At the OECD Insights blog, James Plunkett announces findings from the Professor John van Reenen and Joao Paulo Pessoa of the London School of Economics study funded by the Resolution Foundation, Decoupling of Wage Growth and Productivity Growth? Myth and Reality. The research gives keen insight to the problems of median wage stagnation, concluding that there has been a great amount of decoupling between labor productivity and median hourly wages in the UK. Median hourly wages were essentially flat for the past two decades but for a four year growth.

The study defines an important distinction between net and gross decoupling; one which supports the narrative and one which does not. While the first, net decoupling, defined by van Reenan and Pessao as the difference between GDP growth per hour (labor productivity) and average compensation, with GDP deflator taken into account for both, was found not to have diverged, gross decoupling has. Gross decoupling is much more critical; the relationship between GDP growth per hour and median worker wages. The authors stress the usage of wages in gross decoupling rather than compensation, as wages underline the effect on the median worker whereas compensation is more in the realm of banker’s bonuses, or pensions and health benefits. That although labor’s share of income has not fallen off, the median worker’s share has, confirming a rise of inequality between the average worker and the higher-ups.

For worker’s median wages in the UK, the authors analyzed the Labour Force Survey which measures the pre-tax wages of 60,000 UK households each quarter. In their treatment of various UK labor statistics, the authors find that net decoupling is not existent but that there is a 43% difference between median hourly wages and mean hourly compensation versus labor productivity. The statistics also show that the trend line for mean hourly wages cuts halfway through the disparity starting from the mid-late 1990’s and ending with their final data point, 2010. The authors conclude that this means about half of the divergence between median hourly wage and labor productivity can be explained by inequality. The other half is due to the doubled growth of compensation versus wages.

To quantify the driving factor of compensation in this growth versus median wages, the authors use UK Office of National Statistics data for non-wage compensation from 1999-2007. Over this period, Van Reenan and Pessao found employers’ contributions to national insurance schemes to rise 67% and employers’ contributions to pensions rose 98% while wages rose 47%. ONS and LFS data was analyzed over a four decade period as well. By 2010 gross decoupling was 42.5%, with more than three-quarters of the decoupling due to inequality and wage/compensation divergence. The other factors are a combination of GDP deflator/RPI differences, the gap between employed and self-employed earnings, ONS/LFS growth disparties.

Plunkett asserts that the difference in net decoupling and gross decoupling should not be discounted as a sort of anomaly. Although compensation is a more inclusive quantifier of benefits, wages are vastly more accrued by workers who earn less. Higher paying jobs get the lions share of compensation benefits. The nature of jobs in the lower half of earnings distribution means that their wages are much more essential for survival based on their reliance on wages to pay for every day needs. Since this measure “most accurately captures how well off people feel”, the indication is that the stagnation has primarily sat on the back of those with lower shares of labor’s share of income.

Jared Bernstein and Lawrence Mishel reached similar conclusions in their 2006 paper, The Growing Gap Between Productivity and EarningsThe paper aimed at contending the narrative set out by President Bush’s chief economist, Edward Lazear, and Federal Reserve Governor Randall Krosner that recent American productivity gains are a “success story.” Bernstein and Mishel argue against the prevailing macroeconomic theory that productivity gains beget wage gains which began rising standards of living. The authors deflate compensation data with the GDP deflator instead of CPI, since the GDP deflator takes investment goods, which have grown at a slower rate than consumption goods, into account. Use of the CPI to deflate rates of compensation growth would not tell the correct story.

Bernstein and Mishel tackle the inequality wedge as well, quoting from Robert Gordon and Ian Drew Becker’s 2005 paper, Where did the Productivity Growth Go?;

The standard link between the standard of living and productivity growth is broken by our finding that over the entire period 1966-2001, which encompasses the period of the 1965-1979 productivity growth slowdown and subsequent 1995-2005 productivity growth revival, only the top 10 percent of the income distribution enjoyed a growth rate of total real income (excluding capital gains) equal to or above the average rate of economywide productivity growth. The bottom 90 percent of the income distribution fell behind or even were left out of the productivity gains entirely.

