO terrorists, and Israel achieved significant near-term success. However, this military operation caused the creation of Hezbollah in July 1982, led to vast local support for Hezbollah and waves of suicide attacks and ultimately led to the withdrawal of Israel’s army from much of southern Lebanon in 1985 and the growth of Hezbollah ever since.”
In the war against Hamas, he added, “Israel’s strategic vision has been to go in heavily militarily first and then figure out the political process later. But this is likely to integrate Hamas and the local population together more and more and to produce more terrorists than it kills. … There is an alternative: now, not later, start the political process toward a pathway to a Palestinian state, and create a viable political alternative for Palestinians to Hamas.”
DJ Rosenthal, who served as director for counterterrorism at the US National Security Council during the Obama administration, wrote that “Israel must ensure that its pursuit of its objectives against Hamas is conducted with the utmost care to minimize civilian casualties. While it is true that Hamas uses civilians as human shields to create a significant tactical complication for Israel’s mission, Hamas’ inhumanity does not form a basis upon which Israel can depart from its obligations to minimize civilian casualties. To fail to do so is to risk undermining Israel’s security interests in the region, Western support and its legitimacy.”
“Take, for example, the Israel Defense Forces strike on Gaza’s Jabalya refugee camp on Tuesday. While the IDF said that it was targeting high-level Hamas leadership, which might make the strikes legal under international law, Israel must not ignore the realpolitik implications. Bolivia, Chile and Colombia have taken drastic diplomatic steps against Israel, and Jordan recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Antony Blinken is again visiting Israel, no doubt to put private pressure on the Israeli government to avoid civilian casualties. The diplomatic impacts to Israel will only continue to mount if these types of strikes persist.”
Shai Davidai, an assistant professor of management at Columbia Business School, explained why he was seen crying in a viral video taken on the university’s campus. “Following the horrific massacre in Israel by Hamas terrorists on October 7, I felt an intense, relentless grief. Grief for the thousands of civilians shot, murdered, mutilated, raped and beheaded. Grief for the intentional killing of babies, some burned beyond recognition. Grief for the confused children dragged at gun point by violent men into captivity in Gaza.”
“Yet there was a deeper, darker grief. A grief that seeped from a wound I’d thought was healed. A grief that comes from the trauma hiding at the bottom of every Jewish person’s heart. A grief that comes from seeing, once again, Jewish people targeted in their homes and communities.”
In Gaza, Nadia AbuShaban attended a birthday party for her 12-year-old nephew Hashem. “With so little opportunity in Gaza, what will he grow up to become? What effect will all this fear and violence have on his developing, young mind? When will the realities of life here set in? And, of course, will he even live to see his next birthday?”
Former VA Secretary David Shulkin: The time is now to heed this critical lesson about the cost of war
One year away
Confidently predicting the choice US voters will make in the 2024 presidential election is beyond the abilities of even the sharpest political pundit. After all, on the morning of November 8, 2016, the Upshot team at the New York Times gave Hillary Clinton an 85% chance of beating Donald Trump in that day’s election — and many other forecasters put her chances even higher.
But it is safe to say, as Karl Rove did in the Wall Street Journal, that the 2024 election is shaping up to be “the strangest presidential election in our lifetimes, which is saying a lot after the past two.” Two highly unpopular candidates dominate their party’s primary races at this point.
Trump’s former running mate dropped out of the race for the GOP nomination last weekend. “Mike Pence is a good man with an impressive resume, but he never stood a chance in the Republican presidential primary,” wrote Geoff Duncan, a fellow Republican.
“Since January 6, 2021, the former vice president has been a candidate without a home, reviled by the Trump crowd for doing the right thing on that terrible day and distrusted by the other side for his steadfast loyalty to the former president until that point in time.”
Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley is the only Trump rival showing substantial momentum in the race. Duncan argued that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis should follow Pence’s example by ending his campaign. “DeSantis could be known for stepping aside and allowing someone else in the field with better odds of success to take on Trump.”
“It’s a long shot, but it might be the only option for those who want to leave the Trump era behind.”
Haley and DeSantis will be among the candidates taking part in Wednesday’s GOP debate, which Trump is skipping.
Trump’s immunity claim
Gag orders, Trump children on the witness stand and pre-trial maneuvers: such is the regular fare of the many legal cases, both civil and criminal, revolving around the former president. But the most significant development in the federal election subversion case, argued Norman Eisen and Joshua Kolb, could turn out to be “Donald Trump’s demand that the case be thrown out because he has ‘presidential immunity’ against being prosecuted for his acts in office.”
