As we know from Ryan Lizza's profile of Rahm Emanuel in The New Yorker, the Obama White House has been reading New York Times columnist Paul Krugman closely in recent weeks. One can only hope someone in the administration has been paying similarly close attention to of one of Krugman's colleagues at the Times, Roger Cohen.
Cohen, who writes mostly about foreign affairs, is no radical. Two years ago, he wrote a column chiding the left for turning the word "neocon" into a pejorative, the fault for which lay with Moveon.Org and Matthew Yglesias, not Richard Perle or William Kristol. But Cohen has been striking a different note lately, most recently yesterday, when he published a superb editorial about Britain's decision to open a direct channel of communication to Hezbollah. Cohen praised the move and challenged the Obama administration to follow suit, both with the militant Lebanese group and with Hamas. As Cohen put it:
Of course it's desirable that Hamas recognize Israel before negotiations. But is it essential? No. What is essential is that it renounces violence, in tandem with Israel, and the inculcation of hatred that feeds the violence.Speaking of violence, it's worth recalling what Israel did in Gaza in response to sporadic Hamas rockets. It killed upward of 1,300 people, many of them women and children; caused damage estimated at $1.9 billion; and destroyed thousands of Gaza homes. It continues a radicalizing blockade on 1.5 million people squeezed into a narrow strip of land.
Naturally, Cohen will get attacked for this. He was already criticized in some quarters last week for daring to suggest that Iran, although an un-free society with a "brutal apparatus of repression," is not Nazi Germany, and actually treats its Jewish minority better than many Arab states. But Cohen's columns on Iran also drew plenty of defenders, not only liberals like, yes, Matthew Yglesias but also thinking conservatives such as Andrew Sullivan. Cohen's work over the past month has been bracing. It remains to be seen whether it's been getting the attention it deserves in places like the State Department and the White House.