12 November 2009

Counterpunch:The Afghan War Question

Reprinted with permission of editors of Counterpunch
November 12, 2009
Obama and the Triumph of the Will
The Afghan War Question
Marmaris, Turkey.
In the opening lines of the oldest treatise on the conduct of war, Sun Tzu said that the question of war is vital to the state, and therefore, it is imperative to study it. This timeless advice has been been ignored repeatedly by the United States since the end of WWII. The inevitable result has been an insensible rise of war mongering, fueled by arrogance and ignorance, culminating in the chaotic spectacle now enveloping the Afghan War Question in Washington.
The intellectual content of the debate over whether or how much to escalate our forces in Afghanistan has degenerated into formless ranting by all sides. The content of this debate is not conditioned by a clear definition of military success. Nor is it conditioned by a definition of a desired political endstate. When asked how he would define victory, the State Department's special advisor on Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, arrogantly summed up the collective state of mind by saying pithily, "we will know it when we see it." With thinking like this, it should not be surprising that can be no definition of an exit strategy or a timeline for ending a war we are admittedly losing, even though that war is now in its ninth year. By the way, Sun Tau also advised to avoid protracted war, and the only protracted shooting war we ever won was the American Revolution, in which we were the insurgents.
Yet, in the middle of the worst domestic economic crisis since the 1930s, President Obama appears to be on the verge of caving in to the irrational pressures for throwing more troops and money into the bottomless pit of Afghanistan. How did the Afghan escalation question degenerate into such a ridiculously chaotic state?
Its immediate antecedents are quite clear.
At the center of this debate is, or should be, the strategic plan submitted to President Obama in August by the theater commander General Stanley McChrystal. That plan's centerpiece is to provide security for the Afghan people by accelerating the training and expansion of the Afghan Army and Police Forces (ANSF). To buy time for this expansion, McChrystal said a surge in US forces of 40,000 is needed, an estimate, according to subsequent reports, that may have been expanded to as many as 80,000 troops, a number the US would not be able to field and sustain without a reinstitution of the draft. McChrystal or one his war mongering allies in the Pentagon or in the right wing of the Republican Party immediately increased the beating of the war drums by leaking a carefully "redacted" version of his "secret" recommendations to the most obliging courtier of the permanent Washington apparat, Bob Woodward of the Washington Post. By not attempting to find and discipline those responsible for a blatantly insubordinate act aimed at pre-empting his decision-making prerogatives, President Obama, the constitutionally designated commander-in-chief, telegraphed pusillanimity to the proponents of escalation, and thus set the tone for subsequent events.
In the best of circumstances, building an effective military force from scratch takes a long time. History has shown repeatedly that, absent a well trained reserve force and a highly trained active duty officer and NCO corps, it is impossible to rapidly expand the active duty forces of any military organization without seriously degrading its recruiting and training standards. This is true even when one is expanding it from the base of a competent core force, which is certainly not the case in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, as I pointed out in September, McChrystal's plan was fatally flawed, because it contained no systematic evaluation outlining the strengths and weaknesses of the current state of the Afghan forces he wants to double in size over a very short period.
