Sunday, May 19, 2013


(Originally published in The Times of Israel)

Despite being named the eighth most redneck city in the U.S. as reported by that prestigious journal,, I love my hometown of Sacramento.  It is a pleasant tree-lined city with blue rivers and greenery and good people, even if I occasionally think their self-worth depends a bit too much on keeping the NBA's Kings in town.

Despite my fondness for Sacramento, after three months back in the U.S., I was ready to leave the old hometown and head home to Israel. In addition to just needing my quotient of life in our Jewish-majority homeland, I was, frankly, getting a little weirded out. 

Sacramento was fine.  It was the rest of the U.S. that had me wondering.  Sandy Hook, Boston, a shopping mall here, a theater there.  A child knifed to death by her 12-year-old brother in the foothills above Sacramento, three women held for years by a Cleveland masochist, a five-year-old killing his two- year-old sister with a Davey Crickett My First Rifle.

My First Rifle was described by the county coroner as a "little rifle for a kid."  Makes sense.  I suppose there was a little coffin for a little sister killed by a brother with a little rifle for a kid. 

80,000 NRA activists cheering on Sarah Palin and a cast of extremely strident people as they resist the idea of checking to see if a guy or girl who buys a gun at a trade show is a whack job.  Somehow the idea of registering a gun is a threat to the Republic and all it stands for. 

We register and license cars.  We register and license CPA's.  In California we register and license hairdressers and cosmetologists.  But somehow checking out buyers and registering and licensing guns is a threat to liberty. 

Some of these folks seem to think that their gun will stop the U.S. government, with its tanks, carriers, and missiles, from taking over the country.  They see their guns as the last line of defense against what they fear is a tyrannical government.  What they seem to have forgotten is that they, we the people, are the government, and those soldiers they will be defending against with their rifles and pistols and semi-automatics are their sons and daughters, nephews and nieces.

So, in the face of this insanity, it actually seemed calming to be returning to the security and peacefulness of Jerusalem. 

Then we arrived. 

Jerusalem is peaceful and quiet. Sure, there were a few skirmishes associated with the Palestinians' Nakba Day, the day that commemorates what the Palestinians see as the catastrophe of the re-founding of the Jewish nation.  Marking one of the many days before and after 1948 when the Palestinians rejected compromise and peace, opting instead for their ideal of living without a sovereign Jewish people in the world, it seems to continue a tradition of wallowing in grievance and victimhood rather than looking ahead to building a nation that would live in peace with its neighbors. 

Despite the Nakba Day with its fairly small, isolated incidents, Jerusalem and Israel felt calm, peaceful, secure, predictable, and sane relative to the U.S. these days. 

Then what seemed like a Cold War replay happened.  Russia announces it will deliver an advanced missile system to Syria, a system that would make it nearly impossible for the West to impose a no-fly zone or take other actions against Syria, and that would make it very difficult for Israel to prevent weapon transfers to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

At the same time, a significant show of Russian ships moves into the Mediterranean for the first time in years, and a dozen Russian ships show up at and around the Russian naval base in Syria. Putin is not subtle.  Russia is reasserting its power in the Middle East.   Power abhors a vacuum. U.S. policy created a vacuum.

It seems Putin took President Obama seriously when he was overheard telling the Russian P.M. to tell Putin that he could be more "flexible" after the election. 

 It's likely that the purpose of CIA Director Brennan's surprise visit to Israel the other day was to tell Israel not to take out the new Russian missiles that are being delivered to Syria for fear things will really escalate and the U.S.-Russian conference on Syria talked about for June will be a fatality.

The best case situation would have President Obama calling Putin and saying:

 "Look it, I've really preferred to resolve things without resort to arms, I've not always reacted as strongly as some prior presidents, but I really cannot live with this huge new assertion of Russian power into the Mideast, and I cannot live with the Syrians receiving weapons that will make it almost impossible for the U.S. to protect innocent Syrians if it comes to that, and I cannot live with you making it near-impossible for the Israelis to prevent dangerous arms going to Hezbollah.  You've made your point, now I insist you move the ships out and you stop the transfer of the defense system to Syria.  This is a red line for the U.S. and we will take action.  Let's figure out a way for you to stand down without being embarrassed."

Would Putin take Obama's statement seriously?  Perhaps.  He might be so shocked by it that he would think the President means it.

There is virtually no chance that President Obama will make such a statement to Putin.  Instead, there exists several possible scenarios, none good.

 Israel cannot allow Syria to deploy the missile defense system.  It is likely that Israel will wait until Russia has completed transfer and then try to take a bunch out before they are deployed.  Pray that no Russian soldiers or advisers are there when they do so.  If they are there and are harmed, expect big trouble.

