Monday, June 07, 2010

Richard Allen: WTF?

Reading over Richard Allen's op-ed in the New York Times today, I asked myself whether the author isn't suffering from the same mental infliction suffered by his beloved President Ronald Reagan. Allen, U.S. national security adviser in the early '80s, recalls his memory of Reagan's reaction to Israel's strike on the Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981 (twenty-nine years ago today) only to compare it, shamefully, with the recent Mavi Marmara debacle. He does so with an insidious mixture of nostalgia and dementia that must be making Reagan smile in his grave.

The point of Allen's narrative is to caution against knee-jerk negative reaction to "daring, risky" Israeli military operations. Even high-ranking officials in Reagan's administration, including VP George H.W. Bush, Chief of Staff James Baker, and presidential aide Michael Deaver, advocated punitive actions against Israel in the wake of the surprise strike on Saddam's nuclear materials testing reactor in 1981, Allen remembers. But the most sober and far-sighted in the situation room--Reagan himself--after hearing all points of view on Israel, only "smiled and turned to the papers on his desk," and, when he did speak directly on Israeli policy, offered only private and pithy pearls of wisdom such as "Boys will be boys." There seems to be an implicit warning here to President Obama to curb any enthusiasm he might possibly have for condemning Israeli military policy, in this case regarding the Gaza blockade - or, more ominously, potential future Israeli strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities.

Beyond the Alzheimerish absurdity of comparing a planned strike with botched crowd control, I find this an example of the worst kind of American staythecoursiveness with regard to Israel.


J. said...

Noah, I don't think the "botched crowd control" characterization is as apt anymore as it appeared to many of us at the outset. The group of people who clashed with the IDF seems to have been quite a determined bunch that would likely have been impervious to regular crowd control tactics, which were in any case not all that practical at sea.

Criticker said...
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Noah K said...

Okay if "botched crowd control? won't win consensus on the blog, though, apparently, it will attract some screedy comments -- who are these people, and why do they think our blog is the right venue for their tantrums? -- isn't it important to talk about what kind of incident this was in historical perspective? Assad and Erdogan are saying this is essentially no different than any of Israel's other "state terrorism," so there is definitely a point to combat. Saying "crowd control" wouldn't work on these people is kind of like saying, in the words of that anonymous soldier, "they didn't look amateur." It's a pretty subjective way of looking at the incident. My feeling is that if Israel had done this right, as a success it doesn't rank next to Osirak, the Syrian proto-reactor, etc. But that is also because the nature of the incident, as Noah is arguing, is totally different. This was somewhere between civilian crowd control, and, yes, something else; but not exactly taking out a foreign nation's weapons facility unilaterally. It certainly is a "botched" something, whatever noun you attach that adjective to. I just think that no matter how sophisticated one makes the funding of the Mavi Marmara look, how "mercenary" one makes the passengers, this is still a huge failure of political and strategic thinking in Israel.

Nobody said...

I think by the end of the day, what matters is that Israeli leaders struggle to come to terms with the fact that Turkey is lost. We have hardly mattered for Turkey anymore than their Latin alphabet. We are just a very radical statement by their secularists vs the region/world and domestic Islamists. And obviously Erdogan has nothing to with this and is all to happy to dismantle yet another symbol of Turkish secularism. We are the same as the veiling ban for him.

And strategically it makes sense for them to gang up with Syria and Iran. It's in the interest of this non Sunni Arab triangle to strengthen ties. The collapse and Balkanization of any single one of the three countries involved would leave the other two to deal with an out of control Kurdish problem. These are the Turkish interests. We are just a liability for everybody over there, except their most aggressive secularists who are ready to challenge the Islamists head-on.

Noah S. said...

I agree with Nobody that the real story with the Marmara is the fallout with Turkey, not the predictable international outcry. At the end of the day, how much does it really matter whether we call it on the blog "botched crowd control," "botched intelligence," or simply an "unfortunate incident"? The activists succeeded in their efforts to provoke and isolate Israel and create more martyrs, bottom line.

The goal of my post was to criticize Allen's choice of historical allegory and to suggest that it is indicative of an American establishment perspective with which we are all familiar. My point had nothing to do with the U.N.'s knee-jerk condemnations (as Amos seems to suggest with his subsequent post), or with anything else besides the U.S.

Nobody said...


There was one article in WSJ about Turkey: Erdogan and the Decline of the Turks. And one Turkish commenter, in my view, has simply hit the nail on the idiocy of both us and the US. Read the article first to get the context.

Kemal Turkcu replied:

. .

4) “The Mosul and organ harvesting stories were soon brought together in a hit Turkish movie called Valley of the Wolves," - I guess you don’t follow the news or watch TV much. Law and Order is based on stories created from sensationalized news and Fox’s 24 is total embellishment of anything and everything. So what if Turkish show embellishes on the actual news about Rabbis in New York being involved in organ trafficking; I assume you heard that. It’s just a stupid TV show. And Erdogan’s response to this nonsense is news for you?
Yet you are missing the real news for years. That’s the US supported Islamist party of Erdogan, AKP being in power for years.

. . .

Finally, to the author’s last statement “The obvious answer to the question of "Who lost Turkey?"—the Western-oriented Turkey, that is—is the Turks did. ” - Agreed, Turks have only themselves to blame.
But why don’t you, as an opinion journalist, do more research and write another piece on why the US government, going back at least to Bush years, assisted and supports the Islamist government of Erdogan. And please don’t tell me you never heard of US government supporting, propping up and/or dismantling governments around the world. If so, don’t bother with research and writing.

J. said...

No doubt, Noah, I agree as well that it reflects a failure to think strategically. It's a strategic botch up if you will...

Nobody said...

It's an operational and tactical blunder, not a strategic one. If this country and its army are serious about fighting the media war, they should be ready to pay the price for it. Hurriyet photo gallery is shocking, but it should have been forbidden to the the next wave of soldiers to shoot anybody dead. Simple as that. Even at the cost of their lives. They could have neutralized them by shooting them in the limbs. Some soldiers might die but this is an inevitable media tax in blood that we should pay to the global media. They are setting the rules, not us.

Strategical blunder was a failure by the US/Israel to comprehend that a head of state who believes that his ally is raiding a neighboring country in order to harvest its population for organs, is not an ally, but a regular Middle Eastern Islamist conspirazoid. Erdogan belongs to the same collective information space of conspiratorial paranoias the Arabs and the rest of the Muslim world share between themselves. It's the same stuff we read on Arab blogs.

And the US with its enthusiasm for moderate Islam and democracy have put Turkish secularists into an impossible situation, since their whole model as far as I can see is based on urban secular elites running the country with the army immediately launching coups when they are in danger of having their mob to drag them back into the Middle East. According to what I heard, it's the army's constitutional duty. Failure to see this is a strategic blunder indeed.