In normal circumstances, such a failure of analysis would have been a sloppy, irresponsible omission. In this particular case, the omission was made even more outrageous for at least two reasons: First, building a national army that puts loyalty to the state ahead of tribe, clan, and family in Afghanistan's ancient clan based vendetta culture would be, in the most ideal of circumstances, a highly dubious proposition, because its goal would go against the traditional perquisites implicit in an ancient, highly-evolved culture. At the very least, this challenge ought to have been subjected to the closest anthropological and historical analysis. Second, conditions are hardly ideal. Indeed, it is common knowledge that the current Afghan security forces are already riven by corruption, the conflicted loyalties of warlordism, drug trafficking and murderous criminality, not to mention the central fact that Afghanistan's Pashtun plurality, whose alienated hearts and minds are crucial to the success of any counterinsurgency strategy, is grossly underrepresented in the army and police forces.
In short, McChrystal's cavalier portrayal of the Afghan National Security Forces at the center of his plan ought to have been a show stopper. Moreover, the fact that it was leaked by a politically motivated military officer or a civilian powerbroker to increase pressure on the President for its approval ought have resulted visible discipline. But of course, the huge hole in McChrystal's plan was ignored and is now forgotten. No one was hung for crass insubordination. So, it should not be surprising that the Afghan War Question devolved into an evermore formless debate.
A recent AP report by Ben Feller and Anne Gearan introduces two interesting points that will add to the confusion:
Rather than lowering the boom and acting as if it was controlling the events it should be controlling, the White House is now retaliating by leaking like a sieve. Unnamed officials now tell us that Obama senses (correctly) that he is being railroaded and, in secret diplomatic cables, Ambassador Eikenbury recently injected his objections to the pervasive corruption infecting the government of Hamid Karzai. Obama, reportedly, is using Eikenbury's objections as leverage to slow down deliberations and to justify his demand for a timetable laying out how long a continued US presence will be needed.
On the other hand, the report, in what is no doubt a trial balloon, says Obama is leaning toward a "compromise" position of authorizing an increase of 30,000 troops, including three Army brigades and an unspecified USMC contingent. Included in this "compromise" head count of 30,000, however, would be an authorization for the bloated overhead of a huge new headquarters housing 7,000 or more troops. Such a headquarters will no doubt necessitate a huge outlay in construction dollars to house it, a quantum increase in the thru-put of logistics pipelines, and a large increase in the number of field grade and general officers to man it. Therefore, this approval also implies an approval for an increase in the size of and vested interests in an open-ended commitment.
President Obama has been accused of dithering by delaying his decision to escalate, but his politically costly purchase of time is not serving to bring clarity to the debate. He has allowed the huge hole in McChrystal's incompetent plan to remain unaddressed, except perhaps obliquely by Ambassador Eikenbury, and to metastasize into a festering state of confusion. This confusion has opened the door to the displacement of rationality by emotion.
Not surprisingly, given the growing tolerance for irrationality in Versailles on the Potomac, the war mongering proponents of immediate escalation are becoming increasingly hysterical. If the mindless mutterings by the likes David Brooks (New York Times) and Michael Gerson (Washington Post) are representative, the proponents of escalation have now reduced themselves to emulating the irrational exhortations made by Adolf Hitler, from the depths of his Fuhrer Bunker cut off from reality, about victory being merely a question of willpower.
This kind of lunatic ranting should not be surprising, because as my good friend Werther recently explained, the triumph of the will over the intellect is an example of the Right Wing's historic preference for emotion over reason. This kind of ranting also sets the stage for a future stab in the back argument that blames Obama for losing what was in reality a colossal Bush screw up.
Of course, the histrionics of Brooks and Gerson do not come close to rivaling the emotive power of the torchlight Nuremberg parades immortalized by Leni Reifenstahl in her artistic classic, "The Triumph of the Will." But the feebleness of their imitation makes it all the more pathetic when a man as intelligent as Barack Obama, a gifted speaker who has all the advantages of the bully pulpit together with the awesome status of commander-in-chief, lacks the moral courage to lift his nation out of their kind of darkness into light of reason.

