What is it about so-called Mideast analysts, especially Israelis, who willfully misremember the member nations of George Bush’s Axis of Evil? Michael Oren is only the latest to stumble in this fashion. Writing an otherwise surprisingly open-minded (for an Israeli nationalist-rightist) New York Times column on Syrian-Israeli relations, he writes:
All that was before Sept. 11, however, and Syria’s inclusion, alongside Iran and North Korea, in President Bush’s “axis of evil.”
Iraq, did I hear anyone say: “what about Iraq?” Yes, Iraq was the third member, not Syria. Syria is certainly one of the members of the Israeli axis of evil, especially the rightist axis of evil. But let’s get our historical facts right please.
Maybe he figured that now that we’ve whupped Iraq and decapitated Saddam that Syria automatically was promoted to the pantheon like when the vice president moves up if the president dies.
Or maybe Oren read this piece of satire and got confused:
Bitter after being snubbed for membership in the “Axis of Evil,” Libya, China, and Syria today announced they had formed the “Axis of Just as Evil,” which they said would be way eviler than that stupid Iran-Iraq-North Korea axis President Bush warned of his State of the Union address.
Or maybe he got hold of John Bolton’s Greatest Hits speeches:
The United States has added Cuba, Libya and Syria to the nations it claims are deliberately seeking to obtain chemical or biological weapons.
In a speech entitled “Beyond the Axis of Evil”, US Under Secretary of State, John Bolton said that the three nations could be grouped with other so-called “rogue states” – Iraq, Iran and North Korea – in actively attempting to develop weapons of mass destruction.
Geez, even Frontpagemagazine got it right (“Syria: Axis of Evil’s Junior Partner“), and anytime David Horowitz or his shmate get ANYTHING right it’s one helluvan amazing feat. So if Horowitz could do it, why can’t Oren?
Maybe I’m being too hard on the fellow. After all, here’s an entire book written on this false premise: Inventing the Axis of Evil: The Truth About North Korea, Iran, and Syria.
All of this begs the question: who cares about the axis of evil anyway? It was just another of Bush’s lame attempts to demonize nations least likely to bend to American will and power. Any differences we have with any of those nations needs to be addressed without the type of bellicose sloganeering exemplified by that phrase.
A small mistake from an otherwise solid historian.
But his point still stands. Syria was not mentioned as one of the three members of the “axis of evil.” But the Bush administration has treated Syria as such. And Oren’s op-ed, which points out a real potential conflict between the Israeli government and the Bush administration, should be brought to light.
Richard Silverstein says
For a supposedly distinguished Mideast analyst–not knowing the actual members of the axis of evil is a “small mistake?” If I were a presidential historian and told you Millard Fillmore was on Mount Rushmore would that be a “small mistake?” For making such a mistake, you’d fry me in bacon grease if you could.
He is a ‘solid historian’ only for those who, like both of you, share a certain rightist narrative regarding the Israeli Arab conflict.
While there were a few parts of his analysis that were worthwhile, the portion you note is much ado about nothing. Israel has often gone it alone when it has seen it in its own interests to pursue negotiations with Arab enemies. The U.S. has always come along after the fact. Besides, Bush is now defanged and there is little he could do that would harm Olmert. The latter too is basically dead meat politically, which is one of the reasons the Syrian initiative has died aborning.
Olmert uses U.S. opposition as a pallid excuse for refusing to engage in Syrian negotiations when in reality it is Olmert himself who doesn’t want even the prospect of peace w. that nation. Don’t believe me. Haaretz columnists have pointed this out for weeks now.
Oren’s narrative is not particularly “rightist.” He does not belong to the revisionist wing of historians like Ilan Pappe and Avi Shlaim who will distort any fact necessary to make Israel look bad. But I’m not sure how people like Pappe and Shlaim are considered “left wing” or “progressive.” Unless you, say, consider David Irving progressive.
In any event, it’s so sad that whenever anyone dares disagree with you, you lie about their background and call them “right wing.” Yes, it’s nice to assume that AIPAC and the Israeli right wing are the only things holding up a peace agreement. But it’s just not supported by the facts. And the fact that a few “columnists” in haaretz say something does not make it gospel.
Oren is indeed a distinguished historian. That he doesn’t support fraudulent resarch, like Ilan Pappe, or spout Marxist dogma under the guise of history, like Avi Shlaim, does not make him “right wing.”
You’re very good at labeling and hurling ad hominems at anyone who disagrees with you.
As for Olmert being dead politically, if the Syrians were so eager to cut a deal, maybe they shouldn’t have sponsored a war against Israel that would discredit it’s political leadership. In any event, Olmert isn’t the issue. If the sides can work out a good deal, it can ultimately be sold.
