October 15, 2012

Benghazi: Gross Incompetence or Criminal?

The title of this piece in The Weekly Standard about the Benghazi disaster is titled "Confusion of Coverup?," but I'd say "both, and add gross incompetence to it as well."

If the Obama Administration was confused, then they're guilty of gross incompetence. It's not as if security for an America ambassador or one of our embassies or compounds is something new. If covering things up, their handling of the disaster is criminal or nearly so.

Either way, this timeline of events is fascinating. Fascinating, and devastating to the Obama Administration's fictional tales.

Confusion or Coverup?
What we knew about the Benghazi attack and when we knew it.
Thomas Joscelyn
October 22, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 06

On September 11, 2012, the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was assaulted by dozens of terrorists. U.S. ambassador John Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed. The attack followed an al Qaeda-inspired protest in front of the U.S. embassy in Cairo that same day. And in the days that followed, other U.S. embassies were stormed.

Throughout those challenging days and the weeks that followed, the Obama administration struggled to explain to Americans what had occurred. It took weeks for the administration to disavow the phony storyline it adopted early on. Administration officials maintained that the terrorist attack in Benghazi was the result of a "spontaneous" protest that spun out of control. The protesters supposedly objected to an anti-Islam film titled The Innocence of Muslims.

But there never was any protest in Benghazi. The consulate was simply attacked by terrorists, almost certainly al Qaeda-affiliated groups, on the eleventh anniversary of the most devastating al Qaeda attack in history.

The Obama administration, notably the president himself, was slow to publicly acknowledge al Qaeda's hand in these events. It is not clear even at this writing if President Obama has yet mentioned "al Qaeda" or affiliated groups in this context. The president has found time to repeat one of his favorite campaign mantras: "Al Qaeda is on the path to defeat and Osama bin Laden is dead." But when it comes to the events in Benghazi, the president has offered an inconsistent and misleading narrative.

A timeline of events is set forth below. The events highlighted show that al Qaeda's growing presence inside Libya was recognized by the U.S. government prior to the events of September 11, 2012. The day before the attack in Benghazi, al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri called on jihadists to avenge the drone killing in June of a top al Qaeda operative who hailed from Libya. Other al Qaeda-linked individuals were involved in the assaults on U.S. embassies elsewhere. While it is understandable that the U.S. government would seek to distance itself from a piece of anti-Muslim propaganda, the film repeatedly cited played only an ancillary role in these events.

August - An unclassified report published by the federal research division of the Library of Congress under an agreement with the Defense Department highlights the growing threat of Al Qaeda in Libya. The report ("Al Qaeda in Libya: A Profile") says that al Qaeda's senior leadership in Pakistan has dispatched operatives to Libya. Al Qaeda is on the verge of a fully "operational network," according to the report, and al Qaeda-affiliated militias have acquired extensive weaponry and established training camps. The report notes that al Qaeda operatives inside Libya are also working with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

September 9, Egypt - Clips of The Innocence of Muslims are shown on Egyptian television.

September 10 - Al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri releases through jihadist websites a video eulogy for slain al Qaeda leader Abu Yahya al Libi and says that his organization and its ideology are alive. Zawahiri says that Libi's "blood is calling, urging and inciting you to fight and kill the crusaders." Ayman al Zawahiri uses the video to boast that al Qaeda has not been defeated, but its "message has spread amongst our Muslim Ummah, which received it with acceptance and responded to it." A clip of Mohammed al Zawahiri, Ayman's brother (who told CNN earlier this year that al Qaeda's strength is "not in its leaders but in its ideology") is included in the video.

September 11, Cairo, Egypt (early morning) - The U.S. embassy issues a statement indirectly denouncing The Innocence of Muslims. According to the Washington Post, the embassy condemns efforts made by "misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims--as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions." Parts of the statement are also released via Twitter.

September 11, Cairo (morning) - A large crowd carrying numerous al Qaeda flags protests outside the U.S. embassy. Protesters scale the embassy's wall, raise the flag commonly used by Al Qaeda in Iraq, and burn the Stars and Stripes. The protesters chant in Arabic: "Obama! Obama! We are all Osama!" A similar refrain is spray-painted on walls near the embassy. Mohammed al Zawahiri is interviewed by a jihadist propaganda outlet in front of the embassy. He admits to CNN he helped stage the protest.

September 11, Benghazi, Libya (about 2:30 p.m. EDT) - Ambassador Stevens walks his guests out of the compound and onto the street. There is no sign of a protest.

September 11, Benghazi (beginning around 3:40 p.m. EDT) - The terrorist attack on the Benghazi consulate begins. It lasts hours. The terrorists use AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades in a complex assault on the compound. The assailants use diesel fuel to set the compound's buildings ablaze.

September 11 (10:08 p.m. EDT) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton releases a statement on the day's events. "Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind."

September 12, Washington (10:43 a.m. EDT) - In the White House Rose Garden, President Obama addresses the nation concerning the attack in Benghazi. "We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others," he says. "But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence." The president adds, "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for."

September 12 - The press is connecting the dots to al Qaeda. CNN's Wolf Blitzer tells viewers that while it is "unclear right now .  .  . it sounds like that al Qaeda operation in Libya is very, very real indeed." Blitzer continues: "All of this suggests to me .  .  . that the attack yesterday on the U.S. ambassador and other Americans on the 11th anniversary of 9/11 was not necessarily simply a coincidence."

September 12, Washington (evening) - Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick F. Kennedy describes the events in Benghazi as a terrorist attack during a private briefing for House and Senate staffers, according to Fox News.

September 13, Sanaa, Yemen - The U.S. embassy is stormed after Sheikh Abdul Majid al Zindani calls for protests, according to the New York Times. Zindani is a known al Qaeda supporter who was designated an Osama bin Laden "loyalist" by the Treasury Department in 2004.

September 13, Washington (evening) - Secretary Clinton honors the end of Ramadan alongside Libyan ambassador Ali Aujali, who denounces the "terrorist attack" in Libya. Clinton refers to the attack as "the actions of a small and savage group" and again denounces the anti-Islam video. "Unfortunately, however, over the last 24 hours, we have also seen violence spread elsewhere," Clinton says. "Some seek to justify this behavior as a response to inflammatory, despicable material posted on the Internet. As I said earlier today, the United States rejects both the content and the message of that video. The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others."

September 14, Tunis, Tunisia - The U.S. embassy is assaulted by a group called Ansar al Sharia Tunisia. That group is headed by a notorious al Qaeda-linked terrorist named Seifallah ben Hassine, aka Abu Iyad al Tunisi. The embassy staff has already been evacuated, but Hassine's mob ransacks American property, including cars and a school. In 2000, Hassine cofounded the Tunisian Combatant Group (TCG). According to the United Nations, the TCG was created "in coordination with" al Qaeda. Hassine spent years in prison in Tunisia but was freed in 2011.

September 14, Andrews Air Force Base (2:46 p.m. EDT) - President Obama and Secretary Clinton attend the transfer of remains ceremony for Ambassador Stevens and the three other Americans killed in Benghazi. "This has been a difficult week for the State Department and for our country," Clinton says. "We've seen the heavy assault on our post in Benghazi that took the lives of those brave men. We've seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with. It is hard for the American people to make sense of that because it is senseless, and it is totally unacceptable." Clinton quotes from a letter written by the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, who condemned the attack as "an act of ugly terror."

September 14, Washington - "It was a terrorist attack, organized and carried out by terrorists," notably 15 members of "al Qaeda or radical Islamists," says Senator John McCain after a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting. "This was a calculated act of terror on the part of a small group of jihadists, not a mob that somehow attacked and sacked our embassy," McCain says. "People don't go to demonstrate and carry RPGs and automatic weapons."

September 16 (Sunday morning) - U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice goes on five Sunday talk shows to explain what happened in Benghazi. Her narrative is wrong in almost every detail. On CBS News's Face the Nation, for example, Rice says the attack was "sparked by this hateful video." She says that "spontaneous protest began outside of our consulate in Benghazi .  .  . extremist elements, individuals, joined in that--in that effort with heavy weapons of the sort that are, unfortunately, readily now available in Libya post-revolution. And that it spun from there into something much, much more violent." Rice adds, "We do not .  .  . have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned." Rice makes similar comments on the other four shows.

Libyan president Mohamed Yousef El-Magariaf also appears on Face the Nation and directly contradicts Rice's claims, saying that the attack was "planned--definitely" and that some of those arrested in connection with the attack are associated with al Qaeda.

September 17, Washington (1:57 p.m. EDT) - During a press briefing, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland is asked about Ambassador Rice's comments the day before. "I'd simply say that I don't have any information beyond what Ambassador Rice shared with you and that her assessment does reflect our initial assessment as a government," Nuland says. Asked if the attack in Benghazi was an act of terror, Nuland responds, "I'm not going to put labels on this until we have a complete investigation" and "I don't think we know enough."

September 18 (evening) - President Obama appears on The Late Show with David Letterman. "The ambassador to Libya killed in an attack on the consulate in Benghazi, is this an act of war, are we at war now? What happens here?" Letterman asks. President Obama responds: "No. Here's what happened. You had a video that was released by somebody who lives here, sort of a shadowy character who is extremely offensive [sic] video directed at Muhammad and Islam. .  .  . So this caused great offense in much of the Muslim world. But what also happened was extremists and terrorists used this as an excuse to attack a variety of our embassies, including the one, the consulate in Libya."

September 19, Washington - National Counterterrorism director Matthew Olsen labels the attack in Benghazi a "terrorist attack."

September 20, Washington - White House press secretary Jay Carney calls the attack in Benghazi terrorism for the first time.

September 20 - CBS News reports that "there was never an anti-American protest outside of the consulate" in Benghazi. Instead, according to witnesses, the consulate "came under planned attack." CBS News adds: "That is in direct contradiction to the administration's account of the incident."

September 20 - President Obama is asked about the attack in Libya and other embassy assaults during an appearance on Univision. "What we do know is that the natural protests that arose because of the outrage over the video were used as an excuse by the extremists to see if they could directly harm U.S. interests," President Obama says.

September 21 - "What happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack, and we will not rest until we have tracked down and brought to justice the terrorists who murdered four Americans," Secretary Clinton says.

September 24 - President Obama appears on The View. When asked if it was a terrorist attack in Benghazi, Obama responds: "There's no doubt that the kind of weapons that were used, the ongoing assault, that it wasn't just a mob action. What's clear is that, around the world, there are still a lot of threats out there."

September 25, New York - Before the United Nations General Assembly, President Obama gives an impassioned defense of free speech, while denouncing The Innocence of Muslims. He attributes the events of "the last two weeks" to "a crude and disgusting video that sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world." The president continues: "Now, I have made it clear that the United States government had nothing to do with this video, and I believe its message must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity." The president mentions terrorism only in passing: "Al Qaeda has been weakened, and Osama bin Laden is no more." The president does not mention al Qaeda or affiliated groups or terrorism in the context of the attack in Benghazi.

September 26, New York - At the U.N., Secretary Clinton publicly connects Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb to the attack in Benghazi, saying that AQIM members "are working with other violent extremists to undermine the democratic transitions underway in North Africa, as we tragically saw in Benghazi." The New York Times reports that she is "the highest-ranking Obama administration official to publicly make the connection."

September 27 - Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the attack in Benghazi was an act of terror.

September 28 - The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) releases a statement taking responsibility for attributing the attack in Benghazi to a spontaneous protest. The ODNI says that initially "there was information that led us to assess that the attack began spontaneously following protests earlier that day at our embassy in Cairo." The ODNI "provided that initial assessment to Executive Branch officials and members of Congress, who used that information to discuss the attack publicly and provide updates as they became available."

October 9, Washington - Two senior State Department officials brief the press on the attack in Benghazi, saying the assault was "unprecedented" and there was no protest beforehand. When asked what led the Obama administration to conclude that a protest precipitated the violence, one official responded: "That is a question that you would have to ask others. That was not our conclusion. I'm not saying that we had a conclusion, but we outlined what happened." This directly contradicts earlier statements made by senior State Department officials.

October 10, Washington - Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Charlene Lamb testifies before the House Oversight Committee, "Dozens of attackers .  .  . launched a full-scale assault" on the Benghazi consulate "that was unprecedented in its size and intensity." Lamb makes no mention of a protest.

Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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September 14, 2012

The World Obama Created

This editorial sums up my thoughts pretty well. Obama has been in office for three and three-quarters years, so it's time for him and his minions to stop blaming previous administrations and own up. They have had plenty of time to "reset" relations, and improve relations. But it obviously hasn't worked.

Instead, the White House insists that the Islamist/Jihadist/Terrorist Muslim government in Egypt is an "ally," but the president won't meet with the Israeli prime minister. This is Obama's world, and the results are plain for all to see.

The World Obama Created
Leading from behind leads to global chaos
The Washington Times
Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The tragic events that took place in Libya and Egypt this week were the inevitable consequences of weak U.S. leadership. America and the world cannot afford four more such years.

In Benghazi, four Americans including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens were murdered in a coordinated attack on the U.S. consulate by Islamic militants. On the same day, al Qaeda released a video in which leader Ayman al-Zawahri eulogized Abu Yahya al-Libi, a Libyan al Qaeda commander believed killed in June by a U.S. drone strike. This was no coincidence.

In Cairo, demonstrators -- upset over an allegedly anti-Islamic film trailer being circulated on YouTube -- spray-painted the outside of the U.S. embassy with anti-American slogans, then scaled the walls, hauled down the American flag and ripped it to pieces. Old Glory was replaced by a black jihadist banner as the crowd chanted, "Obama, Obama there are still a billion Osamas."

American inadequacy was compounded in the communications crisis surrounding the incident. Our Cairo embassy put out a statement even before the flag was torn down denouncing the "misguided" film and voicing U.S. support for Islam. This semi-apology clearly had no effect, unless it was to embolden the crowd. After the flag was torn to shreds, there followed a bizarre Twitter debate between an embassy employee and an Egyptian activist in which the staffer seemed to be more concerned with denouncing the purported pretext for the mob's riot than condemning the violence itself. "We consistently stand up for Muslims around the world and talk abt [sic] how Islam is a wonderful religion," the tweeter explained.

These messages were later deleted and serve as a good illustration why Twitter and diplomacy don't mix. If the Obama administration wanted to send a brief missive to the demonstrators, it should have opted for the one suggested by columnist Charles Krauthammer: "Go to Hell."

Both of these crises could have been avoided. They were obviously timed for the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America. In the past, U.S. facilities at home and abroad were placed on high alert on Sept. 11 to be prepared for such situations. There is no evidence of any such warnings going out this year. More disturbingly, according to White House records, President Obama skipped every daily intelligence briefing from Sept. 6-11. The question now is: Did the United States have any prior warning about the impending attacks that might have been acted on had Mr. Obama been paying closer attention?

The brewing crisis in North Africa is a symptom of a foreign policy adrift. It was with respect to Libya that an Obama administration official admiringly coined the expression "leading from behind," a lame attempt to portray Mr. Obama as a deft manager of international crises. However, the term quickly caught on as a more pointed critique of a president who was frequently behind, but never leading. In general, he has been disengaged. A government employee who attended the Pentagon's Sept. 11 anniversary ceremony said Mr. Obama "looked bored," and that while his speech said the right things, "the words never rose up into his eyes."

Mr. Obama points with pride to his foreign-policy record, but there is little to respect. America's global reputation has declined since January 2009. There is no region in the world where U.S. interests are advancing.

The United States no longer has a strong leadership position in Europe. The trans-Atlantic relationship has withered. America is playing no important part in trying to resolve the European debt crisis which threatens to plunge the world into a new recession, if it is not already there. Germany, which has assumed the lead role in addressing the problem, is now voicing concerns that the record amounts of debt being accumulated by the Obama administration will be the catalyst for a new economic collapse.

Mr. Obama has tried to remain flexible for Russia, an adversary state whose leader Vladimir Putin isn't short on ambition. Moscow agreed to the 2010 New START nuclear-arms reduction treaty because it was a bad deal for America. Now the Obama administration is talking about further nuclear cuts, which will weaken our strategic deterrent at a time when Russia and China are modernizing their nuclear arsenals, and proliferator states like North Korea and Pakistan ponder how best to expand their nuclear programs. Washington has no evident influence on Chinese behavior and relies on Beijing to continue to assume responsibility for buying up our mounting debt. U.S. influence in Central and South America is in decline.

There is no evident progress being made in the world's hotspots. The war in Afghanistan grinds on, producing higher casualties and greater volatility. The only thing Mr. Obama can say for certain about that unfortunate country is American troops are departing, and soon. Pakistan remains a haven for terrorists, while Iraq is seeing a spike in sectarian violence. There is no steady hand anywhere across the arc of instability.

Tehran continues its march to nuclear-weapons capability, and the Obama administration seems more concerned with setting red lines for Israel than for Iran. Relations between Mr. Obama and the Israeli prime minister are so frosty that the president has refused to meet with Benjamin Netanyahu when both will be at the United Nations this month. Mr. Obama petulantly cutting off communications will virtually guarantee a major crisis in the region; it's only a matter of time.

The fallout from the much-heralded Arab Spring continues. In Syria, a full-scale civil war is under way which the United States has chosen not to decisively influence. In Egypt, the world is beginning to witness the results of what the State Department described as "legitimate Islamism." Present in the mob outside the U.S. embassy in Cairo on Tuesday was the family of blind Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, who is serving a life sentence for masterminding the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, has promised to seek Rahman's release. Anti-American sentiment is growing, non-Muslim religious minorities are facing increased persecution, and Egypt's peace treaty with Israel that has maintained regional stability for three decades is under assault.

The analogy to the failed Carter presidency is striking. Both Democrats came to power offering a moral critique of U.S. foreign and national-security policy. Both exploited war weariness and a desire for U.S. retrenchment. Both were greeted with enthusiasm from a global community skeptical of American activism. And both were taken advantage of by adversary states who understood that these liberals were weak leaders. Jimmy Carter also saw a diplomat killed on his watch: Adolph "Spike" Dubs, the U.S. representative to Afghanistan who was murdered in Kabul in 1979.

The one positive decision Mr. Obama can point to -- taking out Osama bin Laden -- is his weakest argument for a second term. After all, bin Laden is dead, and that operation cannot be repeated.

It's easier to allow global chaos to emerge than to do the hard work of maintaining stability. It's simpler to make speeches and curry favor than take tough positions needed to advance U.S. interests. Over his term in office, Mr. Obama hasn't shown the necessary qualities for a global leader, and the considerable damage caused by his policies speak for themselves. The world is teetering on the brink of disaster because Mr. Obama has failed to lead. The United States cannot afford another four years of empty-chair diplomacy.

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September 13, 2012

The Result of Obama's Weakness

It is said that in the days of the Roman Republic and Empire, Roman citizens enjoyed a level of protection simply by virtue of their status. If the locals abused them, or brigands set upon them, sooner or later the Legions would show up and lay waste to the area.

Roman authorities, including soldiers, throughout the Empire knew they had to give special treatment to Roman citizens or they, too, would pay. Acts 22:22-29 is illustrative:

The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, "Rid the earth of him! He's not fit to live!"

As they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, the commander ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. He directed that he be flogged and interrogated in order to find out why the people were shouting at him like this. As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there, "Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn't even been found guilty?"

When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. "What are you going to do?" he asked. "This man is a Roman citizen."

The commander went to Paul and asked, "Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?"

"Yes, I am," he answered.

Then the commander said, "I had to pay a lot of money for my citizenship."

"But I was born a citizen," Paul replied.

Those who were about to interrogate him withdrew immediately. The commander himself was alarmed when he realized that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains.

That the brigands of the world should know that if they abuse an American sooner or later our Legions would arrive.

Upon this a question arises: whether it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be dispensed with.

The Prince
by Nicolo Machiavelli

Liberals are obsessed with the idea that others should like us. We should be concerned with whether they fear and respect us. And in this world, respect comes more from fear than respect. I write more about the fear of consequences from the boss, than fear of a Stalin.

"Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead!"

Theodore Roosevelt

To be sure Roosevelt's bluster was just about that, and the situation not that straightforward, but would that we had a president - of either party - that issued that sort of threat.

"Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

Ronald Reagan

Some of Reagan's own advisers kept telling him it was too abrasive and inflammatory and he had to take it out of his speech. Reagan kept it in. Would it be that we had a president bold enough to tell off dictators like he did. This is the only language they respect.

Some recent events have exposed President Obama's weakness for all to see:

In Benghazi, four Americans including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens were murdered in a coordinated attack on the U.S. consulate by Islamic militants. On the same day, al Qaeda released a video in which leader Ayman al-Zawahri eulogized Abu Yahya al-Libi, a Libyan al Qaeda commander believed killed in June by a U.S. drone strike. This was no coincidence.

In Cairo, demonstrators -- upset over an allegedly anti-Islamic film trailer being circulated on YouTube -- spray-painted the outside of the U.S. embassy with anti-American slogans, then scaled the walls, hauled down the American flag and ripped it to pieces. Old Glory was replaced by a black jihadist banner as the crowd chanted, "Obama, Obama there are still a billion Osamas."

Well I guess Obama's famous (or infamous?)1990 Cairo speech, "A New Beginning," didn't exactly have the effect he had intended.

At the Democratic National Convention two weeks ago our idiot-savant Vice President Joe Biden said ""America is NOT in decline. I've got news for Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan, it has never, never, ever, been a good bet to bet against the American people."

Apparently they didn't get the message in the Middle East. They're betting against us, and right about now I'd put odds on them winning.

We abandoned the Iranian people in 2009, and the world took notice. They found out that standing up for freedom got you nowhere with the U.S.

Meanwhile, we cower before the false "freedom" of the so-called Arab Spring in the Sunni world. We refuse to condemn the radicalism of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the serial lies of Mohammed Morsi, the new president of Egypt.

As we are seeing, foreign policy is not a "distraction." A strong America as the world leader is integral to who we are and what we should remain. Both the Ron Paul right and Code Pink left are wrong.

The problem is not insults against Islam. Insulting things are said about Christianity every day, and if you search you will find hundreds if not thousands of anti-Christian diatribes on YouTube and everywhere else. Does anyone see Christians rioting anywhere?

Of course not. Jews also never riot. For that matter, I don't see Hindus or Buddhists rioting either.

Far from Islam being under attack, the reality is that religious minorities in Muslim countries are under attack today in a way that we have not seen in decades.

The excuse from the left is that it was only a "few extremists" involved in the rioting. What nonsense. This type of thing is encouraged or winked at by Arab/Muslim governments. They won't condemn these attacks, nor will they arrest and try the perpetrators. They want "independent" mobs to do this so that their fingerprints aren't on it. The mob is doing the work of the government.

And let's be clear; Egypt has a terrorist government. The Muslim Brotherhood is a Jihadist organization, and the only difference between them and al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, or Hamas is tactical.

t is not the business of the United States government what private individuals say about anything, or what films they make. The idea that we are suppose to "understand" the sensitivities of Muslims who rampage an riot over an obscure video is insane. No. They grow up and change their behavior. You do not riot over what someone says about you or your religion period.

Mitt Romney correctly called the Obama Administration's Carteresque response "disgraceful." Predictably, the idiots at MSNBC are more outraged at what Romney said than the attacks on Americans. The left says Romney is "politicizing" the situation. What a load of bull. They're just upset because they know that Obama is vulnerable and they are spinning like tops. 9-11 came when Bush had only been in office for eight months, and was more the result of Clinton's policies than his own. This comes after more than three and a half years of Obama, and is clearly the result of U.S. weakness. That Romney's response is being criticized by liberal media types tells me he's doing the right thing. They love Republicans who are ineffective and only offer "may I please comment on the president's policies?" criticisms, and fear Republicans who call out Obama for what he is really doing to our country.

They attack the U.S. when they believe we are vulnerable and weak. When they believe we will not respond strongly. Right now they don't think we will cut off aid, or impose diplomatic or economic sanctions, much less actually attack rioters who kill Americans.

Strength dissuades attacks on our country. Equivocation and a weak response only invites more attacks.

What do we expect when Obama has not been going to his National Security Briefings? When he doesn't have time to even meet with the Prime Minister of Israel? But he does have time for a fundraiser with Jay z and Beyonce?

Meanwhile, the Iranians are hard at work on a bomb, and what are we going to do about that? Nothing, I am sure.