22 September 2009

Obama's Flawed Afghan Strategy Review

September 22, 2009
A Pathway to Disaster
The Huge Hole in Gen. McChrystal's Afghan Counterinsurgency Strategy
Counterpunch, 22 September 2009
The centerpiece of the General Stanley McChrystal's "new" counterinsurgency strategy of "clear, hold, build" is the accelerated training and expansion of the Afghan Army and Police Forces (ANSF), in addition to a major increase in the size of our forces (according to some reports, by as much as 45,000 troops). The strategic goal is to establish an expanding zone of security for the Afghan people that would enable a steady build up of aid and development efforts to improve their well being with jobs, new infrastructure, new education systems, new agricultural techniques, etc., than thereby win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people. McChrystal is asking the President of the United State to approve a pathway to almost certain disaster. Consider please the following:
Of course, there is nothing new in General McChrystal's strategy, it is merely a rehash of the failed oil spot (tache d'huile) strategy, first tried by French colonialist General Louis-Hubert-Gonsalve Lyautey, and then tried again under various guises, again without lasting success, by the Americans in Vietnam.
Indeed, many readers will recall that a necessary condition of our failed Vietnam strategy was the exactly same strategic determination that we could not win the hearts of minds of the indigenous population without providing the people with a competent army and a government that could protect them from the depredations of the insurgents. In Vietnam, this idea was at the center of our early involvement. Protecting the people was first tried on a small scale with some tactical success in the Combined Action Platoons (CAP) program in the Marine Corps, then on a much larger, strategically disastrous scale with the Strategic Hamlets Program, before Americanizing the war. Nevertheless, it rose again like a Phoenix when the idea mutated into into President Nixon's Vietnamization program, but in this case was really a cynical smokescreen for withdrawing without admitting defeat (a goal that Nixon called "Peace With Honor"). In the end, the US-trained Vietnamese army, like the US-installed Vietnamese government, was a corrupt Potemkin-like sham, and once it became clear that both had lost the supporting prop of American firepower, both collapsed and surrendered unconditionally in April 1975, only two months after North Vietnamese launched a final offensive, which the North Vietnamese planners had assumed it would take two years to achieve victory.
Like his predecessors in Vietnam, Mr. Obama is now being told by the military to pin his hopes on an immediate US military escalation, coupled with a rapid build up of US-trained indigenous Afghan army and police forces, together with the development of competent national government, in what is yet another rerun of Lyautey's dream. While there has been much debate in the United States over whether or how much we should escalate our military efforts and how many additional troops are needed, the other equally essential military leg of our not-so-new strategy -- i.e., the training and expansion of the indigenous Afghan National Security Forces (the Army and Police forces) -- has generally been taken as a given, and has not been subject to a serious examination or public debate.
This omission is very odd, particularly when viewed in the light our complete failure to build a non-corrupt professional national army in South Vietnam, not to mention our catastrophic failure to build a competent honest national government, together with our ultimate failure to secure the hearts and mind of the South Vietnamese people. And the omission of our previous Vietnam experiences in this regard is made doubly odd, given the growing mountain of reportage indicating the same kind of massive corruption now repeating itself in the US-installed Karzai government in Afghanistan.
And to make matters even wierder, this intellectual black hole has been compounded by the stunning absence of a critical analysis and discussion of any shortcomings of the Afghan National Security Forces in General McChrystal's new strategy document. Yet the ANSF lays at the center of McChrystal's strategy.
