A key problem confronting Americans who would like to see the US involved in less war is that as Peter Beinart recently noted in the Atlantic:
It's also notoriously hard to mobilize Americans against wars until those wars begin. The anti-Vietnam movement didn't become a force inside the national Democratic Party until 1968, when more than 20,000 Americans had already died. And liberal activists only began putting real pressure on Democratic politicians over Iraq after the war began, when they powered Howard Dean's insurgent campaign. Since World War II, the general pattern has been that elites drive foreign policy--generally in an interventionist direction--until they make a mess big enough to make the public cry stop.
The pattern Beinart described is a recipe for a lot of war. It's as if the dial is automatically set to "more war" by default and we have to make a huge effort each time, for each war, to try to change the setting to less war. Each new war is treated in public discourse as "innocent until proven guilty": the initial burden of proof is on war critics to show that this war is a bad one, rather than the initial burden of proof being on war supporters to show that this war is a good one.
In 2010, the Census Bureau estimated that there were 1.7 million Americans of Arab descent. The Arab American Institute thinks this was an undercount, and puts the number now at about 3.7 million. The Pew Research Center says that there are about 2.4 million Americans who identify as Muslim. We can safely say that there are "millions" of Americans who identify as Arab, as Muslim, or both.
If a big chunk of these people decided to engage Washington to move U.S. policy towards the Palestinians in the direction of more justice, could they have an impact?
I was recently introduced to the acronym "TSINO" - "Two-Stater in Name Only." This is someone who claims to support the international consensus for a diplomatic resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict, but 1) refuses to actually help bring it about, or more grievously 2) actively tries to obstruct the efforts of others to help bring it about.
Earlier, I documented that Maryland Senator Ben Cardin is a TSINO (or, as I called him at the time, a "Two State Faker.")
But now I have worse news. Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer - who has been endorsed by J Street, spoke at the J Street conference, and has been praised by J Street Portland for his support of the two-state solution, is apparently also a TSINO.
On Tuesday night I gave a talk on the University of Illinois-Urbana campus as part of "Israeli Apartheid Week." In my talk, I argued that the question of whether Israel is an "apartheid state" is fundamentally a question of whether the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank is temporary or permanent. If the Israeli occupation of the West Bank is temporary, if we are on a path that leads to Israeli military withdrawal from the West Bank and the establishment of a Palestinian state, then Israel is not an apartheid state, in the same sense that going on a long bender does not necessarily make you an alcoholic. But if the Israeli occupation of the West Bank is permanent, if the status of Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank as stateless persons is permanent, if they have no "path to citizenship," as it were, in the land of their birth, if Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's stated opposition to a two-state solution is the last word on the matter, then Israel is an apartheid state.
As Americans, what we're primarily responsible for is the policy of the US government. The question for US policy is: should it be the policy of the US government that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank should be temporary, or should it be the policy of the US government that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank should be permanent? If it is the policy of the US government that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank should be permanent, then it is the policy of the US government to support Israeli apartheid.
This is context in which Maryland Senator Ben Cardin's efforts to make it part of US trade policy to protect Israeli settlements in the West Bank from European sanctions should be opposed by all genuine American supporters of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. I regret that I have to use the word "genuine" in this context, but the unfortunate fact is that many Americans who claim that they support a two-state solution to the conflict are in fact Two State Fakers.
House Democrats will play a key role in whether the Obama Administration can get a deal with Iran. Under the Corker-Cardin deal on the Corker Congressional review legislation, if a third of the House or a third of the Senate were willing to sustain a Presidential veto of Congressional legislation against the deal, that would be sufficient to block Republican efforts to kill the deal.
Even if all House Republicans oppose the President if it comes to a vote (by no means guaranteed, but certainly plausible), that means roughly 3/4 of House Democrats supporting the President would be sufficient to protect the deal.
I knew a lawyer who was a Philosophy major as an undergrad. At a party many years ago - maybe we had consumed a few sips of beer - I asked him, what does studying Philosophy have to do with being a lawyer?
Oh, he said, it's very relevant. In Philosophy, you study "ontology" - when is a thing a thing. The classic example is the Ship of Theseus problem. Every year they replace 1/7 of the stuff on the ship as it wears out. So after seven years, there's actually no physical aspect of the ship that was there seven years before. But we still call the ship by the same name. Is it still the same ship?