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April 27, 2012

Why You Can't Tax Your Way Out of a Deficit

In a word: Illinois. George F Will explains:

Illinois is running out of time and money
by George F Will
April 25, 2012

After trying to tax Illinois to governmental solvency and economic dynamism, Pat Quinn, a Democrat who has been governor since 2009, now says "our rendezvous with reality has arrived." Actually, Illinois is still reality-averse, so Americans may soon learn the importance of the freedom to fail in a system of competitive federalism.

Illinois was more heavily taxed than the five contiguous states (Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin) even before January 2011, when Quinn got a lame-duck legislature (its successor has fewer Democrats) to raise corporate taxes 30 percent (from 7.3 percent to 9.5 percent), giving Illinois one of the highest state corporate taxes and the fourth-highest combination of national and local corporate taxation in the industrialized world. Since 2009, Quinn has spent more than $500 million in corporate welfare to bribe companies not to flee the tax environment he has created.

Quinn raised personal income taxes 67 percent (from 3 percent to 5 percent), adding about $1,040 to the tax burden of a family of four earning $60,000. Illinois' unemployment rate increased faster than any other state's in 2011. Its pension system is the nation's most underfunded, and the state has floated bond issues to finance pension contributions -- borrowing money that someday must be repaid, to replace what should have been pension money that it spent on immediate gratifications.

Quinn's recent flirtation with realism -- a plan to raise the retirement age to 67 and cap pension cost-of-living adjustments -- is less significant than the continuing unrealistic expectation that some of Illinois' pension investments will grow 8.5 percent annually. Although the state Constitution mandates balancing the budget, this is almost meaningless while the state sells bonds to pay for operating expenses (in just 10 years the state's bonded debt has increased from $9.4 billion to $30 billion), underfunds pensions and other liabilities, and makes vendors wait (they are owed $5.6 billion).

The Illinois Policy Institute, a limited-government think tank, in a report cheekily titled "Another $54 Billion!?" argues that in addition to the $83 billion in pension underfunding the state acknowledges, there is $54 billion in unfunded retiree health liabilities over the next 30 years. Illinois, a stronghold of public-employees unions, "is on pace to spend nearly $1 billion on retiree health care benefits in fiscal year 2013, more than double what it spent in 2003. Worse yet, these liabilities are growing more than twice as fast as tax revenues."

To prepare for Illinois' probable plunge into insolvency, read "Freedom to Fail: The Keystone of American Federalism" by Paul E. Peterson and Daniel Nadler in the University of Chicago Law Review. They note that only 25 of the world's 193 nations have federal systems, and in most of the 25 the freedom of the lower tiers of government is more circumscribed by the central government than American state governments are by the federal government. American states' greater freedom -- autonomy under America's system of dual sovereignty -- from the central government's supervision requires that they be disciplined instead by the market for government bonds, and by the real possibility of default.

Peterson, a professor of government at Harvard, and Nadler, a doctoral candidate also at Harvard, say that collective bargaining rights for government employees pose "a dramatically new challenge to the viability" of American federalism. They cite studies demonstrating that investors' perceptions of risk of default are correlated with the rate of unionization among government employees. Higher percentages of government employees who are unionized, and larger Democratic shares of state legislative seats, correlate with increases in state borrowing costs.

At least 12 percent of Americans change their residences each year, often moving to more hospitable economic environments. In a system of competitive federalism, Peterson and Nadler write, "If states and localities attempt in a serious way to tax the rich and give to the poor, the rich will depart while the poor will be attracted." And government revenues and expenditures vary inversely.

From September through December 2008, the premium that investors demanded before they would buy California debt rather than U.S. Treasurys jumped from 24 to 271 basis points (100 points equals 1 percent). The bond market, the only remaining reality check for state politicians, must be allowed to work.

Constitutional jurisprudence affirms that states exercising substantial autonomous powers thereby assume concomitant risks. Federal loans or other bailouts of misgoverned states would remove bond market discipline, the only inhibition on the alliance between the Democratic portion of the political class and unionized public employees.

georgewill@washpost.com

You can't tax your way out of a deficit. What is true at the state and local level is true at that national level. The only difference is that the Feds can hide the problem through deficit spending, an option not available to localities (bonds being different than deficit spending).

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April 24, 2012

Obama's Destructive Foreign Policy

It is right and good that the focus of politics these days is on the budget, jobs and the economy, and health care, because those are the issues that are front and center to most people. But we must not ignore foreign policy, for what happens overseas does come back to affect us. And since President Obama's foreign policy has been positively destructive to American interests, it will come back to haunt us.

Victor Davis Hanson, has the details in an excellent article in National Review today. Following are the highlights, but follow the link and read the whole thing:

Obama's Undiplomacy
Community-organizing skills don't cut it on the world stage
April 24, 2012
By Victor Davis Hanson

Most of the criticism of the Obama administration's foreign policy concerns the failure of "reset diplomacy," the inability to deal with Iran or North Korea, or the sense that we are ignoring allies and appeasing enemies.

All true. But under the radar, there are several developments that are far more disturbing than we seem to realize.

Take the RQ-170 Sentinel spy drone that went down in Iran in December 2011. The U.S. chose neither to attempt to retrieve it nor to bomb the wreckage. Why? Who knows? But it seems that, as in the case of the administration's silence when Iranians hit the streets in protest during the spring of 2009, Obama was worried about provoking an Iranian response. Although Iran brags that it will reverse-engineer the drone, it is not likely to actually do so. However, it will very probably sell off key components to the Chinese and the Russians, who will duplicate it or at least find far more effective ways to neutralize its use.

Most recently, during a Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, Barack Obama weighed in on the Falklands in a fashion that was both offensive and ignorant: "And in terms of the Maldives or the Falklands, whatever your preferred term, our position on this is that we are going to remain neutral. We have good relations with both Argentina and Great Britain, and we are looking forward to them being able to continue to dialogue on this issue. But this is not something that we typically intervene in."

Almost everything in that statement was false or dangerous. Aside from the 57-state-type error of Maldives for Malvinas, the U.S. does not look forward to "dialogue" on the issue, but rather avoids it like the plague. And in the past, we were not neutral but eventually intervened with massive clandestine support for Great Britain, a NATO ally. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had previously used the term Malvinas, which is a sort of Argentine equivalent of "the Zionist entity" -- a bankrupt construct loaded with cultural and political significance. Obama should know that the more he uses that term (or trills some sort of M-word for an archipelago somewhere on the map), the more likely it is that there will be an Argentine effort to replicate the 1982 attack, especially as the Peronist Kirchner regime seeks foreign scapegoats (cf. the recent nationalization of the Spanish oil firm Repsol's stake in an Argentine company), and the British loudly reduce their military forces. Fears of massive American logistical and intelligence support for Great Britain alone keep the Argentinians guessing, and by extension not trying something as stupid as replaying the 1982 invasion.

The problem is not just that Obama has no knowledge of geography, but that he has none either about history or diplomacy. The Falklands, a windswept, lightly populated group of islands with a history of sparse European settlement, never fit the so-called colonialist model of oppression of indigenous peoples. The isolated and barren islands were always disputed by European powers, and are as much British as Guam is American. More importantly, Britain has fought side by side with the U.S. -- after a past century of solidarity -- in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet Obama insidiously is eroding that relationship by a gratuitous and uninformed effort at politically correct multiculturalism.
...

Historical pressures, well apart from Putinism in Russia, are coming to the fore on the continent -- pressures that were long suppressed by the aberrations of World War II, the Cold War, the division of Germany, and the rise of the EU. The so-called "German problem" -- the tendency of Germany quite naturally at some point to translate its innate dynamic economic prowess into political, cultural, and above all military superiority -- did not vanish simply because a postmodern EU announced that it had transcended human nature and its membership would no longer be susceptible to ancient Thucydidean nationalist passions like honor, fear, or self-interest.

If you have doubts on that, just review current German and southern-European newspapers, where commentary sounds more likely to belong in 1938 than in 2012. The catastrophe of the EU has not been avoided by ad hoc bandaging -- it is still on the near horizon. Now is the time to reassure Germany that a strong American-led NATO eliminates any need for German rearmament, and that historical oddities (why is France nuclear, while a far stronger Germany is not?) are not odd at all. In short, as the EU unravels, and anti-Germany hysteria waxes among its debtors, while ancient German resentments build, it would be insane to abdicate the postwar transatlantic leadership we have provided for nearly 70 years.

There is a pattern here in all these recent missteps, one of hesitancy, moral confusion, and naïveté. To the extent that Obama knows history, it is a boilerplate one of European and American culpability. To the extent that he is interested in human nature, he holds a therapeutic belief that rhetoric and good intentions, not preparedness, resolve, and deterrence, impress rivals. To the extent that he understands geopolitics, it is of the juvenile multicultural sort, in which hostile nuclear powers, traditional enemies, and troublesome neutrals are either not much worse than or morally equivalent to long-standing allies and friends.

-- NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author most recently of The End of Sparta, a novel about ancient freedom.

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February 9, 2012

We Don't Need No Stinking Budget!

The irresponsibility of the Senate Democrats continues. It's been 1,000 days now and counting since Senate Democrats offered a budget. From Powerline:

Budget? Who Needs a Budget?
February 3, 2012
by John Hinderacker

Barack Obama and the Democrats in Congress have set a new standard of irresponsibility: for the third year in a row, Harry Reid announced that he would not allow a vote on a FY 2013 budget to come to the floor of the Senate. "We do not need to bring a budget to the floor this year," Reid told a conference call with reporters.

This year? How about last year, or the year before? The Obama administration has become a budget-free zone, in flagrant violation of federal law, which prescribes a process for developing a federal budget which the Democrats have simply flouted. Has our nation ever seen such fecklessness? $15 trillion in debt, the credit of the United States being downgraded, hundreds of thousands leaving the labor force, and the Democrats don't think our government should have a budget? Or a plan to dig our way out of a $15 trillion hole? How out of touch can the Democrats be?

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) responded to Reid's thumbing his nose at federal law:

It's been more than 1,000 days since Senate Democrats have offered a budget plan to the American people. Now, once again, the Senate's ineffectual Democrat majority balks at the task of leadership. Majority Leader Reid is denying the American people the opportunity to become engaged in the debate about the nation's fiscal future and the difficult choices we face. He obviously continues in his belief that it would be politically foolish for his members to go on record in support of any long-term vision. But by refusing to lay out a budget plan for public examination--a fact no one can deny--the Democrat Senate has forfeited the high privilege to lead this chamber. If Sen. Reid and his members stand by this announcement, it means that the American people will go through yet another year of crisis without Senate Democrats unveiling and standing behind a financial plan for our future.

Budget Control Act spending caps, crafted behind closed doors and rushed to passage at the 11th hour under threat of panic, do not even approach the definition of the budget process that the law requires. They are not in any way or any sense a Senate Democrat budget plan. There is no argument that can be made that these caps are a long-term vision for this country--not on taxes, not on entitlements, not on spending, not on debt. Presumably, this obvious fact is why Chairman Conrad has said he will mark up a budget in our Committee. However, this process will be eviscerated if Sen. Reid refuses to allow a budget resolution to come to the floor.

I will continue to insist that the public process be carried out and that Senate Democrats bring an actual budget resolution to the Senate floor.

Paul Ryan (R-WI-1)said:

Earlier today, Senate Democrats confirmed that they've given up on budgeting. What a disgrace. Senate Majority Leader Reid's refusal to budget is a recipe for crisis. By refusing to confront the storm clouds ahead, Senate Democrats are committing our nation to a future of debt, doubt and decline.

The Democratic Party has demonstrated that it is incapable of leading and incapable of governing. Why would anyone vote for a Democrat for any office?

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December 27, 2011

Tragedy in Iraq... and don't think it will stay there

There's nothing like being personally involved in local politics to make you realize that by comparison simple blogging about far away issues is small potatoes indeed. One day maybe I'll get back to this, and then again maybe not. Until then posts will be few and far between, but you've already figured that out.

Here we go. Last month Frederick and Kimberly Kagan warned about the crisis unfolding in Iraq in the wake of President Obama's ill-considered decision to withdraw willy-nilly from Iraq. In an article posted today they tell us that the country is going, going...