The authors also analyzed decoupling through plotting productivity against real hourly wages of non-managerial workers, which make up about the bottom 80% income distribution in the U.S., from 1966 to 2005. The decoupling starts in the early 1970s and as productivity rises from a baseline of 100 to nearly 220, real non-managerial wages are nearly stagnant; wavering between 110 and 100, ending up near 110 by 2005. For the authors along with this inequality aspect, the difference in GDP and CPI deflators, and the increase in capital’s share of national income as opposed to labor’s share, are the three main factors that explain decoupling in the U.S.

The paper then goes on to try to explain why the productivity/wage gap is symptomatic of something within the U.S. economy. Bernstein and Mishel contend that marginal production theory, that the a worker’s marginal wage is based on his or her productivity, does not fit well with the gap since there are many externalities that make the assumption somewhat moot. To understand the economic forces at play, the authors looked at 20th percentile real wages, productivity, and unemployment for the periods of 1984-1989, 1995-2000, and 2000-2005. To preface this, the authors look at unemployment rates from 1947-1973, a time when the split between productivity and wages was non-existent, which averaged 4.8%. Even with demographic and social shifts, from 1973-2005, the unemployment rate averaged 6.3%. Examining the return to full employment in the late 1990’s is crucial to the discussion. The data shows that at the height the business cycle’s unemployment rate of 1989 and 2000, unemployment was 5.3% and 4.0% while, over the period, productivity grew at an annual rate 1.5% and 2.5%, respectively, but 20th percentile real wages from 84-89 fell 0.1% annually while growing 2.3% annual from 95-2000. The authors looked at 2000-2005 data to extrapolate the findings; unemployment went back up to 5.1%, productivity rose 3.1% annually, while 20th percentile real wages only rose 0.1% annually. Only during the spell of full employment in the late 1990s did worker’s wages in the lowest quintile of the distribution scale rise in tandem with productivity gains. The authors attribute the gap and the violation of marginal productivity theory to particular social forces such as lessened worker’s bargaining power, a drive to productivity with the least labor costs as possible, wage caps, and cheap immigrant labor .

Next, Bernstein and Mishel try to discern whether or not rising health care costs explain the decoupling. The authors steadfastly say no, citing that 48% of workers do not get health care through their job; for workers making under $15, more than 6 of 10 do not. If health care coverage were filling in some of the gap between productivity and median wages, one would expect the rate of  wages to grow faster for workers without health care coverage. They looked at 10th, median, and 90th percentile wages over 2000-2005 and compared them to employer-provided health care coverage at the same percentiles. Instead of rising costs filling in the gap, the opposite occurred, with wages growing faster for workers with a greater share of health care coverage. Exacerbating this health care wedge was the declining percentage of health care as employer’s costs; rising costs begot less coverage.

Bernstein and Mishel take fault with Lazear’s and other economist’s explanation that lags have caused the decoupling and that productivity will soon level off. But structural changes within the U.S. economy over a period where full employment is the rarely seen point to decoupling as a fixture.

Peter Harrison’s study, Median Wages and Productivity Growth in Canada and the United States, found that from 1980 to 2005, real median hourly wages rose an average of 0.33% per year while labor productivity saw gains of 1.73% per year. This gap of 1.40% was driven mainly by inequality, which explained half of the split between productivity and wages. In Canada, the gap was a bit less, 1.26%, and inequality only accounted for 25% of the gap. Canada saw greater changes in supplementary labor income and labor’s terms of trade. Both the U.S. and Canada’s decline in labor’s share of income contributed to the decoupling as well; 17% and 20%, respectively. Harrison’s research pointed directly to the rising share of the top one percent of income distribution and the leveling or declining income shares elsewhere as the main drivers of the inequality. This data supports the ongoing struggle within American politics and social discourse about inequality between the 99% and 1%.

