It's been a while since I've commented on Juan Cole's absolute ineptitude with analogies — a major shortcoming even the New York Times noticed in its otherwise positive review of his most recent book. Well, the historical analogy he employs in his most recent blog post is so asinine I couldn't possibly let it go:
Far rightwing Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is meeting Monday with President Barack Obama in Washington. It is the most fateful encounter of two world leaders since Kennedy met Khrushchev. And Obama absolutely must not allow himself to be cowed or misunderstood as timid by Netanyahu, who is a notorious bully and warmonger.
In the vapid analysis that follows, Cole anticipates disagreements between Obama and Netanyahu on Palestinian statehood and Iran. Of course, this begs the question: are these disagreements between the U.S. and Israel — allies, by the way — really analogous to the disagreements between the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the Cold War? Does Cole actually think that the outcome of today's Obama-Netanyahu talks can potentially impact the planet's geostrategic outlook in the way the fateful Kennedy-Khrushchev meeting in April 1961 did? Does Cole truly believe that Netanyahu might respond to a lack of toughness from Obama — whatever that might look like — by threatening the United States, much as Khrushchev responded to Kennedy's weakness by placing nuclear missiles in Cuba?
Either way, this is scary stuff coming from a University of Michigan history professor, who has presumably read a book or two about the Cold War. Still, at least Cole isn't a psychiatrist, because his analysis of — and prescription for — Israeli society is even worse than his analogizing:
I like Israelis, but they are understandably traumatized by all the things that have happened to them since the 1930s and have developed an unhealthy hysteria and tendency to shoot first and ask questions later. … Obama must impress on them that the answer to every problem is not a bombing raid. The good thing about having Rahm Emmanuel in the White House is that he will be able to phrase the instruction colorfully enough for it to be understood unambiguously.
Just to be clear: the way to treat a nervous foreign public is to have the White House chief-of-staff curse at them. Chalk up another "informed comment" for Dr. Cole!