The Best Of The Dish This Weekend

Andrew Sullivan —  Sep 28 2014 @ 9:15pm

Two columns and a revealing concurrence between MoDo and Krauthammer. The Friday Krauthammer piece was one of those larded with barbs at Obama but effectively ends up endorsing the anti-ISIS policy. I mean – how often do you read Krauthammer saying the following?

If Obama can remain steady through future fluctuations in public opinion, his strategy might succeed.

I know, right? But after a while, you see why Krauthammer is suddenly backing Obama. Because he reminds him of Netanyahu:

What kind of strategy is that? A compressed and more aggressive form of the George Kennan strategy of Soviet containment. Stop them, squeeze them, and ultimately they will be defeated by their own contradictions … Or to put it in a contemporary Middle East context, this kind of long-term combination of rollback and containment is what has carried the Israelis successfully through seven decades of terrorism arising at different times from different places proclaiming different ideologies. There is no one final stroke that ends it all. The Israelis engage, enjoy a respite, then re-engage.

Here’s Modo on the same page:

The president should just drop the flowery talk and cut to the chase. Americans get it. Let’s not pretend we’re fighting for any democratic principles here. America failed spectacularly in creating its democratic model kitchen with Iraq. So now we have to go back periodically and cut the grass, as they say in Israel, to keep our virulent foes in check.

I just want to note that America has become Israel; and Iraq is becoming our Gaza. And I’m not the first person to make that analogy:

The Israeli modus operandi that became obvious during the war in Gaza—using Israel’s technological edge and superior air power to “crush” Hamas (a term that Netanyahu used quite frequently during the military campaign) while cooperating with local partners (Egypt, in the case of Israel) to pressure and isolate the enemy and create a more favorable balance of power—may become the model for American military operations on Iraq and Syria in the coming years.

So if you cannot—or are not willing to—defeat them, then “crush” them with drones, missiles, and air power, and try through ad-hoc cooperation with the occasional partner (the Jordanians), proxy (the Kurds), and even rival (Iran) to put pressure on the enemy du jour (al-Qaeda; ISIS). In the make-believe world of spin and media, in the meantime, try to market the outcome of your policies as military wins and pretend that all of this will create the conditions for a diplomatic solution. At best, it will tilt the balance of power in your favor; at a minimum, it will help maintain the status quo and contain the perceived threat.

And at worst, without an Iraqi government that can actually represent the Shi’a, you have Gaza: bombing one extremist group, while creating countless more, and slowly turning into what Israel has become – a barricaded country, with less and less legitimacy, fomenting Islamism as potently as it attempts to “crush it”. Or, when the civilian casualties mount, and victory seems elusive, the logic for another ground invasion – like Israel’s many into its neighbors – becomes inescapable.

This weekend, we talked of the formality (or lack of it) of the virtue of friendship and how it sometimes fails in middle age. I loved Ferdinand Mount’s rather brilliant contra-Hitch assertion that “everything poisons religion.” We aired the discipline and routine of great writers; how emotion fuels memory; sex and Leonard Cohen; and the possible non-pacifism of the disciples. Plus Marilynne Robinson on the body and the poetry of Jean Valentine. This Face Of The Day won’t leave me.

The most popular post of the weekend was Chart Of The Day on who is benefiting from the recovery; followed by A Cloud Of Unknowing.

A huge thanks to Jessie Roberts who has helped create our weekend coverage and to Matt Sitman who finds and elevates much of our religious content. This really is a team effort. To help us keep this show on the road, please subscribe if you haven’t yet. You alone make all this possible.

See you in the morning.