In the U.S. as present day recessionary forces press companies to cut back, they attempt to retain the most productive and talented of their work force. In order to keep these employees they may offer better compensation packages to attract the necessary talent, but try to accomplish a higher standard of work with less hires. Also, as the talent pool that employers realistically look at shrinks, less and less people get employee training that would have happened in the decades past. So the share of workers that can be competitive within these tough hiring environments drops as a result. As a longer trend, unions have been gradually declining and are now nearly insignificant in the U.S. labor landscape. Globalization also surely plays a part in the split as productivity gains can be seen by moving production of goods to countries with cheaper labor while the company profits stay at the top of the ladder. Plunkett turns to Jared Bernstein’s analysis that the problem is even more damaging as workers’ wages were not increasing during a time when the UK’s economy is growing and productivity was rising. Now more than ever, the average minimum wage worker in the U.S. will feel the consequences of these changes as inflation drives up the cost of necessity goods. A bigger and bigger cut of wages will go towards food, transportation, and shelter.


From Harper’s Magazine online archive:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. […] Is there no other way the world may live?

Dwight David Eisenhower, “The Chance for Peace,” speech given to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Apr. 16, 1953.

UW-Madison Professor of Public Affairs and Economics, Menzie Chenn, revisits the oft contended American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Chenn finds fault in the “massive” descriptor which is often added to the stimulus package and tries to put the stimulus’ budgetary effect in context with the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, spending on the Iraq War in 2010, and the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) with this graph:

Mark Thoma sounds off on the redux:

Menzie Chinn makes a point I’ve been trying to emphasize (with less than full success). When people ask why the fiscal stimulus didn’t do more to elevate the economy, the right question to ask is what fiscal stimulus? When the federal efforts are combined with the contractions at the state and local level, there was very little net stimulus. That doesn’t mean the federal efforts didn’t do something positive and important — if the federal government hadn’t offset the state and local contractions things would have been even worse — but it does mean that people looking for more than simply treading water as evidence that the fiscal stimulus had an impact are asking the wrong question…

Via Andrew Sullivan:

Suzanne Maloney thinks it’s the best bet:

Negotiations in the absence of mutual trust present a difficult dilemma but not a hopeless one. The depth of the estrangement that exists today between Washington and Tehran is hardly less fierce than it was during the hostage crisis, yet ultimately a mechanism for dialogue and a resolution to the standoff was found largely because both sides could ascertain no better alternative to achieve their interests. Even then, it took repeated forays and failures in diplomatic outreach by both sides, the persistent efforts of a well-situated objective intermediary, and a considerable investment in staff work to ensure preparation, mediation, and implementation of the complex financial, legal, security, and other dimensions of a bargain.

Paul Pillar factors in the effect of sanctions:

Western negotiators need to persuade the Iranians that concessions on their part will lead to the lifting of sanctions. This may be hard to do, partly because the legislation that imposes U.S. sanctions on Iran mentions human rights and other issues besides the nuclear program, and partly because many U.S. hawks openly regard sanctions only as a tool to promote regime change or as a necessary step toward being able to say that “diplomacy and sanctions have failed,” and thus launching a war is the only option left. The challenge for the Obama administration is to persuade Tehran that this attitude does not reflect official policy.

Meanwhile, President Obama addressed the GOP war hawks; from a Talking Points Memo rush transcript:

Now, what is said on the campaign trail, you know, those folks don’t have a lot of responsibilities. They are not commander-in-chief. And when I see the casualness with which some of these folks talk about war, I’m reminded of the costs involved in war. I’m reminded that the decision that I have to make, in terms of sending our young men and women into battle, and the impact that has on their lives, the impact it has on our national security, the impact it has on our economy. This is not a game, and there is nothing casual about it. And, you know, when I see some of these folks who have a lot of bluster and a lot of big talk, but when you actually ask them specifically what they would do, it turns out they repeat the things that we’ve been doing over the last three years. It indicates to me that that is more about politics than actually trying to solve a difficult problem. Now, the one thing that we have not done is we haven’t launched a war. If some of these folks think that it’s time to launch a war they should say so, and they should explain to the American people exactly why they would do that and what the consequences would be.

An adept deflection to all the GOP bluster, and perhaps, in particular, to his supposed Presidential opponent, Mitt Romney, who flat out lied when he said this on March 4th:

This is a president who has failed …  to communicate that military options are on the table and in fact in our hand. And that it’s unacceptable to America for Iran to have a nuclear weapon.

Bets are that Romney will not take a chance to defend his words directly. There’s a definite possibility he will try to posture himself in some weaseling two-faced way though.