With administration officials celebrating the "successful" withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, thanking antiwar groups for making that withdrawal possible, and proffering outrageous claims about Iraq's "stability," "sovereignty," and the "demilitarization" of American foreign policy even as Iraq collapses, it is hard to stay focused on America's interests and security requirements. Especially in an election year, the temptation will only grow to argue about who lost Iraq, whether it was doomed from the outset, whether the current disaster "proves" either that the success of the surge was inherently ephemeral or that the withdrawal of U.S. troops caused the collapse. The time will come for such an audit of Iraq policy over the last five years, but not yet. For the crisis in Iraq is still unfolding, and the United States continues to have a huge stake in the outcome. The question of the moment is not "Who lost Iraq?" but rather "Is Iraq definitely lost?"

It certainly seems so.

I will answer the question they avoid doing; it is impossible to know whether the venture was doomed from the outset but it was President Obama who lost it, and he did so deliberately. All to satisfy the kook left, of course.

And if you detect a bit of bitterness from team Kagan in today's piece, consider that they started out the December warning piece I mentioned with this gen

We interrupt President Obama's celebration of keeping a campaign promise to bring you news from Iraq, where a political crisis has been unfolding since just hours after Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta departed on Thursday

I can't say I blame them. We've come so far, and gone though so much, only to have out idiot president throw it all away, partially for the sake of electoral expediency, partially to satisfy the Democrat party's kook left, and partially because he's part of that kook left himself.

It didn't have to be this way. As team Kagan pointed out last month

Some will say that the failure of the Iraqi political and sectarian settlement was inevitable, that the "surge"--as they predicted--produced only temporary results, and that Iraq was irretrievably lost the moment American forces invaded in 2003. Those arguments are simply wrong. The ethno-sectarian settlement endured tremendous tests from its tentative establishment in 2007 until President Obama announced the end of American presence in Iraq. Its endurance was unquestionably underwritten by the presence of American troops, who provided critical double-guarantees: they guaranteed Maliki against the Sunni coup d'état he evidently fears so much, and they guaranteed the Sunni Arabs against precisely the sort of vengeful misuse of Iraq's security forces now occurring. Interestingly, they continued to be effective in that guarantor's role even after they had withdrawn from combat operations, were taking virtually no casualties, and were not even moving around the country very much. It may be that an American military presence of 10,000-15,000 troops (as General Lloyd Austin ultimately suggested) would have been required for a long time to help the settlement not only endure, but harden into something that could stand on its own. Such a presence would still have been smaller than what the U.S. has in Korea today--and has had there for 60 years. The decision to abandon Iraq entirely will stand as one of the monumental strategic follies of the 21st century, and the cost of that disastrous choice are already emerging starkly.

American options for trying to mitigate the damage are limited, but nevertheless important. The U.S. should immediately threaten to withhold assistance, including the shipment of military aircraft Iraq recently ordered, if Maliki does not back down and adhere to the commitments he made to the Sunni bloc. Washington should engage Ankara energetically to enforce a common front toward the Kurds. Kurdish parliamentarians--and security forces--remain key players in this drama, but they have been acting selfishly and fearfully, always with one eye on the door out of Iraq and into independence. Many Kurdish leaders apparently believe that even if the U.S. will not back them, Turkey will. But it is no more in Turkey's interest than in ours to see Iraq once more in flames. Now is the time for some smart power in the region.

Above all, however, now is the time to show that this administration actually cares about what happens in Iraq. It is not enough for the vice president to phone it in. The secretary of state should go to Baghdad, not to celebrate our withdrawal, but to play an active role in mediating the aftermath. Obama should invite Maliki and his Sunni and Kurdish counterparts to a summit somewhere in the West to hash this out. If not, we will no doubt be treated to yet another series of visits by Iraqi leaders to Tehran as the Iranians again demonstrate their willingness to engage where Americans withdraw.

But of course Obama didn't do any of these things because he doesn't really care.

We all knew that things would get tricky as American troops left, and violence did indeed rise, so it's not as if Obama couldn't have seen this coming. but then, he would have had to cared.

If I still have to point out the obvious then I will; our enemies are watching and laughing. All along they bet that we would not have the willpower to stick it out for the long haul and once again they may have been proven correct. They watched us leave Vietnam, pull out of Beirut, run from Mogadishu (have I missed anything?) and now we're giving up on Iraq and Afghanistan. Those who blather about "redeployment" don't realize that our enemies have discovered that they can make us leave anywhere if they keep up the pressure long enough.

Oh well, Obama may well strike Iran. If he does we will be assured by his supporters that this "proves" that he is really a tough guy yada yada. Well, we'll see if he does, and whether he's willing to sustain a weeks long bombardment (yes I said weeks long as in plural, as in many weeks of continuous fighting because that's what it will take), whether he's willing to let our navy sink blow every Iranian vessel out of the water regardless of whether it is a "threat" to our forces, and whether he is willing to tell both the striped pants set at the State Department and the moral relativist set at the United Nations to pound sand. If he does all these my hat will be off to him... but he'll still have been the president who lost Iraq.

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March 17, 2011

A Few Quick Comments on Some of the Issues of the Day

Not having much time to blog these days, I won't be able to do my usual in depth analysis of the issues of the day. It's a terrible confluence of events; I get involved in some big projects just as the world goes nuts. On the other hand, while it bugged me greatly for a while to be away from the blog, pretty soon you get used to it. About three of four years ago I decided to just up TV entirely because it was just taking up too much time. For a few weeks I missed my shows, but now I can't imagine going back to it.

The Japanese Nuclear Crisis

Yes the situation at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant is serious. Let's also recall that it was hit by not only an earthquake that registered a whopping 9 on the Richter scale, but a tsunami as well. This is not Three Mile Island... which oh by the way didn't kill anyone.

The bigger question is what the effect will be on nuclear power as a source of electricity. One can only despair after looking at the news, which is in full meltdown over the situation. The extreme environmentalists are licking their chops, figuring that (finally!) they can stop new plants from being built and shut down existing ones.

Amazingly, over 50 percent of Americans still think that nuclear power is generally safe. Unfortunately, another poll shows that half of all voters see Obama as being serious about reducing the deficit, so I guess we shouldn't put too much faith in either polls or the intelligence of the American people, take your pick.

The bottom line is that there is no energy source that is free of pitfalls. Nuclear plants run the risk of meltdown. Coal, oil, and natural gas emit greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide, which the enviros now tell us is a pollutant (who would have guessed?). There are no more locations for hydrodynamic dams, and solar and wind are a joke. Biofuels based on sugar products, grass, or waste hold some promise, but only barely. Only nuclear and fossil fuels can produce enough electricity to matter, and of course the enviros are against both.

Yes let's make nuclear plants safer. Yes let's learn from this and make sure that if they're in earthquake zones they are more survivable. But we either need them as a power source or the enviros need to stop complaining about fossil fuels.

And yes I would be perfectly fine if they built a nuclear power plant in my neighborhood.

The Libyan Revolution

The unrest started on Feb 15, and within a week or two it was clear that a revolution was under way. Unlike his Egyptian neighbor Mubarak, Muammar Gaddafi has decided to stay and fight it out. No doubt the Mubarak left because he lost the support of the army, whereas Ghaddafi has cobbled enough of a force from mercenaries and his own army to put up a good fight. In fact, some say he's winning.

"The world," has mostly told Ghaddafi that shooting his own civilians isn't so good, which is kind of ironic since the government in most of those nations would do the same thing if they felt their rule threatened.

On March 10 France even went so far as to recognize the rebel National Transitional Council as the legitimate government.

Most recently, the UN Security Council has approved a no-fly zone over Libya. "The world" seems to see that something needs to be done. Unlike, that is, our own president. But more on that below.

Gasoline Prices

Gas is about $3.50 a gallon where I live. From what I can see there are two general reasons for the rise; the crisis in the Middle East and our own refusal to exploit our own reserves.

Yes we risk spills if we drill. And no it won't solve all our problems. But if you don't like drilling then come up with your own energy source... and please don't embarrass yourself by talking about electric cars, wind, or solar.

I hear Obama and his advisers want to open the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Big mistake. One, the reserve was meant for a true crisis, and we're not near that. Two, it's only a short-term solution.

The Federal Budget Standoff

Democrats want to spend, Republicans want to make a few tepid cuts. The entire federal budget is about $3.8 trillion. Republicans want to cut a measly $61 billion, and the Dems a pathetic $6 billion.

Put in context, the Republicans want to cut 61 cents of a budget of 380 dollars, and the Dems 6 cents on the same.

Guess what? The Dems tell us the world will come to an end if we cut any more than $6 billion.

Oh and the deficit is about $1.5 trillion, and by his own projections Obama will have doubled the national debt. But no one aside from those crazy Tea Party types seems to want to do anything about it.

Wisconsin

Chris Christie is getting some competition for status most admired governors among conservatives. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has rode the storm in his state admirably and refused to back down in the face of an unprecedented level of threats and intimidation from union thugs. He kept his party together, and as a result they have achieved the unthinkable; a serious rollback of union abuses.

You don't have to believe everything muckrackers like Upton Sinclair wrote to know that abuses in the workplace were horrendous a hundred or so years ago. I would have been a union organizer myself in the 19th and early 20th centuries. When it comes to coal mines I'm still sympathetic to unions.

But today over 50 percent of union members are white collar workers. The only reason unions were or are needed is to ensure workplace safety and obtain more than starvation wages. There is no reason for labor unions in most work environments today, let alone in white collar environments.

Public sector unions are especially odious, especially so if they have collective bargaining power. The reason is pretty straightforward: The people elect legislators to determine the salaries of public employees. When public sector unions put forth a special representative to bargain with these legislators, they've effectively elected their own special legislator. Worse, they're doing it all with our tax dollars.

This is an usurpation of democracy. The "seat at the table" for public sector employees is and must be only through normally elected legislators. They don't get another seat, or a special representative. If they don't like their salaries they need to work to elect different legislators.

As if this wasn't bad enough, the incredible thuggish behavior of the unions in Wisconsin foretold of what will happen around the country if we do not get a handle on this situation now. As mentioned earlier, while union membership is declining among blue-collar workers it is increasing among public-sector white-collar workers. While workers everywhere should have the right to form an organization (provided they do it on their own time and not at the workplace), the absolutely must not have collective bargaining power.

In the old days there was an implicit agreement in the trade-off of benefits between private and public sector employment. You got higher wages in the private sector, but your job was always somewhat at risk. Public sector employees made less, but had more job security, to the point where in some professions such as teaching you basically have a guaranteed job for life.

Public sector employees now want it all. They want wages equal to or greater than their counterparts in the private sector. The latest rationale is that public sector employees are supposedly more talented and thus deserve more. Besides being arrogant and condescending, such an argument ignores the fact that public sector employment enjoys better job security.

The NPR Scandal

That a few big shots at NPR have whacko leftist views and are willing to take money from the world's biggest Jihadist-terrorist organization is in a way not news. Conservatives have known this for years.

If the big media - "mainstream media" - did their jobs NPR would have been exposed long ago and their funding eliminated. As it is they don't care because with the exception of Fox News and a few other conservative outlets they are only different by degree, not by kind.

The NPR scandal comes on the heals of other citizen-journalist pieces by James O'Keefe and Lila Rose exposing ACORN and Planned Parenthood. What's amazing, and irritating at the same time, is that all three of these; NPR, ACORN, and Planned Parenthood, were ripe targets just waiting to be picked. Everyone who is not drinking the liberal cool-aide knows they're corrupt. And it was so easy to trip them up. If a few ordinary young folks could do it with cheap store-bought equipment, why can't the big media with their millions of dollars in resources?

Instead of introspection on such questions, though, we are treated to idiotic pieces about how "There is no ethical canon or tradition that would excuse such deception on the part of a professional journalist." Yeah that's the important part.

What's scary is what the liberal media must have gotten away with in the days before the internet.

Where's Obama?

So where's our president? Dithering, of course. Playing golf. Going to fundraisers. Consulting with Michelle over this year's vegetable garden. Having fun being president, I guess, but whatever he's up to the issues of the day don't seem to concern him.

His supposedly pro-nuclear power secretary of energy is mostly silent on nuclear power.

He doesn't seem to care a whit about Libya. He and his SecState are always "consulting," but this is a process, not a policy. We have no policy. The UN can pass any resolution it wants about no-fly zones, but we all know that only the US can enforce it.

Worse, he seems to treat foreign policy problems as annoyances, not concerns that should be at the front and center for any president. The only thing that seems to bother him are Israeli "settlements" on the West Bank.

