Peter Beinart: Israel is “commiting a sin ‘that cannot be atoned for’

1) “Peter Beinart, “The hard truth if Israel’s endgame in Gaza; Peter Beinart warns that the country is “commiting a sin that ‘cannot be atoned for’,” New York Times, January 9, 2024 (podcast);

What are Israel’s plans for Gaza if it succeeds in expelling Hamas? In this audio essay, Peter Beinart argues that the country’s goal is very clear: to force Palestinians to leave. Beinart believes America’s blanket support of Israel makes it complicit in crimes against humanity. “I want U.S. diplomats to understand that the forced expulsion of a population or part of a population is a war crime,” Beinart says. “I want U.S. government officials to fear that this will be their legacy and to ensure that it’s not.”


Beinart, in one of tge most outspoken statements by an American Jewish learer, affirms the following:

There is a concept in Judaism called “Chillul Hashem.” It’s one of the greatest sins that a human being can commit. And it is to do something that would bring God’s name itself into disrepute. It seems to me that forcing Palestinians in Gaza into a situation where their choices are either death or expulsion is Chillul Hashem, a sin for which there, actually, in Jewish law, cannot be atoned for.

In a more historical vein, it strikes me as a profound and deeply disturbing irony that a people whose own history has been marked by mass expulsion now has a state that is speaking in our name and enacting policies that are very likely going to create mass expulsion of other people.

Biden’s disastrous decision to withdraw all troops from Afghanistam–with links to best opinion pieces

President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw all American troops from Afganistan is so disastrous that now, perhaps, we can focus on what the decision tells us about Joe Biden. Indeed, the most important thing about the decision may be what it tells us about Joe Biden, about his stubbornness, the extent to which his decisions may be affected by his emotions, and the degree to which domestic politics and public opinion may shape those decisions.

For keen insight into Biden’s thinking–you must read between the lines, as a journalist like David Ignatius obviously needs to keep his lines of communication to Biden and his administrarion open.


David Ignatius, “History will cast a shadow over Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan,” Washington Post, April 13, 2021 (8:06 p.m. EDT).

The Decision Process

For an authoritative account of Biden’s past thinking and how he reached thevdecision to withdraw all American military forces from Afghanistan, see

Helene Cooper, Eric Schmitt and David E. Sanger, “Debating Exit From Afghanistan, Biden Rejected Generals’ Views
Over two decades of war, the Pentagon had fended off the political instincts of elected leaders frustrated with the grind of Afghanistan; But President Biden refused to be persuaded,” Nrw York Times, April 17, 2021.

The wisdom of the decision

For a big-picture view of U.S. policy towards Afghanistan since 2001, see,

Max Fisher, “The Contradiction That Doomed America’s Mission in Afghanistan; How a series of fateful choices and lofty ambitions put Taliban defeat at odds with American victory, New York Times, April 16, 2021.

For cogent critiques of the decision, see

1) H.R. McMasters with Fareed Zacharia, “On GPS: H.R. McMaster on Afghanistan, MSN, here?

2) Max Boot, “President Biden should have followed Vice President Biden’s advice on Afghanistan,” Washington Post, April 19, 2021 (1:40 a.m. EDT).

3) Michael Gerson, “Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan is a terrible risk, Washington Post, April 19, 2021 (5:04 p.m. EDT).

For an insightful view of what the withdrawal decision means in terms of betraying the Afghans who have trusted us and made common cause with the Americans for 20 years, see

Pamela Constable, “If the Taliban take power again, will Afghans have died in vain? The flawed U.S. presence lifted expectations about what kind of society they could have,” Washington Post, April 16, 2021 (9:28 EDT).

Pamela Constable is a staff writer for The Washington Post’s foreign desk. She completed a tour as Afghanistan/Pakistan bureau chief in 2019, and has reported extensively from Latin America, South Asia and around the world since the 1980s.

See also,

Bret Stephens, “Abandoning Afghanistan Is a Historic Mistake; Leaving proves Osama bin Laden right: Eventually, America cuts and runs,” New York Times, April 19, 2021.

There are, of course, a number of opinion pieces by columnists and others who support Biden’s decision to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021. Hinted at but left unsaid is the fact that U.S. clandestine operatives, including in particular those from the CIA, are likely to remain in the country.

Yet, with some exceptions, the columnists who support Biden’s withdrawal decision tend ro be columnists or other writers without deep foreign policy expertise, or deep familiarity with Afghanistan and the history of U.S. policy toward that country since 2001.

The U.S. has followed a wide variety of flawed policies in Afghanistan, which led military historian Thomas Ricks to entitle his 2007 book on the subject Fiasco.

The irony here is that the U.S. military posture in Afghanistan is the one Vice-president Joe Biden argued for, unsuccessfully, in 2009.