Yesterday, Netanyahu gave his speech to AIPAC. Netanyahu hit all the formulaic talking points needed in a speech that will resonate through the U.S. and Israeli war hawk camps. Obama, who set his feet firmly in the sand against Iran procuring nuclear weapons while not speaking against their obtaining the capability, is now rebutted by Netanyahu redrawing the line in the sand once again ahead of Obama’s feet.

I think Netanyahu’s conflation of Iran’s repressive regime and “terror proxies” with a future recklessness with nuclear weapons ignores the simple understanding of risk. Iran’s government and the Ayatollah must know that if they discharge a nuclear missile upon any state in the world, they will be blasted back to the Stone Age. Israel has always been the dominant power in the Middle East during the nuclear age. It stands to reason they would not like any challenge to this position.

Netanyahu predictably says Iran’s procurement of a nuclear weapon is near, given their enrichment of uranium to medical cancer research levels. This is a decades old act; Juan Cole unpacks Scott Peterson’s timeline of the “imminent Iran nuclear threat”, which started all the way back in 1979:

1992: Israeli member of parliament Binyamin Netanyahu predicts that Iran was “3 to 5 years” from having a nuclear weapon.

1992: Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres predicts an Iranian nuclear warhead by 1999 to French TV.

1995: The New York Times quotes US and Israeli officials saying that Iran would have the bomb by 2000.

1998: Donald Rumsfeld tells Congress that Iran could have an intercontinental ballistic missile that could hit the US by 2003.

Besides foretelling the actions of a nuclear Iran, Netanyahu spouts typically hyperbolic and emotionally charged rhetoric perfect for the Republican hawk delegates and the like. A taste:

Through terror from the skies and terror on the ground, Iran is responsible for the murder of hundreds, if not thousands, of Americans.

Just a few months ago, it tried to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the US in a restaurant just a few blocks from here.  The assassins didn’t care that several Senators and members of Congress would have been murdered in the process.

Now this is real chutzpa, Iran accuses the American government of orchestrating 9/11, and that’s as brazen as denying the Holocaust, and they do…

Iran calls for Israel’s destruction, and they work for its destruction – each day, every day.

This is how Iran behaves today, without nuclear weapons.  Think of how they will behave tomorrow, with nuclear weapons.  Iran will be even more reckless and a lot more dangerous.

There’s been plenty of talk recently about the costs of stopping Iran.  I think it’s time we started talking about the costs of not stopping Iran.

A nuclear-armed Iran would dramatically increase terrorism by giving terrorists a nuclear umbrella. Let me try to explain what that means, a nuclear umbrella.

It means that Iran’s terror proxies like Hezbollah, Hamas will be emboldened to attack the United States, Israel, and other countries because they will be backed by a power that has atomic weapons. So the terrorism could grow tenfold.

Bibi begins and ends his speech bringing up the spectre of the Holocaust. In the middle, he of course, refers to Iran as a country of Holocust-deniers. At the end of the speech, Netanyahu uses the cautionary tale of a letter to the World Jewish Congress proclaiming that bombing Auschwitz in 1944 would take away from operations elsewhere and may even provoke even worse treatment at the hands of the Germans. Netanyahu then goes on to say:

The Jewish people are also different.  Today we have a state of our own.  And the purpose of the Jewish state is to defend Jewish lives and to secure the Jewish future.

Never again will we not be masters of the fate of our very survival. Never again.

That is why Israel must always have the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threat.

We deeply appreciate the great alliance between our two countries.  But when it comes to Israel’s survival, we must always remain the masters of our fate.

Israel’s fate is to continue to be the forward position of freedom in the Middle East.  The only place in the Middle East where minorities enjoy full civil rights; the only place in the Middle East where Arabs enjoy full civil rights; the only place in the Middle East where Christians are free to practice their faith; the only place in the Middle East where real judges protect the rule of law.

The last bit is just particularly sickening, a proclamation only bought by a deluded ultra-Orthodoxy and its political coattails and deafening hypocrisy which only degrades the uniqueness of the state of Israel and its government.

