To Read: Former senior military advisor Sarah Chayes qualifies Vali Nasr's high-profile provocative account of the White House foreign policy mechanism:
Nasr is correct that civilian instruments of power, including intelligence and economic interaction as well as diplomacy, must play a more robust role in U.S. foreign policy. But for them to do so, it is not enough for the military's role to shrink, or for the White House to be nicer to the secretary of state. Diplomats have to up their game. And some candid introspection might be a good place to start. A joyous cacophony of talented youngsters is not sufficient to develop high-level policy on our country's longest war. Civilian agencies need to cultivate and empower deep area expertise. They need to shatter the brittle bureaucratic rigidities that characterize their systems, and provide graduated autonomy to rising leaders. They need to advocate aggressively and effectively for increased resources. But most of all, they need to be willing to take moral and political risks when it really matters.
Quote: “Every time the pressure gets to the Israelis they go to Congress. He wants to find a way around that, that’s why he wants to talk to the Israeli public directly", an anonymous source who participated in Obama's meeting with US Arab leaders.
Number: 45%, the partisan gap in public opinion about US aid to the world's needy.
To Read: According to Ari Shavit, while the peace process as we know it may very well be dead, a 'new peace' may be a cause for optimism:
The New Peace will be very different from the Old Peace. There will not be grandiose peace ceremonies in Camp David or at the White House, no Nobel Prizes to be handed out. The New Peace does not mean lofty declarations and presumptuous vows, but a pragmatic, gradual process whereby the New Arabs and the New Israelis will acknowledge their mutual needs and interests. It will be a quiet, almost invisible, process that will allow Turks, Egyptians, Saudis, Jordanians, Syrians, Lebanese, Palestinians and Israelis to reach common understandings. The New Peace will be based on the humble, pragmatic assumption that all the participants must respect, and not provoke, one another, so that conflict does not disrupt the constructive social reforms that all seek to promote.
New Peace might have all sorts of manifestations. A real Israeli settlement freeze in the West Bank rather than a romantic Israeli-Palestinian final status agreement which is not feasible at the moment. An Israeli-Egyptian water-supply development project that would reinforce the fragile peace between the countries. An Israeli-Turkish gas deal that would bring together two of America’s most reliable allies and encourage them to work as regional stabilizers. A Saudi-Israeli-Palestinian program that would channel some of the riches of the Persian Gulf to keep the peace in Palestine. A secret Israeli-Hamas deal that would give Gaza more autonomy and prosperity while halting its rearmament.
Quote: "This proposal is aimed mainly against the Arab parties. This is revenge against the small parties, and we will fight the decision", Arab Israeli MK, Ahmed Tibi about the proposal to raise the Israeli electoral threshold to 4%.
Number: 36, the percentage of Israeli Start-up entrepreneurs who served in Technology units in the IDF.
The Middle East
To Read: John Bolton believes President Obama's recent decision to offer non-lethal assistance to opposition forces in Syria is nothing but a PR stunt (and a poor one at that):
Predictably, President Obama’s recent decision to provide additional nonlethal military aid to the opposition Syrian National Coalition and its military wing has pleased almost no one. Those who want to provide arms and ammunition to the rebels see Obama’s step as weak and insufficient, while those who oppose any aid to the increasingly dubious opposition see it as another step toward just such lethal assistance.
Despite these divergent criticisms, however, the decision announced by Secretary of State John Kerry, now belatedly converted to opposing Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorship, is at bottom simply another half-step, a compromise, further evidence of President Obama’s chronic national security indecisiveness. There is no coherent politico-military strategy at work here, only an effort to appease domestic and international critics of a Syria policy badly misguided from the outset.
Quote: "We will be able to block distributors of the movie, force them to apologise and challenge them to confess that the movie is nothing but a sheer lie", French lawyer Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, who is going to help Iran sue Hollywood and the filmmakers of Argo.
Number: 6, the percentage of children in Aleppo who are attending school.
The Jewish World
To Read: Simon Yisrael Feuerman writes about the age-old custom of Rabbis telling their wealthy congregants to part with some of their money-
Across the centuries and through the annals of time, rabbis and prophets alike have tried to persuade their flocks to let go of some of their riches. “To me belong the silver and the gold, sayeth the Lord,” preached Haggai the prophet in the days after the First Temple. “Charity saves from death,” King Solomon famously wrote. Yet very little can persuade a man in this area of his life. There are great, nearly impervious forces in a person that make him hold his money close. The Talmud famously says a man is born with a reflex: If you give him an object, his hands clench tight—he wants to grasp and hold on to everything and keep it. Valiantly, the rabbis try with their eloquence, their call to the spirit, their assurances of long life and a glorious afterlife to loosen that grip. The cycle continues as predictably as the sun rises and as night follows day. We make money, some of us lots of it, and the blandishments of the prophets and the words sprinkled on us by the rabbis help us to part with some of it.
And maybe we not only need the occasional reminding that money is not the highest and noblest aim; we might actually relish such nudging, smiling a little bit inside as we are persuaded to unclench our fists for a moment. This clenching and unclenching, perhaps, is our way of realizing that we are successful enough to accumulate wealth, and yet success and money do not a life make. We want the rabbis to remind us of purposes that are higher and nobler, and that we may ultimately have more and be more by giving some of our wealth away.
Quote: "But only wounds that are cleaned can heal without risk of infection. And the cleaning of this wound was a long time coming", Austrian President Heinz Fischer about Austria's Nazi past, on the 75th anniversary of the Anschluss.
Number: 12 million, the surprisingly huge number of Americans who buy Kosher food.