“In our view, the government has the better argument,” Eisen and Kolb wrote. “The principle upon which our nation was founded and that remains at the center of our justice system today is that no person — even a former president — is above the law. Giving a president absolute immunity would grant him essentially monarchical powers, antithetical to our history and our rule of law system.”
They urged the judges considering the question to “move briskly. In the ordinary case, such complex legal issues can take years to wind their way through all the way up to the Supreme Court. The commencement of trial is sometimes held until that painstakingly slow progress is concluded.”
“That is a luxury the country cannot afford. We need to know whether one of the leading candidates for the White House criminally abused the powers of the presidency to try to hold onto that office — which he seeks once more to attain.”
Maggie Jackson goes swimming most days in the ocean off Rhode Island. “I learned which apps to check for wave height and wind velocity on the stretch of Rhode Island coast where I swim … with a band of fellow devotees. We gained a sense of local currents and when to opt for the shelter of a nearby harbor.” Still there’s no way of knowing for sure exactly what she and her friends will face.
“Will the dawn fog lift or make the beach perilously invisible? In the midst of it all, we mostly just don’t know.” She’s learned to embrace the uncertainty, which is the subject of her new book publishing Tuesday.
“When you experience something new, ambiguous, or unexpected, stress hormones and chemicals flood the brain,” she writes. “We are built to crave answers. Not-knowing unsettles us — but we can benefit from embracing uncertainty as a path to curiosity, adaptability and resilience, the very cognitive skills needed in times of change.”
Threats on campus — and beyond
A junior at Cornell University was arrested for posting online threats against Jews on campus. But Gabriel Levin, a sophomore who’s a columnist for The Cornell Daily Sun, wrote, “I feel no sense of closure. The constant threat of antisemitism looms over us still.”
“Jews at Cornell are politically, ritually and geographically diverse. But today, we are bound together by a shared concern both for our safety and for the civil exchange of ideas that makes a university a place where students can learn about one another. Tolerance is the only way to heal from this.”
Antisemitism is a phenomenon that goes far beyond one college campus. As Frida Ghitis wrote, “Some passengers feared for their lives Sunday night, when they landed at the main airport in Dagestan, a majority-Muslim Russian republic, and found their plane quickly swarmed by a throng that had smashed its way into the airport terminal and the tarmac after hearing that a flight from Tel Aviv was arriving.”
“In terrifying scenes, the rampaging crowd, some shouting ‘Allahu akbar,’ surrounded passengers, pressuring them to prove they were not Jewish. Outside the terminal, they searched cars looking for Jews. One of the passengers told local media he was let through after showing his Russian passport and being told they were ’not touching non-Jews today.’”
“This moment in history has created a perfect storm for antisemitism. The events of the past few weeks have burst the restraints on the far right — where antisemitism is often naked — and on the far and sometimes not-so-far left, where it comes clothed in lofty rhetoric of defending the underdog and contorted historical analysis,” Ghitis observed.
Julian Zelizer: Progressives should never tolerate antisemitism
Speaker Johnson’s first move
Speaker Mike Johnson’s first big legislative effort was a bill passed by the House Thursday to provide $14.3 billion in emergency aid for Israel and to rescind that same amount from the Internal Revenue Service budget, reducing some of the money the Biden administration had obtained to increase tax audits on the wealthiest Americans.
The problem? The bill doesn’t actually offset the aid to Israel. According to the Congressional Budget Office, cutting IRS spending would only add to the deficit, and result in roughly $26.8 billion in lost revenue. “Holding national security hostage unless we make it easier for wealthy tax cheats to break the law? Who would do that?” Paul Krugman asked in the New York Times.
“Yet I fear that the proposal’s very awfulness may protect it from scrutiny, because voters will be incredulous about claims that this idea is even on the table.”
Now that Johnson is second-in-line to the presidency, the speaker’s views are coming under increased scrutiny. “It might surprise you to learn that the new speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, has said ‘we don’t live in a democracy,’” wrote John Avlon.
“Merriam-Webster’s definition of democracy is ‘government by the people; especially rule of the majority.’ That’s the way most Americans experience elections: The person with the most votes wins. It’s true in every race except president (thanks, Electoral College), from mayor to senator to governor. And since the nation’s founding, voting rights have steadily expanded. Generally, this is celebrated as progress toward a more perfect union.”