This writer spent two months in Kabul in 2005 leading the start-up of the Justice Sector Support Program (JSSP), which involved a team of six lawyers and one prison expert, each of whom advised a different ministry or institution involved in the criminal justice system. The program had the goal of providing advice and guidance to Afghan institutions in order to reform the system to reflect democratic values and respect for human rights.

Since 2005, I have followed developments in Afghanistan closely. (See the articles on Afghanistan published in The Trenchant Observer)

In my view, the greatest defect in U.S. policy has been its pursuit of the goal of withdrawing from the country. President Trump’s surrender and withdrawal agreement with the Taliban on February 29, 2020, was a craven recognition of the fact that all the Trump administration wanted to do was to get out of the country.

The negotiations with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar sought to bypass the democratically-elected government of Afghanistan which the U.S. and NATO had worked to strengthen for almost 20 years.

Led by the former Republican-appointed Ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, whose motives were at least open to doubt as he had reportedly considered running for the Presidency of Afghanistan, the Doha negotiations appeared to serve only Donald Trump’s interest in “ending” the conflict so that he could score points in the 2020 presiential election.

In reaching his decision to withdraw all American troops, against the reportedly unanimous or near-unanimous advice of his military advisors, Joe Biden didn’t even replace Khalilzad with his own leader of the negotiations. He seems to have just wanted to get out of Afghanistan, like Trump. There is no persuasive evidence that he conducted a fundamental-level policy review of U.S. policy and options before deciding to simply follow Trump’s path of surrender, with no preconditions.

Biden appears to have given little weight to broader considerations in reaching his decision. First, the shameful admission of defeat and withdrawal did little to reassure other allies that the United States would stand by them in the crunch. Just as Donald Trump had thrown U.S. Kurdish allies under the bus in reaching an accomodatiin on Syria with Tayib Erdogan of Turkey, Biden demonstrated that the U.S. was willing to throw its Afghan allies and supporters of the democratic project under the bus, if the U.S. unilaterally determined it was in its strategic (or domestic political) interests to do so.

Strategically, the United States unilaterally surrended its bases and position in Afghanistan, despite the fact that it borders on Russia, a fact of strategic significance, particularly at a moment when Russia has massed some 100,000 troops on the border of Ukraine and threatens to invade it.

Potentially of even greater significance, at least in the longer term, is the risk that surrendering to the Taliban may lead to the country once again becoming a haven for Islamic fundamentalists with global ambitions, including Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.

The great risk and the great threat is that like-minded fundamentalists in Pakistan (of whom there are many) might seize control of that country’s government and its nuclear weapons. Such a development would pose a enormous threat to Western interests, and to India in particular.

The decision to surrender to the Taliban and abandon our Afghan allies and supporters is among the most craven and dastardly decisions in U.S. military and foreign policy history. One searches in history for a decision of such dishonorable magnitude.

The comparison that comes to mind is the agreement by Neville Chamberlain of England and Ėdouard Daladier of France with Adolf Hitler at Berchtesgarten in October, 1938. The agreement, known as tge Munich Pact, has become synonymous with betrayal and appeasement

That will be Joe Biden’s legacy, unless he changes course, which seems unlikely.

Russia’s threat to use force against Ukraine: April 12, 2021 (Update)


1) “Russia about to launch offensive in Southern Ukraine and stage false flag attacks,” RLI (Robert Lansing Institute),
April 12, 2021

2) Vilma Gryzinski, “Putin vai invadir a Ucrânia? Não, mas quer parecer que o fará; Brincar de gato e rato é uma especialidade aperfeiçoada pelo líder russo e a concentração ostensiva de tropas é uma arma desse arsenal, Veja, 12 de abril 2021 (08h12).

3) Evelyn N. Farkas, “Putin is testing Biden on Ukraine. Here’s what will keep him in check; New U.S. sanctions are coming, and they are a good start,” Washington Post, April 11, 2012 9:00 a.m. EDT).

The Robert Lansing Institute article paints quite a plausible scenario for a Russian invasion of the Ukraine which has the objective of securing Ukrainian territory on the north shore of the Black Sea, linking the Donbas territory controlled by Russian supported and imposed “separatists”. This would create the long-desired “land-bridge” from Russia proper to the Crimea.

The RLI writes;

Russia is about to launch an offensive in Southern Ukraine. The strike is quite possible to be delivered from the annexed Crimea’s side and the breakaway territories of Donbas, in an effort to join them with Crimea, to get access to fresh water to meet the peninsula’s needs, and to have an overland link from Russia to Crimea along the northern coast of the Black Sea.

We believe the offensive is likely to be launched during the Easter celebrations by the Orthodox Church.