Union thugs? He's behind them. Some on the right say it's all about the money and donations to the Democrat Party, but it's more than that. Public sector unions are integral to his plan to bring European-style socialism to this country.

Before the election Obama told us that "under my plan... electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket." If that's his plan for electricity, why should he think any differently for gasoline?

And the budget? He's AWOL on that too, letting the Dems in Congress do the negotiating for him.

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June 20, 2010

The World is Catching On to Obama the Incompetent

How's that hope and change working out now?

Pretty lousy, and that from the perspective of the "international community" that we were told Obama would woo and have in his back pocket.

Via Mark Steyn over at NRO (emphais added):

World Sees Obama as Incompetent and Amateur
The president is well-intentioned but can't walk the walk on the world stage
By Mortimer B. Zuckerman
Posted June 18, 2010

...
The reviews of Obama's performance have been disappointing. He has seemed uncomfortable in the role of leading other nations, and often seems to suggest there is nothing special about America's role in the world. The global community was puzzled over the pictures of Obama bowing to some of the world's leaders and surprised by his gratuitous criticisms of and apologies for America's foreign policy under the previous administration of George W. Bush. One Middle East authority, Fouad Ajami, pointed out that Obama seems unaware that it is bad form and even a great moral lapse to speak ill of one's own tribe while in the lands of others.

Even in Britain, for decades our closest ally, the talk in the press--supported by polls--is about the end of the "special relationship" with America. French President Nicolas Sarkozy openly criticized Obama for months, including a direct attack on his policies at the United Nations. Sarkozy cited the need to recognize the real world, not the virtual world, a clear reference to Obama's speech on nuclear weapons. When the French president is seen as tougher than the American president, you have to know that something is awry. Vladimir Putin of Russia has publicly scorned a number of Obama's visions. Relations with the Chinese leadership got off to a bad start with the president's poorly-organized visit to China, where his hosts treated him disdainfully and prevented him from speaking to a national television audience of the Chinese people. The Chinese behavior was unprecedented when compared to visits by other U.S. presidents.
...

What did they expect from a "community organizer" who never held a real job or had any executive experience?

In his Cairo speech about America and the Muslim world, Obama managed to sway Arab public opinion but was unable to budge any Arab leader. Even the king of Saudi Arabia, a country that depends on America for its survival, reacted with disappointment and dismay. Obama's meeting with the king was widely described as a disaster. This is but one example of an absence of the personal chemistry that characterized the relationships that Presidents Clinton and Bush had with world leaders. This is a serious matter because foreign policy entails an understanding of the personal and political circumstances of the leaders as well as the cultural and historical factors of the countries we deal with. ...

The end result is that a critical mass of influential people in world affairs who once held high hopes for the president have begun to wonder whether they misjudged the man. They are no longer dazzled by his rock star personality and there is a sense that there is something amateurish and even incompetent about how Obama is managing U.S. power. For example, Obama has asserted that America is not at war with the Muslim world. The problem is that parts of the Muslim world are at war with America and the West.
...

America right now appears to be unreliable to traditional friends, compliant to rivals, and weak to enemies. One renowned Asian leader stated recently at a private dinner in the United States, "We in Asia are convinced that Obama is not strong enough to confront his opponents, but we fear that he is not strong enough to support his friends."

No kidding.

"But he's so smart" we are told by the smart set, so easily impressed they are by degrees.

Well how have those academic smarts helped him deal with the oil spill in the gulf? Mark Steyn quotes our Commander-in-Chief:

"Just after the rig sank, I assembled a team of our nation's best scientists and engineers to tackle this challenge - a team led by Dr. Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and our nation's Secretary of Energy. Scientists at our national labs and experts from academia and other oil companies have also provided ideas and advice.

"As a result of these efforts, we've directed BP to mobilize additional equipment and technology."

Excellent. The president directed his Nobel Prize-winning Head of Meetings to assemble a meeting to tackle the challenge of mobilizing the assembling of the tackling of the challenge mobilization, at the end of which they directed BP to order up some new tackle and connect it to the thingummy next to the whachamacallit. Thank you, Mr. President. That and $4.95 will get you a venti oleaginato at Starbucks.

I've got a bachelors degree in history from Radford University and I could have figured out in 3 seconds that I should direct BP to mobilize additional equipment and technology.

And the "international community" is catching on that they, too, could have figured that out. We may sit back, wag our fingers, and say "see, I told you so," but there are real-world consequences. The good guys and bad guys alike have figured out Obama is both weak and incompetent. The former will be tempted to either strike deals with the bad buys or or just strike them period. And the bad guys will be tempted to cause much trouble. The change I'm hoping for in 2012 can't come too soon.

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May 26, 2010

Obama's Foreign Policy Failures

Having perhaps the most naive president in U.S. history, Obama thought that if he apologized enough for past American actions, engaged our adversaries in dialogue, stuck by the internationalist agenda, and insulted our traditional allies, the world would bend to our will. The problem's we faced were due to American arrogance and cowboy Bush's unilateralism. Obama set out to right that wrong.

It hasn't worked. Victor Davis Hanson asks the relevant questions:

I do not think the word "reset" will be used much longer to characterize American foreign policy. Reset from what to what? After all, is Iran closer to getting a bomb or further away than it was a year and a half ago? Are terrorists more or less likely to attack and kill inside the United States? Is Syria now a more or a less helpful player in the Middle East? Is Israel safer or less safe, more or less a U.S. ally? Are Putin and Chávez now more helpful players on the world scene, in appreciation of Obama's olive branches? Does a North Korea or an Iran feel more or less emboldened to run risks in testing the status quo? Is China more or less provocative in the Pacific?

I think we know the answers to those questions.

Iran is closer to getting the bomb than ever. Just this month they struck a deal with Brazil on fuel storage, and the latter may even be working on it's own bomb. They can get away with this because both nations know full well they have nothing to fear from Obama. Obama's policy is to water down what UN sanctions there are.

We've had so many attempted terrorist attacks in and above the United States since Obama took over I can't even keep track. Some seem complacent because none succeeded. If they keep trying, one will.

Syria isn't helpful at all. They're still a conduit for arms to Hezbollah, and are hardly a constructive player in the so-called "peace process."

Obama insults Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu at the latter's recent visit to the White House, and all-in-all clearly doesn't care a whit for our ally's security.

Putin and Chávez work against us at every opportunity. Neither are cowed.

North Korea just sank a South Korean naval ship, so clearly they're not worried about Obama.

China hasn't slowed down their military buildup, and neither have they proven useful in taming North Korea.

Fortunately, as Hanson points out later in the piece, the American people aren't buying Obama's line any more. He and his party are going down in the polls. While anything can happen, with any luck we'll make enough inroads in Congress this year to stop more of Obama's legislation, and in 2012 make him a one-term president.

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May 20, 2010

05/20/10 News and Headlines Update

Sorry, sorry, not much blogging as I've been so involved in local projects I haven't had time. When I do get to this thing I've been spending my time working on a book review of Kimberley Kagan's The Surge: A Military History. Unfortunately it's going to take another week or so to finish it but if you are interested in that sort of thing make sure to check back.

In the meantime, there are quite a few stories of diverse nature below the fold, so comment away!

Second Amendment

First up is this

Mexican President Felipe Calderon called on Congress Thursday to reinstate a federal ban on assault weapons that he said are ending up in the hands of violent drug cartels south of the border, using a highly contentious estimate of U.S. guns seized in Mexico when addressing Capitol Hill lawmakers.

Mr. Calderon said he respects the Second Amendment but argued that violence south of the border spiked in 2004 after the expiration of a U.S. ban on semiautomatic weapons. Echoing statements made by President Obama Wednesday, Mr. Calderon said the U.S. bears some responsibility in propping up the drug trade with its demand for narcotics and supply of guns.

Of course, they don't have a Second Amendment in Mexico, and although the Mexican Constitution allegedly guarantees the right to own firearms, legislation has made it nearly impossible to do so. So it's all a lot of nonsense for him to say he respects it.

But there are a few larger points.

One, liberals are always telling us that we can't sacrifice our civil liberties for the sake of reducing crime. In this case they are mostly right. Once those gun-control freaks an inch and they'll take a mile.

More, the problem has little to do with guns per se. The problems are demand for drugs in the U.S. and the fact that Mexico is just about a failed state. It's run by an oligarchy that has rigged the system to keep the rich people rich and give no one else a chance. They callously boot their poor over the border and then complain when we object.

The simple fact is that any gun ban won't make the slightest dent in the drug trade. Calderon is using it to cover up the corruption of his own government, and liberals in the U.S. will use it as cover for their anti-Second Amendment agenda.

Illegal Immigration

You just can't talk about Mexico without talking about illegal immigration and the story of CNN's Wolf Blitzer's interview with Mexican President Felipe Calderon has just about gone viral

Ouch!

Here's a summary of some of the interview:

Citing a Washington Times article explaining Mexican immigration laws that incriminated those who willfully participated in illegal immigration or helped illegal immigrants, Blitzer asked President Calderón to contrast those laws with Arizona's. Calderón replied that, while the Times assessment used to be true, it is no longer, and immigration cannot be illegal in Mexico. "Of course, on the border, we are asking people 'Who are you?'" explained Calderón, and "Once they are inside the country, what the Mexican police do is, of course, enforce the law, but any means immigration is a crime anymore in Mexico... if someone does that, we find them and sending [sic] them back."

In response to that, Blitzer noted that many in the US do not know that Mexico does not criminalize illegal immigration, and reference the older, harsher laws to argue that border states are only trying to do what Mexico does in its lower half, as well.

Blitzer later asks if Mexico checks papers at the border, and Calderon says yes, but when then asked if Mexican police do not go around asking for papers to prove residency, Calderon of course answers no. The coup de grace is when Blitzer follows up by asking him if a Guatemalan who is illegally in Mexico can just go and get a job, and Calderon is forced to answer no.

Yet he demands that we allow Mexicans to come illegally into the U.S. and get jobs.

Illegal Immigration II

Here's a headline good for a laugh Obama urges passage of immigration law
Fears racial profiling by states

Who are all these people kidding who claim that they object to Arizona's law because it allegedly profiles? We all know they're just in favor of illegal immigration.

Here, I'll prove it. My challenge to anyone who claims that they object to Arizona's SB1070 over civil rights issues is this; write your own law that enforces our immigration laws and gets reduces the number of illegals in the country. They never do it.

Leftist Intolerance

Here's a story that struck me today, Scientist booted off oil panel over writing

The Energy Department removed a St. Louis scientist from a select group picked by the Obama administration to pursue a solution to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico because of writings on his website about homosexuality and race relations.

Washington University physics professor Jonathan Katz was one of five top scientists chosen by the Department of Energy and attended meetings in Houston last week.

Mr. Katz is a leading scientist, but his website postings often touch on social issues. Some of those writings include defenses of "homophobia" and doubts about the value of racial preferences and similar diversity efforts.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu was not aware of Mr. Katz's writings before selecting him for the panel, spokeswoman Stephanie Mueller told the Associated Press. It was not immediately clear how the department became aware of the writings.

"Dr. Chu has spoken with dozens of scientists and engineers as part of his work to help find solutions to stop the oil spill," a statement from the Energy Department said. "Some of Professor Katz's controversial writings have become a distraction from the critical work of addressing the oil spill. Professor Katz will no longer be involved in the Department's efforts."

Mr. Katz, reached by phone by The Washington Times, said he had no comment and referred a reporter to official statements.

"There's enough mud being thrown around. I think it would be better if I just referred you to the public record," he said.

The extent of work he performed on the oil-spill recovery effort was not immediately known.

In a website posting titled "In Defense of Homophobia," Mr. Katz wrote that "the human body was not designed to share hypodermic needles, it was not designed to be promiscuous, and it was not designed to engage in homosexual acts."

"Engaging in such behavior is like riding a motorcycle on an icy road without a helmet. It may be possible to get away with it for a while, and a few misguided souls may get a thrill out of doing so, but sooner or later (probably sooner) the consequences will be catastrophic. Lethal diseases spread rapidly among people who do such things," he said.

In another posting, Mr. Katz questioned the value of universities' diversity efforts, saying they show no intellectual diversity and merely ingrain race-based thinking.

"The diversity movement is racist at its core," he writes. "When dealing with people, we should be concerned with intellect, talent, character and accomplishment. People aren't dogs or cattle; race matters only to racists."

