Shadow Government

'Where There Is No Hope, There Is Hamas'

President Obama's call for an immediate cease-fire in the latest conflict between Hamas and Israel was as noteworthy for what he said as for what he did not say. Obama made it clear that he understood that Israel needed to defend itself against rocket attacks, and that it could not tolerate Hamas building tunnels into the Jewish state in order to kidnap soldiers and civilians. But he said nothing about the need to bring an end to the rocket attacks and kidnap attempts once and for all. He said nothing about getting Hamas to accept prior agreements that the Palestinians had reached with Israel. Or that Hamas come to terms with the existence of the Jewish state. Or that Hamas cease its incitement to kill all Jews, anywhere, which has inspired the spate of attacks on European Jews, most notably the pogrom-like riots targeting a Paris synagogue. Nor, for that matter, did Mr. Obama say a word about the FAA's restrictions on flights to Israel.

Without an arrangement that results in a different relationship between Hamas and Israel, the cycle of violence that results in biannual warfare will continue. Hamas will fire rockets at Israel's border towns and will try to reach its major cities. Knowing that it cannot destroy Israel, its objective will be, as it has been, to terrorize Israel's civilians, and to kill as many of them as it can. It will fire those rockets, as it has done before, from schools, hospitals, and mosques.

For its part, Israel will not tolerate incessant rocket attacks and, after a pause, once again will pummel Gaza. It will destroy the tunnels and the rocket launchers and, in the process, hit their unwitting human shields. And once again, it will be masses who are crammed into that unfortunate strip of land, rather than the leaders of Hamas, who will suffer the most.

The president's call for an immediate cease-fire, seemingly with no conditions attached, does nothing to address these fundamental causes of the conflict. Reflecting a pattern that has marked the administration's policies from the outset, the president is long on exhortation and woefully short on implementation. Without an arrangement that results in a fundamentally different relationship between Israel and Hamas, there will be no cease-fire for some time, and even if one is achieved, it will not last.

Hamas has thus far shown no interest in ceasing its attacks. Because its very existence is predicated on the destruction of Israel, it has no interest in a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians. Somehow, those seeking a cease-fire must account for this reality. Perhaps the only way to defeat Hamas is for the people of Gaza to depose it, much as Egyptians deposed the Morsi government. In order for that to happen, however, Gazans must have an incentive to do so. Thus far they have none. Despite the fact that Ramallah is booming, Israel's continuing occupation of the West Bank, its ongoing construction of new settlements that with time become towns and small cities ("settlements" is a misnomer for many of the Israeli cities on the West Bank) offers little hope for West Bank residents who want a country of their own, and none for Gazans. And where there is no hope, there is Hamas.

Those in the West, especially in Europe, who support Hamas, support the destruction of Israel. That is not American policy. But if American efforts to bring a halt to the violence in Gaza are to succeed, they must include a change of Hamas policy, notably a total cessation of rocket attacks and kidnappings, and its acceptance of previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements. Israel would have to alter its policies as well, specifically lifting the blockade of Gaza's ports, and, importantly, halting its settlement construction. And there must be a renewed and serious commitment on all sides to the creation of a Palestinian state alongside the Jewish state of Israel. Nothing less will end Gaza's troubles, in either the near term or the long run.

It is probably hoping for too much to expect Secretary of State John Kerry to accomplish all of this in his latest round of Middle East negotiations. These goals seem Pollyannaish: Both sides are far too locked into their respective positions. But unless he and the president make it clear that American policy calls for nothing less, when the cease-fire comes, as it inevitably will, nothing will have changed, Washington's efforts will get nowhere, and the misery will continue.

JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images

Shadow Government

Penny Wise and Pound Foolish Thinking about the Iraqi Records Project

When the headlines are talking about the fate of a $400 billion-plus plane with technical difficulties, it might seem quaint to talk about a teensy-weensy defense budget cut of parochial interest to researchers, but I can not think of a better illustration of penny-wise, pound-foolish thinking, so bear with me. At issue is the news release that proposed budget cuts will close the Conflict Records Research Center (CRRC) at the Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS) at the National Defense University (NDU).

The CRRC is the repository that has prepared and published the archive of material taken in a dozen years of the war on terror. It includes unrivaled archived material from the files of al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's regime.

When I was in the government, I found it very frustrating that this repository was not made even more generally available. The argument that we could not release those documents generally without compromising sources and methods struck me as bizarre. Everyone in the world knew how we got those records: We invaded Iraq and took the files. There were better reasons for being careful, including the possibility of releasing sensitive personal information (such as names of people who had been abused by Saddam's regime or names of people on the payroll) so of course it had to be scrubbed. But the vast majority could be released and would be a bonanza for experts seeking to understand the recent past -- and, given the importance of the recent past, the sooner the better.

There was far less chance that the trove would contain material embarrassing to the United States. Indeed, as I have observed before, one of the key dysfunctions in the marketplace of ideas is that weak arguments criticizing U.S. policy last much longer than they would in a more information-rich and better-functioning system. More to the point: The information collected and released by the CRRC goes a very long way to rebutting some of the critiques about the run-up to the Iraq war that have the status of unquestioned conventional wisdom among academic security specialists and foreign critics of the United States.

That is why I simply do not understand why the Republican-controlled House of Representatives would seek to choke off public access to records that help us better understand the stakes in the global war on terror.

A caveat: I do not know enough of the details of the budgets of the CRRC and INSS and NDU to state confidently that the first must stay nested within the second which must stay nested within the third. I am prepared to learn that it would be better to relocate the CRRC somewhere else, provided that it can keep operating more or less as it has thus far (or even on an accelerated basis).

What I am strongly disinclined to accept unless someone provides a compelling explanation, is that it is in the U.S. national interest to close the CRRC and kick it into the larger National Archives (NARA) where, because of NARA's priorities and procedures, it will freeze the release of documents for many years to come.

Put another way, is there anyone who is prepared to argue that it is not worth spending some money on developing a deeper understanding of the dynamics of dictators and terrorists in the Middle East?

Wathiq Khuzaie /Getty Images