The Kremlin is now about to shape a pretext for an invasion. Russia is likely to use the scenario tried out in Georgia in 2008: a false flag attack that would offer a prelude for a total Russian invasion for a limited time, with aircraft and precision-guided weapon. There are several scenarios likely to trigger stepping-up and head-on military clash (the most probable to start with):

1. Religious strives stirred up by Russia’s SOF sabotage groups (to murder a representative of the Russian church in Ukraine, to commit terrorist attack at a religious facility).

2. Violence against a representative of the Russian-associated community or organization in Southern Ukraine.

3. Shelling simulation from Ukraine’s side targeting infrastructure facilities in Crimea.

Russia has built up military forces along Ukraine’s border together with a stream of disinformation by the Kremlin. Meanwhile, information and psy ops GRU experts who had taken part in war efforts in Donbas, Syria, and Nagorno-Karabakh arrived in Donbas. It means the war is quite possible to start.

Over the strategic and long term, the Kremlin advocates total control to be set up over the Black Sea coast of Ukraine, including Mariupol, Odesa and Berdyansk. But now, Moscow’s task is to strike and seize the water canal that connects the Dnipro and Crimea. That will give Russia a land bridge from Russia to Crimea, through the occupied areas of Donbas.

The United States does not appear to be taking the threat of a Russian invasion seriously, in a manner reminiscent of the prelude to the Russian invasion of the Crimea in February 2014.

Vilma Gryzinski, in her opinion piece in Veja on Monday, April 12, points out that Biden was in charge of the United States’ disastrous policy toward Russia and Ukraine in 2014. She writes:

“Quando era vice de Barack Obama, Biden foi encarregado do caso Ucrânia, seguindo a política altamente cautelosa – alguns diriam até quase indiferente – do presidente no poder.

English (translation by author):
“When he was Barack Obama’s vice president, Biden was in charge of the Ukrainian case, following an extremely cautious policy–some would say even almost indifferent–of the president in power.”

The U.S. and NATO need to give the current Russian threat to invade the Ukraine the highest priority.

Leading newspapers–particularly in the U.S.–need to give this matter salient, daily, above the fold front-page coverage, instead of the “catch-up journalism” they have been practicing, with one good story every 7-10 days.


Isabelle Khurshudyan, David L. Stern, Loveday Morris and
John Hudson, “On Ukraine’s doorstep, Russia boosts military and sends message of regional clout to Biden,” Wasington Post, April 10, 2021 (4:00 a.m. EDT).

What can be done to compensate for Biden’s weak leadership on this question to date, and in the past, is anyone’s guess.

From 2009-2013, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken was Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor to Vice President Biden. From 2013-2015 he served as Deputy National Security Advisor. He was at the center of decision-making in Obama’s weak responses to Russian threats against Ukraine in 2014. According to Wikipedia, “Blinken was influential in formulating the Obama administration’s response to the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation in the aftermath of the 2014 Ukrainian revolution.”

So far, Blinken has responded to Putin’s threats by saying that Russia would suffer “consequences” and pay costs if it invades Ukraine, and by making plans to travel to Brussels to consult with allies on the Ukraine question.

Something greater is needed. Democratic Senators should call on President Biden to strengthen his foreign policy team charged with responding to Russia’s threats against the Ukraine.

This is a hot crisis. Biden needs to take strong deterrent actions, and to do so immediately. One such action would be to state that, if Russia invades Ukraine, the U.S. will work to expel them from the SWIFT international payments system, and will with the EU impose new and heavier sectoral (sectorial) sanctions on Russia.

Evelyn Farkas, in the article cited aboves, argues that the threat of strong economic sections could dissuade Putin from invading Ukraine. She writes:

Sanctions so far have been targeted and gradual, wary of harming the Russian people and Western business interests. Yet cutting off access to new capital for Russian state-owned funds and entities — or even more extreme, blocking Russia from using SWIFT, an international banking system used to transfer money among about 200 countries — would immediately cause economic and political distress to Putin and his cronies. Just threatening to do so would probably cause Putin to stay his hand in Ukraine.

Biden faces hus first acute international crisis in the Ukraine.

It is critical, not just for Ukraine but also for his foreign policy in general–including Afghanistan, China and The South China Sea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan–that he react forcefully to Putin’s threats.

Putin thinks he knows Biden, as someone who is weak in the face of threats, particularly military threats. It is critically important that Biden correct Putin’s assessment of him–at the earliest possible moment.