When I read the things that Mr Katz wrote I thought "yeah, I believe most of that too."

Just remember, the left loves diversity! And don't you dare say otherwise.

Elena Kagan

We're supposed to believe that Elena Kagan is a moderate, that she's oh-so-smart, yada yada. Well, I don't know about the second part but anyone who believes the former needs to let me know because I've got a nice bridge to sell you.

She'll turn into another proponent of the "living constitution" theory which basically says make it up as you go along to fit your political agenda. Yep, it's Queen of Hearts time, folks, conclusion first, Constitution second. Want to take bets on how may penumbras she'll find over the course of her time on the bench?

Don't believe me? From her masters thesis: "Judges will often try to mold and steer the law in order to promote certain ethical values and achieve certain social ends.... Such activity is not necessarily wrong or invalid."

"Anti-Incumbent? Try Anti-Obama"

Fred Barnes says it's nonsense to think that the mood in this country is anti-incumbent:

The idea that anti-incumbent fever, striking equally at Democrats and Republicans, is the defining feature of the 2010 election is as misguided as last year's notion that President Obama's oratory would tilt the nation in favor of his ambitious agenda. Yet the media, echoing the Obama White House, has adopted anti-incumbency as the all-purpose explanation of this year's political developments...

What demolishes the notion of anti-incumbency as a scourge on both parties are the calculations of credible political analysts--Democrats and Republicans from Charles Cook to Jay Cost to Nathan Silver to James Carville--about the outcome of November's general election. They believe dozens of congressional Democrats either trail Republican challengers or face toss-up races, while fewer than a handful of Republicans are in serious re-election trouble...

If there's a Republican wave in November, Republicans will capture the Senate seats in Kentucky and Arkansas and probably in Pennsylvania as well. The most important political event of the week may have been the revelation that the Democratic Senate candidate in Connecticut, the state's Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, had falsely claimed to be a Vietnam veteran. That gives a Republican a chance to win in Connecticut, too--and maybe even a Senate majority.

We'll see. I'm not taking anything for granted. We've got a very good Republican congressman where I live in Frank Wolf (VA-10) , but he did vote for TARP which won't play well. I'm going all out to support him this year.

A Bomb South of the Border

Not in Mexico, thank heavens. But Brazil? Who do they have to worry about?

Turns out they've "extending over $1 billion in credit to Iran, in order to boost Brazilian exports to the country" . There goes the sanctions regime.

Above all, there is reason for doubt because of numerous signs that Brazil is working on its own secret nuclear program. The evidence is discussed in a recent paper by German nuclear security expert Hans Rühle. The paper is available in English from the German Council on Foreign Relations here. One point in Rühle's paper is of particular interest in connection with the policies of the current American administration. Rühle notes that in its December 2008 National Defense Strategy, Brazil confirmed its status as a member of the NPT, but also stated that "Brazil will not agree to any additional NPT restrictions until the nuclear weapons states make more progress toward nuclear disarmament." Concretely, Rühle points out, this meant that Brazil would not sign on to the 1997 additional protocol to the NPT allowing for expanded IAEA inspections and, in particular, would refuse to be more forthcoming about its suspect nuclear submarine program.

Brazil's conditioning of NPT cooperation upon the progress made by the existing nuclear powers toward nuclear disarmament reveals how the global "nuclear zero" campaign, of which Barack Obama has made himself the spokesperson, plays into the hands of would-be proliferators. After all, Iran itself has used similar arguments. Moreover, the stated condition for cooperation is entirely vague and flexible. How much "progress" is enough progress?

Another story with additional details here.

Lamest Mascots Ever

We end on a lighter note. Recently unveiled are Wenlock and Mandeville, the mascots for the 2012 Olympics in London

Wenlock and Mandeville

Video and story at The Guardian:

In the end they were neither animal, vegetable nor mineral. Nor, as some cynics had predicted, did they resemble white elephants.

Instead, Wenlock and Mandeville, the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic mascots, elicited mostly baffled reactions as to just what they were at their unveiling today.

With a metallic finish, a single large eye made out of a camera lens, a London taxi light on their heads and the Olympic rings represented as friendship bracelets on their wrists, they resemble characters dreamed up for a Pixar animation.

Perfectly androgynous, they represent what the UK has become. No wonder the British Empire fell.

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April 11, 2010

Obama's Foreign Policy: Alienating Our Friends, Encouraging Our Enemies

Victor Davis Hanson describes the absurdity of Obama's foreign policy and where it will lead us:

During the 2008 campaign, the Obama group argued that Bush & Co. were insensitive to allies and had acted in clumsy, unilateral fashion, permanently damaging our stature in the world. Given the first 15 months of foreign policy in the new administration, we can see now that Obama's critique largely meant that we had damaged relations with supposed belligerents like Cuba, Iran, Russia, Syria, and Venezuela -- inasmuch as right now, British, Colombian, Czech, German, Honduran, Indian, Israeli, Japanese, Polish, and South Korean leaders might privately prefer the good "bad" old days of the supposed cowboy Bush. All of which raises the question: Why Obama's shift in foreign policy? I offer four alternatives, uncertain of the answer myself.
a) Obama in 2007 and 2008 created a campaign narrative of Bush the cowboy, and then found himself trapped by his own "reset button" rhetoric, which meant he could hardly credit his maligned predecessor by building on the multilateral work that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had established from 2006 onward (cf. the similar quandary of libeling Bush as a war-mongering anti-constitutionalist and then using new, kinder, gentler anti-terrorism euphemisms to mask the adoption of embracing Predators, tribunals, renditions, wiretaps, intercepts, and continuance in Iraq and Afghanistan);

b) Obama sincerely believes that states that were pro-American under Bush are now somewhat dubious, while other states' anti-American rhetoric during 2001-08 was understandable and so rightfully now earns them empathy and attention as a reward;

c) Obama genuinely believes that those abroad who are more statist and voice rhetoric that dovetails with his own equality-of-result efforts at home are sympathetic, inasmuch as they too define "freedom" in holistic terms of state entitlements rather than individual liberty, free markets, and free expression -- so to the degree a leader casts himself as a "revolutionary," he finds resonance with an equally progressive Obama; or

d) Obama has no idea of what he is doing, and wings his way from one embarrassment to another, from snubbing Gordon Brown to gratuitously insulting Benjamin Netanyahu to abruptly changing the terms of commitments with the Czechs and Poles to constructing nonexistent Islamic historical achievements to browbeating Karzai to courting Putin to bowing to the Saudis, etc., all as he sees fit at any given moment -- with an inexperienced but impulsive Hillary Clinton and gaffe-prone Joe Biden as catalysts rather than arresters of Obama's own haphazardness.

Whatever the reasons, I think the seeds have been sown and the harvests will soon be upon us. Any initial delight that the world's masses found in a post-national, post-racial, charismatic young American president will begin to be eclipsed by their leaders' realpolitik calculations, both old friends and enemies -- namely, that the U.S. will probably not assist (other than in soaring rhetorical cadences of empathy) any past ally in its hour of need, and will probably not oppose (other than in meaningless deadlines and melodramatic contextualization) any past enemy in its newfound efforts to readjust regional realities. (If only Obama treated Iran or Syria as he does Bush, Sarah Palin, and the top 10 percent of American taxpayers.)

So as the U.S. completes its metamorphosis into a much larger version of the EU, we should expect to see something of the following:

Karzai or Allawi will look more to Iran, which will soon become the regional and nuclear hegemon of the Middle East.

Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics had better mend fences with Russia.

The EU should finally start on that much-ballyhooed all-European response force.

Taiwan, the Philippines, and South Korea should strengthen ties with China.

Buffer states in South America had better make amends with a dictatorial, armed, and aggressive Chavez.

Israel should accept that the U.S. no longer will provide support for it at the UN, chide the Arab states to cool their anti-Israeli proclamations, remind the Europeans not to overdo their popular anti-Israeli rhetoric, or warn radical Palestinians not to start another intifada. (In other words, it's open season to say or do anything one wishes with Israel.)

As for bankrupt, wannabe national defaulters, don't worry -- we are rapidly catching up, and have neither the credibility nor the desire to lecture you about artificial constructs like "debt," "bonds," "trust," and other archaic financial euphemisms manipulated to protect the international capital of an overseer class.

Sowing a new crop takes a while, but the sprouting has begun and the bitter, 1979-like harvests will soon be upon us.

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September 23, 2009

Barack Obama - "Worst Foreign Policy Ever"

President Barack Obama has proven to be Jimmy Carter on steroids. It took Carter four years to do what Obama has has done in nine months. His speech before the General Assembly at the United Nations was a disgrace, displaying stunning levels of naivete. The Washington Times calls it right:

EDITORIAL: Worst foreign policy ever

Tomorrow, President Obama will chair a special nuclear-disarmament meeting by the United Nations Security Council. The White House bills this as a historic first, but it is typical of Mr. Obama's emphasis on style over substance. He will appear before the body with the weakest foreign-policy record of any new U.S. president in recent memory. An around-the-world tour of international hot spots shows that for all the president's lofty rhetoric, he can point to precious few accomplishments.

In the Middle East, Mr. Obama's unprecedented obsequiousness in dealing with the Muslim world has generated no tangible returns. The leading Arab states repeatedly have declined to budge toward compromise to push the regional peace process forward, and they show no signs of normalizing relations with Israel. Palestinians refuse to talk to Israelis until they agree to a settlement freeze on the West Bank, and Israel has reportedly responded to Mr. Obama's call for a freeze by saying it will go ahead and build 2,500 new housing units.

Nor has Mr. Obama's outreach effort translated into a general sense of good will. A May 2009 University of Maryland survey of the Middle East showed that those with a very or somewhat favorable view of the United States increased only 3 percent between 2008 and 2009, from an anemic 15 percent to 18 percent.

In Afghanistan, the president has hit turbulence within his own party, and as the going gets tough, he seems ready to repudiate his "stronger and smarter" strategy after only six months. He is balking at supplying the troops necessary to stave off disaster, and the growing discussion in Washington is now how the administration can minimize the political damage of a defeat in Afghanistan.

North Korea has continued to be openly belligerent, testing a nuclear weapon and long-range missile, withdrawing from the 1953 armistice agreement with South Korea, and declaring it will weaponize its plutonium stocks. In response, the United States unilaterally conceded to long-standing North Korean demands for bilateral talks.

North Korea's success has encouraged Iran to move forward with its own nuclear program. The Islamic regime has agreed to talks Mr. Obama requested, but the mullahs refuse to negotiate the nuclear issue. The United States finds itself to the left of the United Nations and France on the question of acknowledging that Iran even has a nuclear-weapons program, which is quite an achievement.

Wary of Iran, other Middle Eastern states are gearing up for nuclear programs, unconvinced by U.S. promises of extending a defensive umbrella. The Eastern European umbrella was abruptly closed when the Obama administration abandoned the missile-defense deployment in Poland and the Czech Republic last week. This move drew plaudits from Moscow, which had registered strenuous objections and was not asked to make any reciprocal concessions to match the U.S. surrender. Russia continues militarily to occupy a significant part of Georgia, an American ally, and conducts business as usual with Iran and other troublemaking states.

Actions in Mr. Obama's world are consequence-free. The only country the Obama team has tried to strong-arm is Honduras, which is desperately trying to stave off a socialist takeover by an anti-American autocrat whom the State Department has concluded is worthy of full U.S. support. This has delighted Cuban dictators Raul and Fidel Castro and Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, who are very willing to let the United States carry their water. Venezuela, meanwhile, has signed a major arms deal with Russia, continues to build the anti-Gringo "Bolivarian" bloc, bullies U.S. ally Colombia and plans to launch its own nuclear program.

Then there is the catalogue of Mr. Obama's embarrassing moments on the world stage, a list which includes: giving England's Queen Elizabeth II an iPod with his speeches on it; giving British Prime Minister Gordon Brown a collection of DVDs that were not formatted to the European standard (by contrast, Mr. Brown gave Mr. Obama an ornamental desk-pen holder made from the oak timbers of Victorian anti-slaver HMS Gannet, among other historically significant gifts); calling "Austrian" a language; bowing to the Saudi king; releasing a photo of a conference call with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which the president was showing the soles of his shoes to the camera (an Arab insult); saying "let me be absolutely clear. Israel is a strong friend of Israel's"; saying the United States was "one of the largest Muslim countries in the world"; suggesting Arabic translators be shifted from Iraq to Afghanistan where Arabic is not a native language; sending a letter to French President Jacques Chirac when Nicolas Sarkozy was the president of France; holding a town-hall meeting in France and not calling on a single French citizen; and referring to "Cinco de Cuatro" in front of the Mexican ambassador when he meant Cinco de Mayo. Also of note was Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton giving Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov a "reset" button with the Russian word for "overcharge."

