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Ken Adelman
Political advisor

Ken Adelman

A Reagan-era Ambassador and Arms Control Director, Ken Adelman is co-founder and vice-president of Movers and Shakespeares, which offers executive training and leadership development.

Strategic failure

Q: Israel's deadly attack on Turkish activists now confronts President Obama with a classic challenge for all sorts of leaders: How do you behave when a close friend and ally misbehaves?

Declare "Time out!" and practice Selah, the ancient Hebrew word for "pause and reflect." Judging Israel -- surrounded by enemies who seek its extinction -- is rather presumptuous from 5,700 miles away, from a country surrounded by friendly neighbors. Nonetheless, as Israel's best if not only real friend, we should "pause and reflect" together.

That would reveal Israelis to be adept at the tactical and (most of the time) operational levels. It's at the strategic level that it fails - miserably, and to all our misery.
Most critical to Israel are the United States and Turkey. Yet one tactical move after another - whether on housing announcements, or settlement agreements, or ship boardings - have bitterly alienated both the U.S. and Turkey. Israeli leaders make it hard to be Israel's friend nowadays.

That's not a great strategic approach, but it's one that's common on the world stage. Shakespeare's Bolingbroke is a tactical genius - which enables him to seize power from the hapless Richard II - but a strategic nincompoop.

Once Bolingbroke becomes King Henry IVth, his tactical adjustments lead to one rebellion after another. He never pauses to reflect on the need for him to think bigger and act bigger, in order to preclude his need for constant tactical maneuverings.
So I'd advise the Israeli cabinet to read the Psalms, appreciating its advocacy of Selah, and then to "brush up your Shakespeare."

By Ken Adelman

 |  June 1, 2010; 2:23 PM ET
Category:  Presidential leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Um, isn't saying that Israel is "misbehaving" editorializing?

Posted by: appleski251 | June 1, 2010 7:44 PM
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Well said and long overdue. I can't help but wonder if Israel's behavior is based on the fact the the United States for too long has stood by and done nothing to mitigate it. Silence = acceptance

Posted by: FDNYMom | June 1, 2010 6:19 PM
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Well said!

Posted by: elnicho | June 1, 2010 5:44 PM
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Dear Ken
I agree with your suggestion and I feel it will give everyone.
Turkey ,Israel and the United States an opportunity to explore changing the current situation

From Marvin Adelman to Ken Adelman your on the right path

Posted by: Janmara1 | June 1, 2010 5:25 PM
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