James Rowles

War looms over Ukraine; Biden’s apathetic reaction


Raven Saint and Will Stewart, “‘Ready for conflict’: Putin’s threat to the West is laid bare in new footage showing build-up of troops and military convoys on Ukraine’s border as Kiev warns it could be provoked by Russian ‘aggression’; New footage claims to show inside of Russia’s massive deployment on border; Ukraine estimates there are now a staggering 85,000 Russian troops in the area; There have been mounting tensions in the country’s eastern Donbas Andrii Taran, Ukraine’s defence minister, issued a statement earlier today; US is to dispatch two warships to sail through the Bosphorus on April 14 and 15; Washington continuing to fly reconnaissance planes to monitor Russian activity; But it comes as Russia claims to have intercepted an American RC-135 spy plane,” The Daily Mail (Mail Online), April 10, 2021 (05:27 EDT, updated 10:02 EDT).

As leading American newspapers are asleep at the wheel, on a slow Saturday afternoon, Vladimir Putin and Russia are mobilizing for war against the Ukraine. According to the Ukrainian Defense Minister, some 85,000 Russian troops have been moved to within striking distance of the border. U.S. officials are quoted in recent news reports as speculating about what Vladimir Putin’s intentions might be.

The reports are silent about what, if anything, the United States and NATO are doing to affect Putin’s calculations and intentions.

To be sure, the U.S. has given Turkey notice that it intends to move two warships into the Black Sea, in accordance with the notification requirements of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne which regulates such movements. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken plans to travel to Europe next week to consult with allies on the developing Ukraine crisis. Oh, and the U.S. is continuing to monitor Russian troop movements through aerial surveillance.

America is sending two warships into the Black Sea. I’m sure that has Putin, probably ensconced in his palace in Sochi, quaking in his boots.

This is a sad spectacle to observe. Joe Biden’s foreign policy team and Secretary of State Blinken continue to not impress. One has the impression that Joe Biden intends to follow the disastrous foreign policy of Barack Obama, which witnessed the Russian invasion and annexation of the Ukrainian Crimea in February and March 2014, and the Russian invasion of the eastern Ukraine beginning in April 2014, culminating in the movement of regular Russian troops into the Donbas in August 2014.

Obama subordinated important foreign policy objectives, e.g., in Syria, to the goal of reaching a nuclear agreement with Iran.

He reached an agreement with Iran, but failed to secure the bipartisan political support needed to sustain it. Biden would be foolish if he continued this approach. A resumption of the agreement with Iran should not be hard to secure. Biden need do Putin no favors to secure this objective.

Putin was stopped, not by anything Obama and the U.S. did, but rather by the European Union which imposed serious economic sanctions on Russia on September 5, 2014, and reached a standstill agreement with Putin in the Minsk I Agreement signed on September 14, 2014. Obama, for his part, was paralyzed and caught up in an internal American debate over whether the U.S. should provide Ukraine with “lethal” military assistance.

After the Russian invasion and annexation of the Crimea, the U.S. and the EU placed very light “sanctions” on Russia, in what amounted to a slap on the risk for invading a European country.

Undoubtedly, this slap on the wrist only emboldened Putin, who proceeded with his invasion of the eastern Ukraine with both irregular and regular forces.

The situation today is similar to that which existed in the Ukraine in February 2014, prior to the Russian invasion of the Crimea at the end of the month. Russian troops were massing on the frontier.

And then they moved.

In the background, Putin can see Biden’s lack of resolve in failing to reverse Donald Trump’s disastrous surrender policy in Afghanistan, embodied in the February 29, 2020 Doha agreement with the Taliban. Biden has not even replaced Zalmay Khalilzad, Trump’s ambassador in charge of negotiating the “cut and run” surrender agreement with the Taliban.

Putin can see America and NATO are willing to accept defeat in Afghanistan.

He may also be emboldened by the Russian-Chinese agreement to jointly oppose the West, quickly concluded after Buden’s statement on national television that Putin was “a killer”, and after Bkinken’s confrontational ministerial-level meeting with the Chinese foreign minister, and their respective delegations, in Anchorage, Alaska.

Moreover, Putin is facing no strong deterrent pressure from NATO and the U.S., who have not even bothered to rebut the fallacions legal arguments Russian officials have advanced as potential justifications for an invasion of the Eastern Ukraine.

War is in the air. America and Europe are asleep, paralyzed, and in the absence of strong leadership don’t know what to do.

In these circumstances, and barring resolute deterrent actions by the U.S., the EU, and NATO, it appears likely that Russia will send military units into the Donbas, and perhaps beyond.

An obvious strategic objective for Russia would be to seize the territory between the Donbas and the Crimea,including the port of Mariupol, in order to form a “land bridge” from the Russian mainland to the Crimea.

It is time for Biden to bring in some real heavyweights, the best in the country, to assist his current team in managing U.S. foreign policy towards Russia, and the world. The current team, alone, is clearly not up to the task.

James Rowles

China and Russia in frontal assault on U.N. Charter and International Law


Torsten Krauel (Meinung), “Putin spielt mit dem Feuer,” Die Welt, 4. April 2021 (16:21 Uhr),

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