New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof’s forte is foreign policy, and most would agree that he is a lot less shrill and a lot less partisan than his fellow columnist Paul Krugman. Because he has a more measured, and in my opinion a fairer, tone than Krugman, I find his column a worthwhile read.
Today he turns his attention to the Middle East, and compares President Bush’s approach to the expected approach of President Obama. First, he gives his assessment of President Bush’s view:
President Bush’s problem was that he loved Israel too much. He embraced Israeli leaders even when they responded to provocations by killing more than 1,300 people in Gaza, according to Gaza health officials — in retaliation for shelling that had killed fewer than 30 Israelis since it began in 2001.
Then by contrast, he makes the following observation about the emerging Obama policy by noting the apparent enthusiasm towards the new administration at the recent conference in Davos:
[There was] a much more positive undercurrent here — enthusiasm for more American engagement in the region, in a more evenhanded way.
So in his view, Bush loved Israel too much, and Obama is more “evenhanded.” In other words, Kristof and the leaders at Davos are all fired up because Obama won’t be backing Israel as strongly.
And what are the specific policy implications of that? Kristof spells out exactly what he hopes to see happen:
Israel must lift the siege of Gaza, completely opening the crossings. If Hamas resumes its unconscionable rocket attacks on Israeli civilians, then bomb the tunnels or strike Hamas targets in a proportional way, but don’t escalate.
This is moronic. He expects Israel to allow Hamas to totally re-arm. Just like that. And then he says Israel should respond if Hamas resumes attacks, as if there is any doubt at all that this is exactly what would happen. And then he adds that when the inevitable attacks come, Israel should only respond “in a proportional way”, notwithstanding that this would do absolultely nothing to deter further attacks.
This is foolishness and naivete, driven by idealism that has no basis in reality.
Now ordinarily, I would say “who cares” in response to a foolish and naive post from a New York Times columnist. But as is clear from the column, Kristof is under the impression that Barack Obama shares his “even-handed” vision. And he is probably right.
And you know, we’ve been down this path before. After all, Bill Clinton was fool enough to trust Yasser Arafat. How’d that work out?