Furthermore, Netanyahu praises the EU and U.S. sanctions which have devastated Iran’s economy in the past months. Of course much evidence points to the fact that economic sanctions do little to change a country’s policies; UK House of Lords paper. But surely Netanyahu feels immense pleasure that Iran’s financial lifelines are being strangled. Perhaps he does know that the sanctions will only force Iran’s citizens inward and create a more monolithic anti-Western sentiment, one easier to combat and use propaganda against in the public’s eyes.

President Obama’s speech to AIPAC is a lesson in their two contrasting styles. Obama’s measured statement of policy gets a ratcheting up of fear. Containment is off the table for both, but Obama leaves the choice up to Iran. Even if that choice has already been made there and there is no way an about-face will occur, the same pro-war rhetoric is not there. Efforts to pursue diplomacy may still work. A preemptive attack is not inevitable. But Netanyahu chooses to commit Israel to one path, and if that path has to be walked alone, it will be. Will these two speeches to AIPAC be a defining moment in U.S.-Israeli relations? Netanyahu’s statement of cause and intention pushes America to either stand with Israel or to stand aside.

It is not in America’s direct interests to go to war with Iran, just as it is not in America’s best interests to follow Israel’s lead wherever it dare stick its nose. Here, Gideon Levy brilliantly writes of the phenomenon that is an elephant being led by an ant. Levy ponders the questionable dynamics of the foreign relations puzzle and wonders whether the interests of America and Israel will decouple anytime soon; his conclusion is succinctly given by the article’s title and byline, It’s just a matter of time before U.S. tires of Israel: Israel doesn’t know when to stop, and it could pay dearly as a result. Levy expresses his incredulity at the relationship’s recalcitrance. While many Jewish Americans and non-establishment Israelis realize all these conclusions and want to U.S. and Israeli foreign policy to not be one in the same as fast as possible, ironically it may not be in their hands. The religious and Biblical rhetoric used by the Orthodox political factions and Netanyahu pander to the Christianist bloc in America. They see and hear the Biblical language and geographical locations set out rightfully to the Jewish by the word of God and will follow means to those ends blindly. So this faction accepts Palestinian colonization and the Zionist movement.

There will surely be more blustering from here on out, especially with renewed diplomacy back on the table according to this article. The new round of talks has not been set yet.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany agreed to a new round of nuclear talks with Iran. Previous talks have not achieved what the powers want — an end to uranium enrichment on Iranian soil. The last round of negotiations in January 2011 ended in failure.

Ashton said in a statement that the EU hopes that Iran “will now enter into a sustained process of constructive dialogue which will deliver real progress in resolving the international community’s long-standing concerns on its nuclear program.”

In this post, Daniel Larison echos Daniel Levy’s point that Netanyahu is risk-averse, and delves into the political and popular constraints Bibi feels in Israel. Public opinion does not back the higher ups want to start a war with Iran. A poll from Shibley Telhami of the University of Maryland recorded the following:

Only 22 percent of Israelis believe that a military strike by Israel would delay Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons by at least five years; another 22 percent estimate a delay of three to five years. Nine percent of Israelis believe the delay would be only one or two years. Thirty percent of the respondents believe a strike would either have no effect on the Iranian program or would accelerate it. Asked what the effect of an Israeli strike would be on the Iranian government, respondents were evenly split between those who believe a strike would weaken the Iranian regime and those who believe it would be strengthened.

On the key question of whether Israel should launch such a strike notwithstanding the fact that the United States and powers advise against it, only 19 percent of Israelis favor a strike even in the face of U.S. opposition. Thirty-four percent oppose a strike no matter what. A plurality—42 percent—would back a strike only if it had at least the support of the United States.

In this you can see the similarities that the conservative wing in both the U.S. and Israel have been beating the war drums. The penetration to the bulk of the populace is not very deep at the moment; both populaces have economic problems to focus on, and starting a costly and potentially extremely destabilizing war is not first priority. To me, the most important conclusion the poll makes is that a good percentage Israelis think a strike on Iran would do little to or accelerate any Iranian nuclear weapons program. Even if a strike was able to completely annihilate all of Iran’s nuclear operations, they would still have the capabilities to rebuild, and rebuild in secret, and in branched out form to lessen the affects of any future attacks.