It is now clear that General McChrystal's staff and the Pentagon are trying to maneuver Mr. Obama onto the horns of a dilemma by leaking their demands for an immediate escalation of the war, or otherwise risking defeat. Yesterday, not surprisingly, given his long time connections to the permanent Washington apparat that is now leaking like sieve, Bob Woodward obtained a redacted copy of the strategy document General McChrystal sent to the President on 30 August. This document can be downloaded in PDF scanned image format here.
A careful reading of McChrystal's tome reveals that he proposes to increase our strategic dependence on the ANSF, while at the same time he says almost nothing of substance concerning its current deficiencies. The overwhelming majority of the statements about the widely reported instances of corruption in Afghanistan, for example, relate to the Karzai government, not the ANSF. Readers can determine the truth of by this by doing a two simple searches on the words "corruption" and "ANSF." Readers should bear in mind, there might be more substantive criticisms of the ANSF in the un-redacted report, but if such secret criticisms exist, they would be completely inconsistent with the McChrystal's unclassified recommendations to rapidly increase the size of the ANSF and his statement that the ANSF's problems are merely those of growing maturity, which he implies can be accomplished in the next 12 months in the following passage ...
"Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (next 12 months) -- while Afghan security capacity matures [emphasis added] -- risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible." [page 1-2, Commander's Initial Assessment, 30 Aug 2009]
In other words, it looks like General McChrystal, the senior officer in Afghanistan, is telling the President of the United States that, with the exception of what be some relatively minor maturation problems, we can double the size of and field an effective Afghan National Security Force in the short term, and together with a major escalation of US manpower in the short term, we can jointly regain the initiative (which McChrystal acknowledges has been lost) and turn around the deteriorating situation in Afghanstan in the near term.
Given the military's clear failure to do this in Afghanistan over the last eight years, together with its catastrophic failure to do exactly this in Vietnam, I think the President of the United States and the American people deserve a little more information about just how good ANSF is.
We are lucky that Anna Jones has recently produced such a critical analysis of this question She makes an incredibly good effort to fill this disgraceful and inexcusable information vacuum. And although the promoters of the clear-hold-build strategy may not welcome the critique she has produced, it is nevertheless a very important contribution to the our understanding of the current disastrous state of play in a crucial albeit unexamined leg of General McChrystal's not-so-new counterinsurgency strategy.
There may still be time for a course correction. Recent reports indicate Mr. Obama may be trying to buy a little time before being steamrollered by the Generals and the Republicans into approving General McChrystal's request.
If this is indeed the case, the information in Ms. Jones' analysis of the widespread corruption and deficiencies of the ANSF comes at a very crucial time. That is because she identifies some strategically crucial questions that must to be answered before the President or Congress approve McChrystal's request to escalate the war.
Mr. Obama should insist on a dispassionate investigation of whether or not the issues revealed by Ms. Jones are accurately portrayed in her analysis. And if the answer to that question is in the affirmative, Obama should insist that the military leaders explain why those issues were omitted in the McChrystal report. Moreover, if there is anything to Ms. Jones' analysis, Obama should also demand that McChrystal and company explain how, given this sorry state of affairs, they propose turn this situation around in the short time window they admit exists, and he should demand that they explain why the increased spillage in blood and treasure will work this time, if we embark on yet another reiteration what has heretofore been the fatally flawed oil spot strategy.
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney is a former military analyst for the Pentagon. He currently lives on a sailboat in the Mediterranean and can be reached at chuck_spinney@mac.com