Progress toward an international agreement on global climate change has stalled, an administration failure which we applaud. We also approve of the highly effective expanded attacks by drone aircraft against terrorist targets in Pakistan, a policy implemented by President George W. Bush in August 2008. Mr. Obama was likewise successful in ordering the taking out of three teenage Somali pirates by Navy snipers in April after the outlaws took an American ship's captain hostage. In other words, President Obama's most successful policies thus far have been his selective killings. It's not exactly a program he can build on.

Posted by Tom at 9:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 20, 2009

More on the Missile Defense System Obama Canceled

On Thursday I explained how Obama betrayed our allies who had gone out on a limb for us, reduced our ability to defend against Iranian nuclear missiles sure to be developed, and weakened us in the eyes of the world. The system Obama canceled would have put a powerful radar in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in Poland. cancelled

Before we get going today, a reminder from Jim Geraghty about how all promises from Obama come with an expiration date. Here's Obama this past April 5:

So let me be clear: Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile activity poses a real threat, not just to the United States, but to Iran's neighbors and our allies. The Czech Republic and Poland have been courageous in agreeing to host a defense against these missiles. As long as the threat from Iran persists, we will go forward with a missile defense system that is cost-effective and proven. (Applause.) If the Iranian threat is eliminated, we will have a stronger basis for security, and the driving force for missile defense construction in Europe will be removed. (Applause.)

As I explained in my previous post, Poland and the Czech Republic were under tremendous amounts of pressure not to accept the anti-missile system. n 2004 Poland received 43% of it's natural gas from Russia, and the Czech Republic, 77%. Last winter Russia cut off shipments of gas to Ukraine, allegedly over contract disputes, but most likely it was more just a show of power by Russia.

They therefore went out on a limb for the United States. Now that the system has been canceled, they're without as much protection from Iranian nuclear missiles sure to be developed, and they've still got Russia mad at them.

But that's no big deal, as I'm sure the liberals will say. "Circumstances have changed."

Except that they haven't.

Thomas Joscelyn has the scoop in a post over at The Weekly Standard

First, note that the Obama administration, in its fact sheet on missile defense, does not currently intend to deploy a missile defense system capable of intercepting Iran's long-range missiles until 2020. Phase Four of Obama's plan, which is "in the 2020 timeframe," reads (emphasis added): "After development and testing are complete, deploy the SM-3 Block IIB to help better cope with medium- and intermediate-range missiles and the potential future ICBM (Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile) threat to the United States." All three of the previous phases deal with short to intermediate-range interceptors.

That is, Obama's plan does not envision the deployment of a missile defense capable of countering Iran's long-range missiles until the tail end of the current estimate of when the mullahs will have that capability. The current estimate is that Iran will have an ICBM capability between 2015 and 2020. Obama is therefore assuming the best-case scenario (for us) with respect to long-range missiles within that range. So, the current plan does not envision deploying long-range interceptors in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, or 2019, which are all possibilities in the current estimate. The Obama plan says things may change, of course, but for now they've assumed the best-case scenario from the West's perspective.

Second, as I discussed earlier, it is still very likely that the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) does not really have a firm grasp on when Iran will deploy ICBM's. Just as with the 2007 NIE on Iran's nuclear program, the IC has once again modified its views within a relatively short period of time. The previous estimate said that the mullahs "could" have a long-range missile capability by 2015. This estimate was cited as recently as President Obama's inauguration day, January 20 of this year. 2015 is still apparently a possibility, but the IC has now pushed back the tail-end of its range of possibilities. This means that it could be in 2015, or in 2020, some time in between, or whenever.

Of course, Iran continues apace with its satellite program (e.g. Iran launched its first satellite into space in February 2009), which can be used to push along its development of ICBM's. So, it is not clear why the IC now thinks, on average, it will take longer than previously anticipated for Iran to develop a long-range missile capability.

Third, the timing of the news of this revised NIE is certainly inauspicious. An IAEA document reportedly showing that Iran has the capability to make a nuclear bomb and is developing a missile system capable of carrying it has been leaked to the Associated Press. The IAEA responded by issuing a statement saying it "has no concrete proof that there is or has been a nuclear weapon program in Iran." This is transparently false as the AP's account makes it clear that the IAEA's document says Iran has mostly likely worked on both the ability to detonate a nuclear weapon as well as the capability to deliver it.

Thus, at the precise moment the Obama administration is telling us there is less to worry about with respect to Iran's long-range missiles, a leaked IAEA document is telling us that there is more to worry about with respect to Iran's nuclear program in general. The Obama administration's entire rationale for its missile defense plan rests on the assumption that Iran will not be able to deliver such a weapon with a long-range missile for ten more years.

The Concept of Layers

Our ships in World War II had a multi-layered defense against enemy aircraft. Farthest out were our own fighters. The ship itself had three types of guns; 5 inch with proximity fused shells to fire long distance, Quad-mount 40mm Bofors for medium range, and 20mm Oerlikon as a last ditch defense. Modern aircraft carriers have a similar arrangement but with missiles and the Phalanx gun system for terminal defense.

It's the same with ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile) defense. In the ideal system you set up a variety of radars and detection systems, then you have different types of missiles to intercept the threat during boost-stage, mid-course, and terminal phase. We have AEGIS ships, ground-based interceptors, and finally the THAAD system as terminal defense.

The reason for all this is pretty simple; no one layer will get all of the threats.

By canceling the system that would have been set up in Poland and the Czech Republic Obama has removed one layer.

MAD Won't Work

We could deter the Soviets and Chicoms (nice Cold War term there) because they were atheists and as evil as they were and are at the end of the day wanted to live. Communism has no meaning if everyone is dead. Mutual Assured Destruction thus had a perverse logic to it that worked during the Cold War.

Not so with religious fanatics, especially of the Muslim variety. Through dozens if not hundreds of statements it should be pretty clear by now that Ahmadinejad and the mullahs are not at all shy about sacrificing perhaps millions of their countrymen if it means destroying an enemy.

This said, they indeed hesitate before pushing the button when they get nuclear weapons and the means by which to deliver them. Even fanatics will have last minute doubts. But weakness on our part will encourage them to "risk it" and encourage their fanaticism. Osama bin Laden and others saw the Soviet retreat from Afghanistan as a sign from God that He was on their side and that they should continue their jihad. No doubt the mullahs and Ahmadinejad see the same thing from Obama's weakness. .

Same Old Song From the Democrats

I have been observing Democrats for almost 40 years, and they're all the same on National Defense. Their mantra is "develop forever, deploy never." They're always against current weapons systems, but in favor of some future system. President Carter canceled the B-1a in favor of a future stealth bomber (which eventually turned out to be the B-2). President Clinton forever delayed the deployment of anti-missile systems in favor of future ones. Democrats in Congress are just the same.

Folks, I know these Democrats. I know how they think. What's going on now is the latest stanza in the same old song. I guarantee you that when it comes time to deploy the system(s) in and around Turkey that Obama now claims he wants, they'll want to cancel them too. Do not be fooled.

What Have We Learned?

  1. All promises from Obama come with an expiration date
  2. Our allies went out on a limb for us and we sawed it off
  3. Obama will not deploy any system capable of countering ICBMs until 2020, "the tail end of the current estimate" as to when Iran will have ICBMs.
  4. We should not be confident of current estimates on Iranian capabilities.
  5. Anti-missile defenses should be set up in layers
  6. MAD won't work
  7. History tells us that Obama's future system will be opposed anyway by Democrats as their motto is "develop forever, deploy never."

The prudent thing is to have multiple layers of defense against all types of missile threats; short range, IRBM (Intermediate-Range Ballistic Misslies),and ICBMs. These defenses should be deployed well ahead of when we currently think our adversaries might deploy their missiles. To do anything less is to toy with the security of the United States.

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Obama Betrays Our Allies By Canceling Missile Defense Shield

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September 17, 2009

Obama Betrays Our Allies By Canceling Missile Defense Shield

Barack Obama is turning into Jimmy Carter Part II with frightening speed. It's bad enough that he apologizes to foreign offices for perceived U.S. offenses, that he let's Latin American thugs lecture him without response, admonishes Israel while ignoring Palestinian offenses and that he cuts vital weapons systems like the F-22 Raptor, but in his latest act he has both betrayed key allies and left Europe defenseless all at once. All that and we're barely eight months into his presidency. Not even Carter got this bad so fast.

In case you haven't seen it, here's the story as it appeared in today's Washington Times

President Obama on Thursday said he is scrapping current plans for a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic that was intended to protect against the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, but said he is doing so in order to deploy a more flexible system, possibly in those same countries, that his administration said is an "enhancement."

Mr. Obama, in a statement at the White House, said that his "new approach" will "best address the threat posed by Iran's ongoing ballistic missile defense program."

He and Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates emphasized that the new system was based on a determination that the Iranian threat has shifted, for now, away from long-range intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) delivery systems for potential nuclear weapons and toward short- and medium-range missiles.

We'll deal later with why the explanation is a load of bunk, but for now let's make sure we understand the magnitude of the betrayal of our allies.

Poland is right on the doorstep of Russia. The Czech Republic is father away, of course, but still vulnerable. Poland is most vulnerable to direct military assault, and both to economic pressure. Russia is the world's largest exporter of natural gas. In 2004 Poland received 43% of it's natural gas from Russia, and the Czech Republic, 77%. Last winter Russia cut off shipments of gas to Ukraine, allegedly over contract disputes, but most likely it was more just a show of power by Russia.

A few years ago Russia put a lot of pressure on Poland and the Czech Republic to not accept their parts of the missile defense shield, but they bravely resisted and threw in their lot with the U.S. They did so knowing that they were vulnerable to Russian pressure, but they did it anyway. And now Obama pulls the rug out from under them. They now have the worst of both worlds; no defense against missiles but still having annoyed Russia for having accepted it in the first place.

An Iranian Nuke

For the past few years I've listened to liberals tell us there was no worry because the Iranians had either stopped their nuclear program or were years off. Today we see this from Fox News

A secret report from the United Nations' nuclear watchdog warns that Iran has the ability to make a nuclear bomb and is developing a missile system to carry it -- an assessment that could call into question the Obama administration's claim on Thursday that the biggest threat from Iran comes from its short- and medium-range missiles....

The report, which says Iran is likely to "overcome problems" on developing a delivery system, appears to be the so-called "secret annex" on Iran's nuclear program that Washington has said is being withheld by the IAEA's chief.

But the IAEA pushed back hard against that allegation, saying the charge is baseless.

"With respect to a recent media report, the IAEA reiterates that it has no concrete proof that there is or has been a nuclear weapon program in Iran," the IAEA said in a written statement.

An IAEA spokesman told FOX News that the next formal report on Iran's nuclear capabilities is expected in November. He said the evidence suggesting Iran has a nuclear weapons program has not been verified.

I tried to quote enough to be fair.

Ok, so it's not definitive or verified. And my instinct tells me that they won't have a nuke until next year. And it'll be awhile after than before they have more than one or two, and longer still before they can put them atop missiles.

But maybe not. The simple fact is that we don't know, and seems to me that it is only prudent to assume that they are relatively far along in development.

Missiles in Turkey Not Sufficient

The White House put out a "fact sheet"on their alternative to the canceled missile defense system in Europe, which says in part:

Starting around 2011, this missile defense architecture will feature deployments of increasingly-capable sea- and land-based missile interceptors, primarily upgraded versions of the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3), and a range of sensors in Europe to defend against the growing ballistic missile threat from Iran. This phased approach develops the capability to augment our current protection of the U.S. homeland against long-range ballistic missile threats, and to offer more effective defenses against more near-term ballistic missile threats. The plan provides for the defense of U.S. deployed forces, their families, and our Allies in Europe sooner and more comprehensively than the previous program, and involves more flexible and survivable systems.

