When losers declare victory

Mitt Romney snapped at a petrol station last weekend

editor's insight

Nevil Gibson

The western media have declared the Israel-Gaza “truce” a victory for Hamas, even though the constant rockets attacks have resulted in retribution that has caused more than a hundred deaths and widespread damage to its military infrastructure.

Some in the Israeli media agree, mainly because the conflict has given Hamas a boost in its negotiating status.

For example, Anshel Pfeffer, writing in the left-leaning Ha’aretz, says the Muslim Brotherhood leader of Egypt, Mohammad Morsi, has been elevated to prominent regional leader status because he dealt directly with President Obama to arrange the truce.

What’s more, according to Spiegel Online,

Hamas too has managed to extract minor victories from the conflict, according to analysts. For one, the Islamist leaders of the Gaza Strip inserted a clause in the ceasefire agreement which calls for at least a partial lifting of the blockade Israel imposed on the Palestinian area after Hamas came to power in 2006.

Furthermore, the fact that the Hamas leadership didn't collapse in the face of heavy bombardment, along with the fact that their rockets continued to rain down on Israel throughout the conflict, has been interpreted as a success.

But even more important for the Islamists, according to Haaretz, is that their rockets were able to hit both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. And they were able to position themselves as a negotiating partner for the Israeli leadership, guaranteeing them a role as an actor in the Middle East for at least the immediate future.

I guess anything possible in the media’s “right is wrong and right is wrong” attitude to the Middle East.

Most take the view that any counter-action by Israel against its terrorist and other attackers are “disproportionate” – as if Dan Carter should only kick with his right foot.

Consider what the damage may have been if Israel didn’t have superior technology, such as the Iron Dome, to defend itself against what are usually termed “homemade” rockets (they are, in fact, quite sophisticated and come direct from Iran).

The Wall Street Journal describes the Dome as virtually impregnable and points to its advantages in reducing the threat to Israel’s civilian population – thus giving more time to consider military and political responses while frustrating the aggressor.

One American commentator has recanted on his support for Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2006, saying it has been a strategic disaster by making Israel less secure and more diplomatically isolated, while giving Hamas a stronger hand.

Recriminations and Republicans
The US presidential election is already receding, except for the chorus of pro-Democratic voices giving advice to the Republicans on why they should be more like them – that is, give up being rich, white, pro-business men (who nevertheless accounted for 48.1% support for Romney against Obama’s 50.4%)..

But this has not prevented plenty of navel-gazing by prominent Republican supporters in the commentariat.

To be fair, I will choose two views from Newsweek, which endorsed Obama but has some conservative contributors. Historian Niall Ferguson made three points:

• The Republicans could not match the internet and marketing-savvy Democrats

• The Republicans ignored the rising Hispanic share of the population and depended too heavily on the declining numbers of white males

• Running on the economy doesn’t work when a recovery is under way

But Ferguson’s fourth and major point was similar to my own views, made a couple of weeks ago “The world’s next big welfare state:” 

The Democrats have figured out what European Social Democrats long ago understood: the more entitlements you create, the more voters you can depend on. Let me put it simply: given the choice between higher taxes on the 1% and cuts in entitlement for the 47%, voters went for the former. Surprise!

…Again, the historical trend is not the Republican Party’s friend: since 1960, welfare spending (mainly Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid) has risen inexorably from 2% of GDP to above 10 %; the Congressional Budget Office sees it nearing 20% by 2059. With every passing year, the share of the population receiving some form of government transfer rises.

Stuck in the past
The same issue of Newsweek contains a long and analytical piece by David Frum, who is also the New York Times’ house conservative and who as President George W Bush's speechwriter coined the phrase, "axis of evil.".

The article is an excerpt from Frum's hot-off-the-web e-book, Why Romney Lost (and what the GOP can do about it)

He appeals for an end to extremism and lists a series of questions Republicans should ask themselves:

Would Republicans have done better if we had promised a bigger tax cut for the rich and proposed to push more people off food stamps and Medi¬caid?

Would we have done better if we had promised to do more to ban abortion and stop same-sex marriage?

If we had committed ourselves to fight more wars?

To put the country on the gold standard?

Almost half of those surveyed on voting day said they wanted to see taxes raised on Americans earning more than $250,000.

Frum also notes the Republicans’ social conservatism is turning away its former highly educated base, who supported George Bus in 1988 and John McCain in 2008.

As the GOP relies more heavily on less-educated voters, it finds itself relying on a class of people who have lost ground economically. Those voters understandably tend to mistrust business. It’s an odd predicament for the party of free enterprise to base itself on the most business-skeptical voters – a predicament that cost Romney dearly in the industrial Midwest.

Why Labour is in opposition
It might be a long bow to draw in New Zealand but despite the Labour Party’s base seeming similar to Obama’s, the grip of the unions make it closer to the Republican scenario.

I noticed the bottles of chardonnay at the Labour conference carried anti-charter schools stickers.

This reminded me that Labour is opposed to all of the recent innovative policies and has no alternative except a bigger role for the state:

Education: No charter schools means no choice, new ideas, methods or outcomes

Infrastructure: No PPPs means fewer roads, schools and other public facilities

State ownership: No mixed models means under-developed capital markets, more overseas purchases of New Zealand businesses, less competition and higher prices

Monetary policy: Forcing the Reserve Bank to debase the currency will mean higher inflation, less prosperity, a drying up of foreign investment and more job losses

There are plenty more of these: When you hear Labour oppose something these days, it is almost a guarantee that someone has come up with a better way of doing something.

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