So, the lawyer said, we have ontology problems in the law all the time. You park your car on a public street. When you come back, there's a tow truck there and the tow truck driver has his hitch attached to your car. I'm here now, you say; let me go. Sure, the guy says. You just have to pay me for the tow. What tow, you ask. My car is exactly where I left it. You haven't towed it at all. Nah, the guy says. The tow starts when I touch your car with my hitch; that's the tow. If you go to court, then a judge has to decide: when is a tow a tow? When the tow driver touches his hitch to your car, or when the car starts to move?
Do you remember when Rand Paul was threatening to run for President to Hillary Clinton's left on war and peace? It seems like ancient history now, doesn't it?
When the Administration announced the framework deal on Iran's nuclear program, Hillary backed it right away. It was "3 AM," as it were, and Hillary was waiting by the phone. (It wasn't really 3 AM, but the deal was announced on Thursday and Hillary made her statement Thursday evening; compared to many Senate Democrats, she responded right away.)
Rand Paul, on the other hand, signed the letter to Iran of the Cotton 47 threatening to kill any deal. But far worse in terms of practical impact, Rand Paul is a backer of the Corker-Menendez bill, the main legislative vehicle of Republicans trying to kill the talks, which would allow Congressional Republicans to veto the deal. The Corker bill as written could prove to be a de facto authorization for military force against Iran, because if the Corker bill succeeds in blowing up diplomacy, we're on a highway to war with no apparent exit ramp.
In August-September 2013, Florida Democratic Representative Alan Grayson was a vocal opponent of plans by the Obama Administration for direct military intervention in the Syrian civil war by bombing the Syrian military. The proposal was defeated by public and Congressional opposition, even though it was backed by the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee - the National Rifle Association of US military intervention in the Middle East.
In a September 2013 interview, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now asked Grayson about AIPAC's role.
Democratic constituency groups opposed to war with Iran are furious that New York Democrat and Senate Minority Leader "heir apparent" Chuck Schumer is threatening to scuttle the possibility of a diplomatic agreement with Iran by supporting legislation - the Corker bill - that would allow Republicans in Congress to veto any deal.
Supporting reckless legislation that undermines President Obama's diplomacy with Iran and risks a dangerous, unnecessary war in the Middle East should disqualify anyone from leading the Senate Democratic caucus...Sen. Schumer needs to withdraw his support from the Corker and Menendez legislation.
CREDO Action says
Starting a war with Iran is apparently the top legislative priority for the next leader of the Senate Democratic caucus.
Politico reported that Senator Chuck Schumer's first major move after locking down support to succeed Sen. Harry Reid as the Senate minority leader is to put his weight behind a bill that could block a final nuclear deal with Iran and would almost certainly put the U.S. on a path to war with Iran.
As it was before, so it is now: the question of whether Congress will blow up diplomacy with Iran and put us on a path to another war is ultimately a question about Senate Democrats. There are fifty-four Republicans in the Senate. To pass the diplomacy-killing Corker bill, they need at least six Democrats. To override a threatened Presidential veto of the Corker bill, they need at least thirteen Democrats. (In this discussion, I'm going to treat "Senate Democrats" and "Senators who caucus as Democrats" as synonyms.)
Here's some good news about where Democrats are standing: since the "framework" deal with Iran was announced last week: former Secretary of State and widely-presumed 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders have all welcomed the agreement.
New Jersey Democratic Senator Robert Menendez has just been indicted on federal corruption charges.
Like every US citizen facing criminal prosecution, Menendez has the right to the legal presumption of innocence until proven guilty.
But Menendez is also currently a member of the Senate Democratic leadership – the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee - and that is another matter entirely.
US, European, and Iranian negotiators are working against a self-imposed Tuesday deadline to secure a "framework agreement" which will outline the parameters of a comprehensive agreement to be achieved by June on international limitation and supervision of Iran's nuclear program and the lifting of international sanctions on Iran.
On Sunday night at 9:15 pm ET, the New York Times sent me a scary email:
Breaking News: Iran Backs Away From Key Detail in Nuclear Deal