 If Russian soldiers are harmed, or if Russia takes offense for some other reason, Russia or a proxy could go after Israel.  In that case, the U.S. may be involved a lot more than it would have been by having inserted itself more in Syria a long time ago. 

If Syria is allowed to deploy the missile defense system, then it will be in a much better position to transfer chemical weapons and other sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah.  If that happens, expect  major action by Israel in Lebanon and major damage to Lebanon and Israel and perhaps other countries.  Expect the possibility of the transfer of chemical weapons to terrorists who hate the U.S.

Whether Israel rejects Brennan's admonitions and takes out the Russian missiles, or whether it allows the missiles and later attacks the weapons transferred to Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon,  expect Israel to be blamed for escalating violence and for torpedoing the conference.  

If the conference does occur, Russia has stated that it will insist that Iran participate.  A year ago, the U.S. refused to allow Iran's participation and a conference was scuttled.  If President Obama is so desperate for a deal that he now allows Iran to participate, U.S. credibility with Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan, and the Sunni world in general will decline even further than it already has.  No one in this region will ever take him seriously.  The next president will be left with the herculean job of rebuilding American credibility.

 Expect nothing to come of any conference, other than Assad hanging on, possibly more use of chemical weapons, more refugees, and the destabilization of Jordan and attacks on the Golan Heights, to which Israel will react strongly. 

Some of this mess was probably unavoidable.  But much of it is a case of U.S. and Western unwillingness to take early, assertive action putting the region and the U.S. in danger of a much bigger and bloodier conflagration.  

Hope and pray that I am wrong. 


The most recent reports are that there are now 1.5 million Syrian refugees.  It has been reported that former President Clinton greatly regrets having not taken action to prevent the Rwandan tragedy.  Will Syria be President Obama's great regret?



  1. Oy... Pretty much sums it up

  2. I couldn't agree more--Obama's lack of total support for Israel is very disappointing, much like that of Carter--ironic that Bush, both junior and senior, made it very clear that Israel was our friend and ally, and that they would support and defend Israel without question.

  3. Mr. Edelstein's piece is excellent. Ought to be published in every major newspaper in the wold.

  4. Great piece Alan.

  5. Only one author with the ability to accurately describe current events in the Middle East by taking a micro issue and zooming out to showcase some of the major rising political trends, including declining American hard and soft power both in this region and globally as a result of a complete lack of foreign policy of the current administration. Alan so thoughtfully analyzed, great job on yet another intellectually stimulating post!

  6. I think you are right and a potentially very explosive situations is in front of us and yes the CIA and Obama Administration are always urging Israel to show restraint.

  7. This is an excellent blog and a terrific summary.

  8. I agree it is an excellent summary of some of the tragedies we have suffered recently, but to imply that going back to Israel, in the middle of the cauldron of chaos called the Mideast, is a bit naive. When every public venue is guarded by gun-toting soldiers; every time you are on a bus that may be blown to smithereens; every restaurant is vulnerable to an some idiot wanting to meet 72 virgins, living in the good ol' USA, with all it's warts, doesn't seem so bad.

  9. Thank you Alan for this post. It is an insightful analysis of not only the disturbing landscape in US re gun control, but also hard issues re US reticence in Syria and the resulting "vacuum" of leadership that has now led to action from Russia. These are difficult times.

    Thank you for your clarity of insight!

  10. Remember what Chief Justice Berger said that the2 nd amendment really wasn’t intended for crazy individual ownership

  11. Well written!! I hope you are wrong too.


  12. Always enjoy your observations, but in the wake of the IRS scandal (which you failed to mention) and the AP phone-log snooping, is it really a far cry from that to a tyrannical gov't bent on stripping citizens of their Constitutional rights? And as the Jewish people understand better than any, having some means of defending one's God-given rights (including life) is better than being helpless in the face of tyranny. Why do you think Hitler was the biggest gun-grabber of the 20th Century (before he began executing the Final Solution)? The Jews of the Warsaw ghetto may have eventually fallen to the SS, but they would have at least caused the Third Reich some pause before attempting to round them all up for slaughter, don't you think?

    Given what is happening on the Syrian border, I would think you would appreciate how important self-defense is (and not just that provided from your citizen-military).

    Additionally, lot of the crimes and murders you mentioned here in the U.S. were not accomplished at the end of a barrel. So should Big Brother (which has largely become a Leviathin separate/detached from "We The People") track the purchases of pressure cookers, knives, ropes, bricks, etc.?