“But majority rule seems to be a problem for Johnson. He described it in the past as ‘two wolves and a sheep deciding what’s for dinner’ (a quote often misattributed to Benjamin Franklin). Instead, Johnson has said that the Founders set up America as a constitutional republic ‘because they followed a biblical admonition.’”
Verdict on SBF
The downfall of onetime-billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, who was convicted by a jury on seven counts of fraud and conspiracy Thursday, is the story of an individual’s bad choices, rather than a verdict on an entire industry, wrote Howard Fischer.
“The guilty verdict is not an indictment of the digital asset economy in its entirety,” Fischer noted, but of the lack of regulations that “would have constrained Bankman-Fried from vaporizing billions of dollars’ worth of investments.”
The last bad choice the young entrepreneur made was at his own trial. “Bankman-Fried’s appetite for risk was demonstrated by his deciding to take the stand in his own defense and expose himself to a broadside from the prosecution, a bold gamble few criminal defendants take. As with other times in his life, he demonstrated his willingness to take an outsized risk with a substantial downside. Only this time he was not gambling with investor funds or customer assets, but his own freedom. It was his last desperate roll of the dice — and it came up snake eyes.”
In a new documentary, filmmakers Sophie Compton and Reuben Hamlyn tell the story of a 22-year-old engineering student who was the victim of deepfake pornography.
Her “anonymous perpetrator had uploaded six deepfake videos to several porn profiles, pretending to be her,” the filmmakers wrote. “Chillingly, he also included the names of her real college and hometown, and encouraged men visiting the profile to DM her, with a wink emoji. And they did — she started receiving disturbing messages on Facebook and Instagram from men she didn’t know.”
“But when Taylor called the police, a detective told her the perpetrator had a right to do it, and that no laws had been broken.”
“With advancements in artificial intelligence, deepfake pornography is becoming increasingly common — and it almost exclusively targets women,” argue Compton and Hamlyn, who call for legislative changes by Congress.
Stopping mass shooters
The mass shootings that killed 18 people in Lewiston, Maine, highlighted the stalemate that is the gun debate in the US. There seems little prospect the federal government will pass any major new gun safety measures.
“There are, however, promising efforts by US law enforcement and psychologists to better understand how a mass shooter goes down the ‘pathway to violence,’ and how he — nearly all mass shooters are male — might be dissuaded or diverted from carrying out a violent act,” wrote Peter Bergen and Laura Tillman. “Officials say the public can also play a critical role in this effort.”
The FBI is particularly interested in the role of “bystanders” — the “peers or family members who are most likely to see worrisome social media posts or hear alarming comments from someone who is going down the pathway to violence.”
“Those bystanders are the ones who can provide the best early warnings. … bystanders might not always get a straight answer when they check in — if the person is truly planning an attack, he or she might deflect the questions or lie. But it is important to alert the authorities anyway.”
“When a bystander becomes aware of key information about a potential shooter and does nothing, that individual is 16 times more likely to go on and commit an act of violence, according to a US government assessment. This is because a potential shooter might perceive that silence as permission, the assessment finds.”
Celia Wexler: Synod shows Pope Francis is more talk than action
Matthew Perry, friend
Fans of “Friends” mourned Matthew Perry, who died last week at the age of 54. Dean Obeidallah wrote that Perry, who was best known for playing Chandler Bing on the hit TV show, was his favorite among the cast members.
“Chandler used comedy as a defense mechanism to deal with insecurities and awkwardness with lines such as, ‘Hi, I’m Chandler, I make jokes when I’m uncomfortable’ and ‘I’m not great at the advice. Can I interest you in a sarcastic comment?’”
Perry was candid about the toll that alcohol and drugs took on his life. “Less than a year before he died,” Holly Thomas noted, “Perry said that the thing he should be remembered for above all else was that if someone asked for his help to stop drinking, he’d give it to them. No one could have guessed how soon his legacy would be weighed.”
“In season one, episode 13 of ‘Friends,’ Phoebe’s psychiatrist boyfriend Roger tells Chandler: ‘You’re so funny. I wouldn’t want to be there when the laughter stopped.’ For years, Perry devoted every effort to ensuring it never did. Flawed, vulnerable Chandler masked an exponentially more flawed, vulnerable Perry. Though Perry wanted to escape Chandler, he kept him around, because heaven forbid anyone saw what he was hiding.”
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