To Read: James Traub takes a look at John Kerry's response to the Syrian crisis and tries to figure out whether he is a pragmatic realist like Russian FM Lavrov recently said he is-
So I come back to my original question about Kerry: Yes, it is fair to say that he has a legacy worldview in which gentlemen hash out the world's problems. But no, he is not the kind of realist who believes that America can do the greatest good in the world by adhering to the strictest possible definition of national self-interest -- or that "in difficult, uncertain times," as Robert Kaplan writes in his admiring article of Henry Kissinger in the current issue of The Atlantic, "the preservation of the status quo should constitute the highest morality." Kerry is something like the president he serves, uneasily perched between the wish to extricate America from the hash it has made and a romantic sense of what the country has been and can be. That is, at the very least, a good place to start.
Quote: "I'll let the Israeli government confirm or deny whatever strikes that they've taken. What I have said in the past and I continue to believe is that the Israelis justifiably have to guard against the transfer of advanced weaponry to terrorist organizations like Hezbollah. We coordinate closely with the Israelis recognizing they are very close to Syria, they are very close to Lebanon", President Obama responding to reports about Israel's airstrikes.
Number: 29, the percentage of Americans who believe that “In the next few years, an armed revolution might be necessary in order to protect our liberties”.
To Read: The New Republic's Marc Tracy writes about the message the Israeli strike in Syria sends from the US to Iran-
Ironically, Israel probably bought the Obama administration some time to decide how to respond to last week’s chemical weapons news with this strike (or, more precisely, Israel likely bought Obama some more time; Obama has been pretty Hamlet-like regarding Syria). After all, when you really get into the details of everyone’s actions, it turns out the U.S. has sent Iran something of a message. “It’s a reminder that when it comes to certain issues, the Israelis are going to act,” Ross said. “And the common message is, don't assume the U.S. will stop them from acting. The more you see this kind of action from the Israelis and an American posture that certainly doesn’t look like it’s surprised, that sends a message to the Iranians.” Not nearly as strong a message as, say, its own airstrike, or providing lethal assistance to the rebels, or any other option from the menu of anti-Assad escalations that Obama’s advisors and the Pentagon have undoubtedly come up with. But a message nonetheless.
Quote: “Iran is testing Israel’s and the US’s determination to uphold ‘red lines'. And what it is seeing in Syria is that at least some of the actors take red lines seriously”, former IDF intelligence chief Amos Yadlin pretty much agreeing with Marc Tracy's narrative.
Number: 4+1, the name given to a new initiative which will see Israel cooperating with Turkey and three Arab states to implement an allied system of detection technologies to defend against Iranian ballistic projectiles.
The Middle East
To Read: Marc Lynch examines the role of the Syrian conflict in dispelling the early euphoria of the Arab Spring-
Syria's disaster does not mean that the Arab uprisings have failed. These revolutions were a manifestation of a profound structural change in the region's politics, and will continue to unfold for many years to come. But it is sobering to step back and take account of how dramatically and radically the Syrian conflict has reshaped the world that the Arab uprisings created. An appreciation of these pathological effects, and a discussion of how they might be countered, should be part of the story as the international community struggles to respond to the unfolding disaster.
Quote: “Our story is a story of failed leadership, from way early on. It is incredible that the fate of the Palestinian people has been in the hands of leaders so entirely casual, so guided by spur-of-the-moment decisions, without seriousness. We don’t strategize, we cut deals in a tactical way and we hold ourselves hostage to our own rhetoric”, Salam Fayyad in an interesting interview for the NYT.
Number: 62, the number of bodies found in the Banias river in Syria.
The Jewish World
To Read: An Orthodox Rabbi grapples with the idea of having to praise God for not making him a woman-
There are parts of halacha that I love, and parts that I struggle with. This blessing though, this blessing is really tough. Written by male rabbis nearly 2,000 years ago, these words evoke for me the sexism too prevalent in the Orthodox world and beyond. These words have echoes of the religious misogynists who throw chairs at a woman for praying at the Western Wall or force women to sit at the back of Israeli buses. This blessing helps enable the religious sexism that silences women's voices, keeps them from positions of communal leadership, and denies them study of our sacred texts.
Do I want any part of that sexism? No.
So do I say the blessing? Yes.
Quote: “No, he did not speak with me. But we had no name, we were numbers", an interview with a Jewish woman who served as Dr. Mengele's delivery girl at Auschwitz.
Number: 3000-5000, the estimated (growing) number of Jews among Nigeria's Igbo ethnic group.