Israeli rationale

Old friend of Gavin’s Blog, Steve Clemons, has some interesting speculation on the reasons for Olmert’s apparent over-reaction in Lebanon.

Why is Israel pounding most of Lebanon rather than just the South and rather than pinpointing its attack against Hezbollah assets? Why the dramatic bombing of explosive fuel centers? The attacks both in Gaza and in Beirut seem made for Fox News, CNN and the next Schwarzenegger movie.

I think that there is little doubt that a significant part of the explanation can be attributed to the fact that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his more liberal partner in this effort, Amir Peretz — now Defense Minister — are not former field command generals and want to demonstrate that they can be responsible stewards of Israel’s national security — and that they won’t be timid in using Israel’s military capabilities.

Steve continues, importantly:

The flamboyant, over the top reactions to attacks on Israel’s military check points and the abduction of soldiers — which I agree Israel must respond to — seems to be part establishing “bona fides” by Olmert, but far more important, REMOVING from the table important policy options that the U.S. might have pursued.

Israel is constraining American foreign policy in amazing and troubling ways by its actions. And a former senior CIA official and another senior Marine who are well-versed in both Israeli and broad Middle East affairs, agreed that serious strategists in Israel are more concerned about America tilting towards new bargains in the region than they are either about the challenge from Hamas or Hezbollah or showing that Olmert knows how to pull the trigger.

Another well respected and very serious national security public intellectual in the nation wrote this when I shared this thesis that Israeli actions were ultimately aimed at clipping American wings in the region. His response:

the thesis of your paper is right-on.

whether intentional or coincidental, that is what is being done right now.

I share these other views only to establish the fact that there is not a consensus either in support of or opposed to Israeli action — but some are beginning to scrutinize what Israel is seeking to achieve with such flamboyant displays of power that are antagonizing whole societies on their borders.

Keeping America from cutting new deals in the region — which many in the national security establishment thinks are vital — may actually be what is going on, and the smarter-than-average analysts are beginning to see that.

To take one moment though and argue a counter-point to this, one serious analyst I spoke to this morning who stopped by to talk after attending synagogue raised a good point. He said that he thought that Olmert’s insecurity about military management was driving the over-reaction.

But he also said that the QUALITY of the attacks against Israel were freaking out the Israeli military and intelligence leaders. Complex incursions that included abductions along with a successful attack on an Israeli gunship show that the enemy is no longer an unimpressive, rag-tag lot. Training and armaments have been improved, and Israel is scrambling to figure out how this happened.

Interesting thesis — and it should be on the table too.

Is it possible that part of the reasoning for an overly belligerent response is to make the US less likely to reach agreement with Iran or Syria? Curious indeed.

Massive Google Earth update – Dubai updated

It’s taken a while, but we are finally seeing more of the world in high resolution via Google Earth. The changes were made last night and include areas of Russia, China, Africa, Taiwan, USA, Canada, Bermuda, the Caribbean Islands, many islands in the Pacific, Puerto Rico, South America, New Zeland, Australia.


Of most interest to me was Dubai, who’s spectacular growth in both buildings and islands sees a major change. Google Maps has yet to be updated so I took a snapshot of Dubai, the photo is circa 1999/2000 I suspect, and is in low resolution.

So here are some rather spectacular before and after shots of Dubai.

Dubai, plus the coast line as far as Jebel Ali port (BEFORE) :

Dubai 1999/2000/2001

Dubai around now, with the photo showing just beyond Jebel Ali port: (AFTER)

Dubai 2005

There are other assorted buildings and structures in Dubai, many of which I photographed from the ground. Here are some of the famous ones:

The recently completed Mall of the Emirates, one of the largest shopping centers in the world, with it’s own indoor ski slopes to the left of the picture:

malloftheemirates

Palm Island Jumeirah, that did not exist just 5 years ago.


palm1

The Burj Dubai under construction, center of picture:

Burj Dubai

The Burj al Arab, Madinat Hotel and Jumeirah Beach hotel:

Burj Al Arab, Jumeirah Beach

The skyscrapers of Sheikh Zayed Road, with Emirates Towers just off the center.

Sheikh Zayed Road from space

And finally, the UAE from 310 miles up, you can make out the two islands.

Dubai from 300 miles up

You can look at my photos of Dubai from the ground.


Images and pictures of Mohammed, historical

Michelle Malkin linked to images of Mohammed, the notion that any images of Mohammed are forbidden in Islam seems odd to me, but then I’m not religious myself.

What I had not realised is that this story has been brewing since October. That this is the case lends more weight to an argument that the controversy is less reactionary than people might think.

South Park also showed Mohammed, one would imagine in a more satirical light:

sp_mohammed

Danish Mohammed cartoons

This really has stirred up a hornet’s nest. Michelle Malkin has, perhaps rightly, been going to town on it.

Last night RTE’s Prime Time decided not to show any of the cartoons.

I have decided to link to the cartoons, I actually think they are not that good, and to be honest I can’t see what all the fuss is about. Decide for yourselves whether you think these are offensive, feel free to comment below.

islm_cartoon_7

islm_cartoon_6

danish004

danish010

Here are all of them.

Click here to see images of Mohammed from history.

Beirut bomb 'kills anti-Syria MP'

It looks like Syria are giving the proverbial two fingers to the UN:

A prominent anti-Syrian MP in Lebanon has been killed in a car bomb attack in the capital Beirut, say reports.

Gibran Tueni’s convoy was targeted as it travelled in the Christian-dominated eastern suburb of Mekallis.

At least two other people were killed and several injured in the powerful blast during rush hour.

The attack comes hours before a UN team investigating the murder of ex-prime minister Rafik Hariri presents its findings to the UN Security Council.

An affair to remember

One of the stranger stories you might hear from the UAE:

A camel has been condemned to death after a worker was caught having sex with it in the remote emirate of Ras Al Khaimah. The man, a Bangladeshi driver, was sentenced to three months in jail for his dangerous liaisons. His employer reported him to the authorities after spotting him making regular visits to the camel barn, Gulf News reported.

Ras Al Khaimah is one of the poorer and more traditional sheikhdoms that make up the seven United Arab Emirates, and its judiciary tends to be more conservative than its neighbours’ (Dubai is about an hour’s drive away). Reports said authorities ordered the camel to be killed in accordance with Islamic or sharia law, because its meat was considered tainted by the man’s performances.

Surely the camel was just minding its own business? Why does it get condemned to death?