30 July 2009

Counterpunch: Should Obama Escalate the War in Afghanistan?

Reprinted with permission of editors of Counterpunch
A Thought Experiment
Should Obama Escalate the War in Afghanistan?
30 July 2008

In a recent essay, entitled “Obama’s Politics of Change: Afghanistan & Gore’s Transformative Vision,” I noted in respect to the early phase of our war against the Taliban that --
“In the fall of 2001, intel reports said there were between 40-60,000 Taliban, but when we quickly “defeated” them, the intel folks could only account for 6-8000 captured, wounded or killed. Nevertheless, the Pentagon brass and Bush quickly declared victory, even though it was clear at the time that the Taliban headed for the hills in classical guerrilla/Sun Tzu fashion -- when faced with superior force, disperse! That’s a no-brainer in some circles but not those inside the Beltway. Now we are saying the Taliban are “regrouping” when is not clear they ever degrouped.”
Some people objected to my characterization of of the Afghan War as being a loser, saying the Afghan war is a morally good that must be prosecuted to a victorious end. While tautological reasoning may be comforting, particularly when it is other people’s blood that is being spilt, it is important to ask oneself how a victory might be achieved. Is this merely a question of throwing more troops and bombs at at the problem, or is there more to it than that?
This article references two documents which may help the committed escalator determine whether it is a good idea to ramp up our efforts in Afghanistan with more troops, more military force, more “precision” bombing, which means more collateral damage, including more innocent civilian deaths, and is likely to breed more resentment, and more radicalization. Or whether the inept Mr. Bush and his neocon henchmen have created the conditions for another classical guerrilla war in Afghanistan, not unlike that created by the Soviets in the early 1980s which created misery for them in the late 1980s.
In this regard, readers would do well to remember that (1) Soviets had an easy ride for the first few years, while the Afghan guerrillas leaned how to fight them through a process of trial and error; and (2), that the Soviets reached a point where it became clear that pouring in more Soviet troops and increasing the firepower created more problems than it solved. Which begs the question: Is escalating the war in Afghanistan becoming a yawning trap, into which Mr. Obama and the Democrats seem eager to plunge?
At the heart of this question is the nature of the conflict in Afghanistan, specifically the question of whether or not it has mutated into something that is more akin to a classical guerrilla war as opposed to being part of a Fourth Generation War against al Quaeda. The two attachments below may help the reader to appreciate the different dimensions of this consideration.
A recent report in Newseek entitled “The Taliban’s Baghdad Strategy,” offerss a well-informed description of the Taliban’s approach to the conflict in Afghanistan. It describes how the Taliban are pursuing a strategy to systematically undermine the authority of the government of Mr Karsai, a man who, it should be remembered, the West, particularly the United States, put into place as the President of Afghanistan, and who, according to some reports, might be receiving financial support from Pakistan’s rival India. Is this Taliban strategy something new and peculiar to the so-called Global War on Terror -- a war that Mr. Bush, the Pentagon, and now apparently many of Obama’s defense advisors, seem to think they can prosecute successfully by relying on more boots on the ground coupled to more “precision firepower?”
Or is the Afghan War more in the nature of a modern guerrilla war, wherein a government established and propped up by unwanted outsiders with their own agendas usually becomes a critical losing vulnerability?
I have also attached below portions of a briefing that may help some of us to understand these latter questions. It contains three slides #91, #92, & #108 from the late Colonel John R. Boyd’s legendary briefing of the philosophy and conduct of war, Patterns of Conflict, which was written well before the Taliban even existed. Boyd’s aim in Patterns of Conflict was to synthesize a unified understanding of the fundamental nature conflict by examining the history regular and irregular war. Boyd was not a warmonger, but he recognized war is often unavoidable, and his aim was to understand it in a way that it could be prosecuted successfully at the lowest possible cost to society and in a way that reduced the possibility of future conflict. The three slides of his 193-slide briefing describe part of his understanding of the nature of modern guerrilla warfare (i.e., #91 & #92) as well as the nature of a successful counter guerrilla operations (i.e., #108). I picked them because they are the most pertinent to the simple exercise described below.
I want readers to perform a little thought experiment by comparing the information in Newsweek article to that in Boyd’s Boyd’s generic observations about the conduct of a guerrilla campaign in Slides #91 and #92. If you agree that the information in the Newsweek report mesh at least enough with the ideas in these slides to warrant further thinking, then ask yourself if Mr. Obama and the Democrats, together with their Afghan and Nato allies and the American public are willing and capable of undertaking the kind of counter-guerrilla campaign that meets ALL of the conditions of Boyd’s Slide #108?
And if the answer is NO in either of these two steps, maybe it is time for the US to leave. BUT if you still want to escalate the war and the hemorrhage of blood and treasure in Afghanistan, then you owe it to yourself to come up with some more realistic ideas than those in Slide #108 about how to successfully escalate this war. Simply saying it is a GOOD war may be comforting but it is not enough. Simply saying it is a question of WILL may work as a substitute for thought, but it is no strategy. If staying the course is your choice, then what is needed is a strategy that will work in the real world.
There is one point in this simple exercise that serious readers ought to bear in mind: While these three slides give the essential gist of Boyd’s understanding of the guerrilla warfare, he would be the first to warn that one must be very careful not to think of them as an isolated modules or checklists -- they exist in a larger strategic and grand strategic fabric, but I think they are sufficient to get this thought experiment going, at least as a first cut. The venturesome, particularly those who answered NO to the comparisons of this thought experiment, can download Patterns of Conflict in its entirety here.
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney (born 1945, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio) is an American former military analyst for the Pentagon who became famous in the early 1980s for what became known as the “Spinney Report”, criticizing what he described as the reckless pursuit of costly complex weapon systems by the Pentagon, with disregard to budgetary consequences. Despite attempts by the his superiors to bury the controversial report, it eventually was exposed during a United States Senate Budget Committee on Defense hearing, which though scheduled to go unnoticed, made the cover of Time Magazine March 7, 1983. Chuck Spinney retired from the Pentagon after 33 years and currently lives on a sailboat in the Mediterranean.

