The only thing surgical about an air strike is the blood it leaves behind

Western leaders are at pains to stress that the purpose of military action against Syria, if and when it happens, will be to send a message to President Assad that the use of chemical weapons is unacceptable. The goal, they have said repeatedly, is not regime change.

That is ethically problematic – the subliminal message is that killing 100,000 civilians is OK, as long as chemical weapons aren’t used – and strategically inept. With its history in Vietnam and Iraq, America should be only too aware that wars have a habit of going awry and even the best-planned military operation can end very badly.

Most of all, its logically inconsistent. All the western leaders involved have already called for the end of Assad’s regime, so what’s the point in teaching him a lesson? Surely the purpose of a lesson is to ensure better behavior the next time? But none of those involved want there to be a next time, so wouldn’t it make sense just to get rid of Assad and be done with it? Continue reading

Deciphering the code: Israel as a Jewish state

Sooner or later, if the peace talks manage to get beyond the photo op stage, so-called substantive issues are going to have to be discussed. One of them is Bibi Netanyahu’s demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

When seen in the context of new borders, settlements, the status of Jerusalem and the right of return of Palestinian refugees, recognizing Israel as a Jewish state – as opposed to a state with a Jewish majority, say – may seem like nitpicking. The sort of thing that is dealt with over drinks and snacks. But it is anything but innocuous.

To understand why it could turn out to be a deal-breaker (though not the only one, probably) it is necessary to understand both why Netanyahu is so adamant that Israel be recognized as a Jewish state and why the Palestinians are just as determined not to do it. Continue reading