Richard Silverstein says
Like Goebbels, if you repeat something you WISH to be true long enough, perhaps someone outside of yr narrow political circle might believe you. Oren is a legend in his own mind–and yours. That is all. Oh & I guess perhaps someone at the Times editorial board thought enough of him to publish this howler of an error. But I bet if they ever entertain the idea of publishing anything of his in future they’ll go over it with a fine tooth comb.
UPDATE: I have reviewed Oren’s work and read positive comments about it from several historians I respect. I grant that Oren is a serious (though I would never concede “distinguished”) historian and that in his work he manages sometimes (but not always) to rise above his personal ideological perspective. But I by no means retreat from my criticism of the serious lapse he displayed in the NY Times column he wrote.]
And any Mideast historian who forgets the terms of one of the most vivid and noxious Mideast political coinages of the past four years is, ipso facto, NOT distinguished. Sloppy, yes. But not distinguished.
Oh, I see. The fact that Olmert displayed his incompetency and total lack of leadership during this war and that his popularity ratings approach SINGLE DIGITS is Syria’s fault! Wow. That’s really something. Olmert didn’t play any role in the decisions he made leading to his disgrace?!
Rubbish. The sides HAVE worked out a deal that is terrific for Israel. The deal gives Israel even more than what it would’ve gotten fr. the Barak deal in 2000. Olmert sucker punched the deal. Olmert IS the issue. You and I both know that Sharon, who allowed these negotiations to begin, would’ve never displayed the weak-kneed will of Olmert in this situation. Sharon, for all his faults, had some vision & some gumption.
Richard Silverstein says
This from a Cato Institute research fellow (about as right-wing libertarian as you can get) writing at American Conservative Magazine (for Pete’s sakes):
And this from Whig, a Canadian conservative blog:
No, proposing a direct Israeli attack on Syrian ground forces and advocating that Israel widen a war it was doomed to lose almost from the start–no, these are certainly not “rightist narratives.”
I haven’t “lied” about Michael Oren’s ideological orientation. Red meat conservatives above only confirm what most of the rest of the world acknowledges (except you).
Wow, you have no idea who Oren is. And when someone points out his qualifications, you compare me to Goebbels.
I’ve noticed you have a tendency to do that. Refuse to engage the substance of a discussion and just throw ad hominem insults. It’s really sad.
Then again, maybe that’s why this blog has virtually no traffic or discussion.
Richard Silverstein says
I know perfectly well who he is. I read his NYT column. I’ve heard his name before. He’s not a major light in my universe though apparently a god in yrs.
You carped incessantly about his being a “distinguished historian.” I didn’t accept your estimation & certainly not for a piece in which he makes such a gross error.
You have a habit of repeating arguments which are not true in comment after comment. I just presumed you’d adopted the Big Lie & believed if you repeated an untruth long enough my readers would come to accept it.
Why is it that in the scores of instances in which I’ve refuted yr bogus claims & arguments w. facts & sources, 90% of the time you don’t even bother to respond. You just go on yr merry way & come up w some new piece of junk claim about some tangential issue. In the law, silence is assent. So I can only assume all those times when you have no reply that you’ve essentially conceded you have nothing to say in reply.
Again with the lies. Try 300,000 unique visitors in the past yr; 3,700 comments (31 published on a single post this week). 70 subscribers. How many visitors do you have? How many people give a whit about what you have to say? Oh that’s right. You don’t have a blog. All this is rich coming fr. someone who refuses to even create his own. Maybe it’s you who’re afraid that, unlike in the film: “If you blog it, they will NOT come.”
I have to agree with Josh – Michael Oren isn’t particularly right-wing. But from your perspective I understand the label – anyone who isn’t exactly you ideologically is put in the same camp as Goebbels and Kahane. Thanks for reminding me again why it is I haven’t visited this blog in months. Nothing’s changed. Yawn.
Richard Silverstein says
Well, then it MUST be true. I’ve provided actual EVIDENCE in the way of a columnist for a respected U.S. conservative pubication who writes that Oren’s think tank ‘promotes the Likud agenda’ and quoting Oren advocating making war on Syria, a view beloved of the Netanyahu-Likud crowd–& yet we’re supposed to take yr unsupported word for it that Oren is NOT right-wing. Sure, let’s throw the rules of evidence out the window. Let’s believe anything you guys say. No proof necessary because you’re both just so damn credible!
It’s I who should be yawning. You’ve only said the precise same thing around 6 other times & even, if I recall correctly, said you’d wouldn’t bother coming back here. I guess knowing that nothing would make me happier, you found you had to break yr promise.