10 March 2009

The Settler Question

What Israeli Peace Process?
Counterpunch, March 10, 2009
On March 2, 2009, the Israeli advocacy group Peace Now issued a report saying that the Israeli housing ministry plans to build 73,000 housing units in the West Bank. Peace Now said 15,000 of these units had already been approved, with another 58,000 awaiting approval. On March 7, 2009, the Guardian reported that a confidential report issued by the EU said Israel continues to annex property in East Jerusalem. It said Israeli housing authorities had submitted plans for 5,500 new housing units (3,000 of which have already been approved) since the Annapolis "peace" conference in November 2007. Readers may recall that the Annapolis conference was supposed to resuscitate George W. Bush's moribund so-called Road Map to Peace. Assuming these housing plans are implemented, and only 2.5 Israelis on average inhabit each new unit, the entire program could add as many as 196,000 Israelis to the 490,000 Israelis already living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Yet as recently as September 30, 2008, Israeli Prime Minister Olmert said Israel should withdraw from almost all the Occupied Territories, including East Jerusalem to achieve peace. Of course, Omert's profession of normative behaviour would be deemed gratuitous nonsense in an international court of law, because all these settlements are clearly illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention. So what gives?
Nothing. What you see is what you get -- simply business as usual. There is no real peace process, only an illusion of one, but an illusion that has been and continues to be used cynically by the Israelis to ethnically cleanse the best land for Eretz Israel ("best" by definition includes access to the water in the West Bank aquifers -- more on that later) by relentlessly creating irreversible "facts on the ground."
All one has to do is look at the historical record. For the last 20 years, the U.S government and its wholly owned subsidiaries in the think tanks, academia, and the media have promoted the soothing vision of an ongoing Arab-Israeli peace process. This process has been centered on the ideal of attaining a two-state solution -- namely, establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. Dutifully, the mainstream media in the United States (MSM) has inundated the American people with stories describing how the ongoing peace process is a road leading to a resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. But to date, that road has led into the nightmare of the West Bank's road-blocked cantons and the hellish Gaza Ghetto, and the preponderance of MSM reporting, at least in the United States, leans toward blaming the Palestinians for their fate.
To be sure, the MSM also reported about bumps in the road that can be attributed to Israel, especially question of settlements in the Occupied Territories. But such reporting has been usually in the context of the settlements being temporary impediments to a solution, often couched, for example, in vague visions of Israel eventually abandoning most of its settlements, and doing land swaps for others, once the Palestinians renounced terrorism and recognized Israel's right to exist. In this context, there have been very few reports that put the question of settlements into an easily understood long term perspective, even though the information is widely available on the internet.
To be sure, the Israelis did evacuate 6000+ settlers from Gaza in 2005, and occasionally, the Israeli government evacuates a trivial number of settlers from the so-called "outposts" on the West Bank. But these Israeli moves have been anomalies to their long term pattern of settlement, which has been amazingly consistent since the rate of settlement began to accelerate in the mid 1970s. As demonstrated in the chart below, the pattern of settlement has been remarkably untouched by the deliberations of the so-called peace processes. It is based on official data produced by the Israeli government and made available to the public by the courageous Israeli human rights organization B'TSelem.

The so-called peace process, which at first was ad hoc, became institutionalized with great optimism in 1993, when the signing of the Oslo Accords ended the First Intifada. But over the next seven years, the Oslo deliberations did not alleviate the economic hardships afflicting the Palestinians, nor did it even slow down the pace of Israeli settlement, as is shown clearly by the pink shaded area of the figure. Oslo effectively ended in Sept 2000, when Ariel Sharon's provocative visit to the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem (Islam's third holiest site) incited the Palestinian uprising that became known as the Second Intifada and helped to catapult Sharon into the office of Prime Minister.
A re-institutionalization of the formal peace process rose tepidly from the ashes of Oslo in June 2002, with the so-called Road Map to Peace initiated by President George W. Bush. The aim of Bush's Roadmap was to establish an independent Palestinian state as early as 2005, and central to achieving that aim was a freeze on settlement expansion by May 2003 (called for in Phase I of the roadmap), as well as a reduction in violence and political reform by the Palestinians. The gray area in the figure spans the time of Bush's so-called road map, and clearly his Roadmap, like Oslo, had absolutely no effect on Israel's pace of settlement. Israel's murderous assault on the Gaza Ghetto effectively dumped the detritus of Mr. Bush's illusion into the lap of incoming President Obama in January 2009.
The assault on the Gaza Ghetto, together with a sense of frustration from not being able to weaken Hamas's grip on Gaza, also helped to accelerate an ongoing political shift toward the radical right among the Israeli people, as became evident in the stunning results of the recent Parliamentary election. It now seems likely that Binyamin Netanyahu -- the former prime minister between 1996 and 1999, who worked so assiduously to trash Oslo and increase settlements -- will return to power as prime minister, this time with the neofascist Avigdor Lieberman as his foreign minister.
So, based on the history depicted in the chart and Netanyahu's track record, we can expect the rate of settlement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to continue and probably increase. True to form, in one of his campaign speeches, Netanyahu promised he would not be not bound by Olmert's empty promise to evacuate the settlements, and any future peace talks would not be about giving up territory, but about achieving an "economic peace" through economic development -- whatever that means.
And how has Mr. Obama's government reacted to date? The most critical comment I have been able to find is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's remark in Jerusalem that the planned expansion of the settlements cited in the first paragraph would be "unhelpful."

One thing is certain, we can depend on being put to sleep with more somnolent visions of peace in our time while the Israelis create more facts on the ground.