One of the problems with the air of militancy at the moment are the upcoming Israeli elections. For both the U.S. and Israel, an attack on Iran would mean catastrophically high global oil prices. Aside from their aversion to striking for other reasons, the price at the pump would compound any political benefits from aggression. Not only is Netanyahu’s reelection a source for treading lightly while brewing up talk is that the Israeli higher ups obviously want U.S. backing their military coercion. So far we have not indulged this suicidal request. Perhaps this means that if President Obama is reelected a more forceful stance will be held after November. In the mean time Netanyahu’s own coalition is not fully supportive of his push for war. Daniel Levy makes this case:

Especially noteworthy is the extent to which the elements of Netanyahu’s coalition further to his right have not embraced or promoted military action against Iran. In fact, they tend to demonstrate a lack of enthusiasm at the prospect. This applies to both the ultra-Orthodox and the greater Israel settler-nationalists. One reason is that they view the Iran issue as peripheral when compared with, say, the pursuit of settlements and an irreversible presence in all of greater Israel. 

Leave it to the ultra-Orthodox and nationalists to always put the Israeli-Palestinian question over any other geopolitical consideration. Incredibly, Levy points out that an attack on Iran would take away from settlement efforts. Larison thinks this is a point lost on much of U.S. public opinion, who think war hawks are equally in favor of settlements. Levy’s point that Iran talk keeps many minds off settlements, a residual effect perhaps, but one that is advantageous to their goals.

At a speech before AIPAC today, Obama reaffirmed his goal of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, stated in his interview with Jeffrey Goldberg. This does not mean to decapitate the Iranian nuclear program; they would still have the capability, but his objective is to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of the Iranian government. From his speech at AIPAC:

Iran’s leaders should know that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon …. Already, there is too much loose talk of war. Over the last few weeks, such talk has only benefited the Iranian government, by driving up the price of oil, which they depend upon to fund their nuclear program. For the sake of Israel’s security, America’s security, and the peace and security of the world, now is not the time for bluster; now is the time to let our increased pressure sink in, and to sustain the broad international coalition that we have built. Now is the time to heed that timeless advice from Teddy Roosevelt: speak softly, but carry a big stick.

As Spencer Ackerman notes, Obama’s speech shows a resiliency against Netanyahu’s war mongering, and set his feet firmly in the sand; a position against war, and against nuclear weapons. From practical terms this should be a popular place to stand. Iran armed with a nuclear weapon would create a whole new dynamic in the Middle East. Nuclear proliferation would ramp up and many countries would try their hand in the race to armament. Israel would have to deal with many more threats to its sovereignty. The President also reaffirms his pledge to the Israeli state; something he must have felt compelled to do before AIPAC. Here’s Ackerman ending, peering into one of the many facet Netanyahu will have to consider with the cards in his hand:

Are we closer to avoiding an Iran war? It seems like it The onus is on Netanyahu now to respond to Obama. One can cynically suggest that one of Netanyahu’s targets in a strike on Iran is Obama’s presidency; I would not put anything past Netanyahu. But Netanyahu has to consider — and my understanding is his advisers are indeed considering this — that Obama may very well be reelected, and then Israel will have to deal with the consequences of defying him when he returns to the height of his political power. Obama’s speech to AIPAC threw down a gauntlet to multiple audiences, while challenging them to do things his way.

This leaves me with the ultimate hope that President Obama is leaving the door slightly ajar for a diplomatic solution. Perhaps it is possible to hash out a plan of denuclearization for the U.S. and Israel to whip up goodwill. It is hard to see the future road going anywhere good. Iran’s nationalistic pride over its nuclear program is a massive barrier to diplomacy of disarmament. And Israel, never even official stating that it has nuclear weapons, should be seen as an equally stubborn wall. President Obama must maneuver in such a narrow diplomatic strait that the chances of the ship grounding on either side of the problem is very high. Obama’s rhetoric leaves being drawn into war equally as likely as diplomacy. This is the main problem of his speech before AIPAC, that while firmly placing America’s feet in the sand, that position may be in front of the line it needs to be to stay out of costly combat. The challenge now will be whether the President can retrace his steps instead of being drawn consequences much larger than Libya. In the face of AIPAC he may not be able to, but if he is able to re-posture the conversation within a larger context of Israeli and U.S. popular opinion, he may be able to regain a workable backbone.