    Finally, comparing the Jewish State with America is not fair … we are the most diverse, large nation-state in the history of mankind, and due to cable news and technology, we are all witnesses to the very RARE acts of a very select few nationwide. One must take these headlines with a grain of salt, given the scale of the reporting coverage.

    The balance between a gov't protecting our rights from the infringement of others and individual liberties can be a difficult act to pull-off, but if the scales are going to drop on one side, I prefer freedom and not tyranny.

  13. With respect, Alan, I will stay in Sacramento and the USA. Your comments re: mounting problems in the Middle East are enough for me to swear off a lifetime desire to visit that part of the world. I don't need a front row seat to Armageddon.

  14. More gun laws won't have any effect. Enforce existing laws. Look at the news and see who is committing gun crimes. Those not legally allowed to own firearms

  15. As a general rule whack jobs and criminals don't bother to register their guns because more often than not they just take/steal them from law-abiding gun owners. You know: just as illegal aliens, including terrorists, don't bother to get driving licenses (or insurance, for that matter) -- unless they have "inside contacts" at places such as the Virginia DMV.

  16. Brilliant article. Well thought-out. Perhaps the only consolation of this continued escalation, abeit small, is that a lot of resources are and will be depleted by Russia, Iran, Syria, and even the "devil we don't know" until a tipping point is reached.


  17. The first part of your random thoughts was great. The US really is a mess but we got the Kings. I guess good for the city but I couldn't care less about the team. Also the news coverage for 4 or 5 months was beyond belief.

    Your points about Syria, Russia, etc were very thought provoking and worrisome. Don't think that we should interfere in the civil war itself since the alternative would probably be another Islamist state. The weapons issue and Russia's involvement is something else. Our President is all show, no decision making skills, and threatening Congress. we are in a pickle.

    Actually we built two wonderful bridges in 1936 and 1937 and cannot seem to build a section of a new one since 1989. Now it is corroded bolts, not sure about foundation, etc. No wonder no one thinks we are really superior.

  18. This country is not what it was in 1940 or 50. There has been an insidious change in our culture in many ways and I do not see much of a change coming. My only suggestion would be to get the special interests out of politics by having Public Funding of all federal elections with close scrutiny.

  19. Many issues that we are really not poindering here in terms of Russia/Syria vis a vis Israel. Glad you are raising this, and hopefully the western media will cover as well.

  20. Some very good idealistic concepts you have about guns and registration.


    You are becoming one of the individuals that wants registration so the next Hitler like nut knows exactly where to go to stop the resistance. We can then be led calmly down the path to the waiting gas chambers.

    Shame on you.


  21. The Answer To Gun Control!

    In 1863 a Democrat shot and killed Abraham Lincoln,
    President of the United States.

    In 1983 a registered Democrat shot
    and wounded Ronald Reagan.

    In 2007 a registered Democrat named Seung-Hui Cho
    shot and killed 32 people in Virginia Tech.

    In 2010 a mentally ill registered Democrat
    named Jared Lee Loughner
    shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killed 6 others.

    In 2011 a registered Democrat named James Holmes
    went into a movie theater
    and shot and killed 12 people.

    In 2013 a registered Democrat named Adam Lanza
    shot and killed 26 people in a school.

    One could go on, but you get the point,
    even if the media does not.

    Clearly, there is a problem with Democrats and guns.

    It should simply be illegal for Democrats to own guns.

    Best idea I have heard.

    It would probably solve the problem too, if the truth be known.

  22. All the registration in the world will not prevent another mass shooting. Connecticut, for example, is said to have the toughest "gun laws" in the US. (And, BTW, "mass shootings" are down in number over this past decade, but "gun laws" appear to have played no part in this decrease


  23. We’re living in very tumultuous times – not that our parents didn’t too.

  24. We used to care about the ME for 2 reasons, Israel and Oil. Now it has changed to Israel and Iran. Syria has an obvious civil war going on between shia and sunni, backed by their respective banker countries. If we get on the ground we will be there for years. A decisive air strike of 4-5 days might do it but Putin might get a little upset and there might be overreaction on either side. For now I would just be in favor of supplies and only weapons okayed by Israel.

  25. A well spoken idealist is still an idealist. A well spoken argument without ALL the facts is just well-spoken and partial truth.

    What else has changed about people that might not be CAUSED by gun ownership? The food we eat? The drugs we take? The way we are raised? That chich we are taught? That which we are NOT taught? Where and how we focus our time? The way we let our emotions rule our thoughts? The way we let our thoughts rule our behavior? The way we give too much power to leaders who are not prepared nor innately able to lead? The way we view "superiority" and how people seem to confuse prominence with significance, loudness with correctness, words with actions?