But as Michael Goldfarb points out over at TWS:

The White House has put out a "fact sheet" on their policy of Russian appeasement/missile defense surrender. The fact sheet says that the new approach -- focusing on SM-3 and sea-based systems (presumably in Turkey) -- will "augment our current protection of the U.S. homeland against long-range ballistic missile threats." That is a lie. This system will provide zero, nada, zilch protection to the U.S. homeland, providing only defense against short- and medium-range missiles to Europe.

The fact sheet says this system will protect "our Allies in Europe sooner and more comprehensively than the previous program, and involves more flexible and survivable systems." That is a lie. The system that was being placed in Poland is already operational in Alaska. These new plans will now take years of negotations to implement and will necessarily be less survivable as they will not be underground.

The fact sheet says that "The Czech Republic and Poland, as close, strategic and steadfast Allies of the United States, will be central to our continued consultations with NATO Allies on our defense against the growing ballistic missile threat." That is a lie. The Czechs and Poles get a midnight phone call from the president while Tauscher is already in the air. They were not consulted with and have been given no assurances -- because the president is selling them out.

The fact sheet says, "We also welcome Russian cooperation to bring its missile defense capabilities into a broader defense of our common strategic interests." If that's true, our president is totally clueless about Russian capabilities and intentions -- even Bush, who looked into Putin's soul, was not so delusional as to think U.S. missile defense could be dependent on Russian good will and cooperation. How long til the Russians threaten to throw us out of our "joint" missile defense facilities in order to coerce us into staying out of an attack on Georgia or some other democratic state in their near abroad.

This is a decision based purely on ideology and the good soldiers on the JCS and and at the Pentagon have no choice but to go along for the ride. At least the president ought to be honest about what this means and stop the smears of missile defense.

Yup, what we have here is pure left-wing ideology in action. It is the mindset of Jimmy Carter; screw our friends and talk nice to our enemies. Obama is all set to talk to Iran next month, yet the latter have shown absolutely no inclination that they will even consider giving up their nuclear program. Both Russia and China have said that they are dead set against any more sanctions.

Betraying Friends and Rewarding Enemies and Adversaries

Obama ignored the massive human rights abuses committed by the mullahs in the wake of the last election there, and only spoke out after intense pressure. He's a fool if he thinks that Russia will give us anything in return for this massive U.S. concession. Obama has betrayed Poland and the Czech Republic, two allies, and is being nicey-nice to our enemies and adversaries, Iran and Russia.

So today Iran and Russia are happy, and Poland and the Czech Republic disappointed. Shouldn't it be the other way around?

Perhaps the most insightful words, though, were spoken by Mirek Topolanek, who was the Czech prime minister when Prague agreed to co-host the shield, said that Obama's decision to cancel it was

"not good news for the Czech state, for Czech freedom and independence".

Yes, the future of Czech freedom and indepdence are more in question today than they were yesterday

Posted by Tom at 9:45 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 7, 2009

The Speech Obama Should Have Given in Cairo

Last week I eviscerated President Obama for giving a pretty awful speech to Muslims while in Cairo. Doctor Zero, posted at Hot Air the speech Obama should have given:

I am honored to be in the timeless city of Cairo, and grateful for your hospitality. I will honor you in return by addressing you directly. I came here to speak to you, not to European leaders or American media commentators. I hope you will forgive my frankness, but we have much to talk about, and some of what I came here to say will not be easy for you to hear.

I will not waste your time by carefully selecting quotes from the Koran, in a misguided attempt to tell you what your religion means. I am here to tell you what membership in the community of civilized nations means. Your faith is your own affair, but it ends where the rest of our lives begin. It is fashionable among the Western elites to say that we have much to learn about the Muslim world, but the truth is precisely the reverse. One of the bedrock principles of Western democracy is that we don't need to understand, or even like, a particular religion in order to respect its faithful and their rights. There are some things the West is long overdue in teaching its Muslim neighbors, however. Let us begin with dismissing the notion of a "Muslim world." There is no such thing. There is one world, made increasingly intimate by the easy movement of people, resources, and ideas. We are all in the process of learning how to live with our fellow men, and while the West is far from perfect, we are much further ahead in our studies than the nations of the Middle East. Our security, and yours, will be greatly enhanced if we can lend you some of the wisdom we have accumulated.

We did not come by this wisdom easily. We learned by taking incredible risks... and making terrible mistakes... magnified by the power of Western military tradition and technology. The people of the Middle East have never known anything to compare with the industrialized slaughter of the two World Wars, in which millions of lives were lost to decisively settle the question of what makes a government just and legitimate. You have never watched five thousand of your sons die on a single day, to secure a beachhead against the forces of genocidal fascism - a battle we commemorate on the sixth of June every year. Your fighting men have not faced anything like the battle for Okinawa, where American Marines faced an eighty percent chance of death - and did not waver. You have not sacrificed half a million soldiers to destroy the evil of slavery, as America did during its Civil War. You have not spent blood and treasure around the world to save other nations from the savage darkness of communism. You have no leaders to equal the Founding Fathers who pledged their lives, and sacred honor, to win America's independence from imperial domination.

You have not burned and bled for freedom, as we have. We would spare you that pain, if we could. We are willing to burn and bleed for you - and we have been doing so, for eight long years. Instead of indulging in foolish paranoid fantasies about crusaders and oppression from America, open your eyes and look to the mountains of Afghanistan, where over a thousand Coalition troops have died to overthrow the Taliban, after their despicable complicity in the murders of September 11, 2001. We did not have to send those troops into harm's way, to avenge the slaughter at the World Trade Center. We could have eliminated all life in that region, in a matter of hours. If we followed the standards of our enemies, we would have. We sent our best and bravest into battle because of who we wished to spare, not who we wanted to kill.

Open your eyes and look to Iraq, where we allowed thousands of Iraqi troops to lay down their arms and go home, instead of killing them where they stood. We paid an awful price for this act of mercy, as many of those men went on to join the brutal terrorists who dreamed of keeping the Iraqi people enslaved. Some in America and Europe find it politically expedient to draw moral equivalency between American soldiers and the terrorists they fight. I ask you to show me the al-Qaeda "equivalent" of Private First Class Ross McGinnis, who climbed down into an armored vehicle and smothered a grenade to protect his crew, when he could easily have leaped from his gunnery hatch to safety. Show me an "insurgent" who can match the valor of Sergeant First Class Paul Ray Smith, who flung himself into an impossible battle against odds of a hundred to one... to save the lives of a hundred wounded men. These two soldiers are among those who have won the Congressional Medal of Honor for their sacrifices in Operation Iraqi Freedom. No one on the other side is worthy of such an honor. I say this to you because keeping silent - whether from misguided modesty, self-loathing, or the desire to avoid offending your vanity - is an insult to your honor, and an injury to your future.

We have made a fetish of "tolerance" in America, and it has curdled into poison. I am here to tell you what the civilized world is no longer prepared to tolerate. We will not stand silently by while women are enslaved, brutalized, or murdered. We will no longer hypnotize ourselves with self-criticism over gay rights, while you bury gay men and women under piles of jagged stone. We will not swallow our tongues for fear of offending Islam, when Islam oppresses all other religious beliefs within its borders. We know you can do better. We also know that nothing will improve unless we demand you do better... and we do demand it. The world has turned, and the old days of totalitarianism and pillage are done. There is no more place in it for barbarians. Believe what you will, follow your customs, honor the holy writings of your Prophet, and strive to understand God's will through prayer, music, and scholarship. You will find nothing but honest respect and admiration from the West. But when you stand among civilized people, you will be civilized people. When you are shown respect, you will answer with respect. As the West reveres and protects the life of your innocents, so you will revere ours.

I speak to you as the democratically-elected leader of a great republic, which has earned the right to walk tall and proud through the halls of history. It is a right earned on battlefields... but also at humanitarian relief camps, pharmaceutical laboratories, civil-rights marches, and field hospitals. It is a right earned by rebuilding shattered enemies after terrible wars, by tearing down the statues of tyrants and building schools for the children of their liberated victims. Ours is a hard-won glory that can be seen in six men raising a flag on Mount Suribachi, or one man planting that flag in the dust of the moon... or millions of men and women stepping into voting booths. Look at the free people of Iraq, with their fingers proudly covered in purple ink after they vote, and know that America is eternally eager to share her glory. Indeed, we believe we can only render it proper honors by sharing it with all of our brothers and sisters around the world. But also remember this: the Middle East stands at a crossroads, and the heavy responsibility of reconciling faith, tradition, and the demands of the modern world rests with you. You must choose between old hatreds and new possibilities. You must choose between murder and prosperity. I have come here today to tell you clearly, and without reservation, that you cannot have both. May the next leader chosen by the American people stand in my place someday, to congratulate you on a wise choice.

Posted by Tom at 9:42 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 4, 2009

President Obama's Speech to the "Muslim World"

Early today President Barack Obama delivered a major address to the Muslim world from Cairo, Egypt. The transcript is here. Following are excerpts and my observations. And yes I'll try and be fair.

All indented text is President Obama, except at the end under "other opinion"

The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of co-existence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.

Oh for pete's sake. We're only in the second paragraph and this train is going off the rails. I've read more than a little world history, and I don't recall "centuries of co-existence and cooperation" between the Islam and the West. I'm not even sure it adds up to a few decades.

More fundamentally, we're off into victimology. Obama seems to be saying that the problems in the Muslim world are the fault of the West.

He is right, though, in that modernity is seen as a threat by many Muslims.

I know, too, that Islam has always been a part of America's story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President John Adams wrote, "The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims." And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, served in government, stood for civil rights, started businesses, taught at our Universities, excelled in our sports arenas, won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch. And when the first Muslim-American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers - Thomas Jefferson - kept in his personal library.

Heavens. This is either ignorant or a deliberate misrepresentation. Islam has been a minuscule part of American history.

But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known. We were born out of revolution against an empire. We were founded upon the ideal that all are created equal, and we have shed blood and struggled for centuries to give meaning to those words - within our borders, and around the world. We are shaped by every culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept: E pluribus unum: "Out of many, one."

This is good and I'm glad he said it. Here he is on solid ground, and this is just what the rest of the world needs to hear. It gets even better with this:

Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one's religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state of our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That is why the U.S. government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it.

Great stuff. Unfortunately it's not followed up with "and there is no religious freedom in the Muslim world and this needs to change." But of course Obama didn't say this. President Bush's Freedom Agenda is dead as far as this administration is concerned.

We also have this curious part

Much has been made of the fact that an African-American with the name Barack Hussein Obama could be elected President. But my personal story is not so unique. The dream of opportunity for all people has not come true for everyone in America, but its promise exists for all who come to our shores - that includes nearly seven million American Muslims in our country today who enjoy incomes and education that are higher than average.

There is the grating bit about only he is allowed to use his middle name when it suits his purposes, but how dare anyone else.

There are nowhere near seven million Muslims in the United States. Daniel Pipes cites two studies saying that the true figure is probably closer to 3 million (here and here), and maybe less than that.

This is a difficult responsibility to embrace. For human history has often been a record of nations and tribes subjugating one another to serve their own interests. Yet in this new age, such attitudes are self-defeating. Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners of it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; progress must be shared.

For the most part this is boilerplate drivel, and I was tempted to pass it off as such until I reread it and a phrase in the middle jumped out at me

any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail

If Obama has his way then we have come to the end of American Exceptionalism.

Sorry, Mr. President, but there are differences between nations and peoples, and as currently constructed some are better than others. Some nations and cultures are better than others. Cultures that tolerate stoning are bad. Cultures that subjugate their women are bad. West Germany was better than East Germany. South Korea is better than North Korea. Taiwan is better than mainland China. And Israel is better than Gaza. Of course I write not of genetic, racial differences, but of culture, legal, and governmental practices.

As I have written time and again, the entire problem with the United Nations, and what makes it such a terrible institution, is that by it's nature it sees all natiions as equal. It makes no distinction between democracy and tyranny.

Barack Obama is either a moral idiot, steeped in relativism, or he can't say what he really means. If we take him at his word, he has no preference for America. We are just one of many nations, with nothing special about us.

Throughout the years the United States has been seen as a beacon of hope for many. Economic, religious, and political freedoms have never been perfect here, and often in need of great reform. But even our imperfections have never prevented people from coming here to seek a better life. More, our example has inspired millions around the world to better their own countries.

The situation in Afghanistan demonstrates America's goals, and our need to work together. Over seven years ago, the United States pursued al Qaeda and the Taliban with broad international support. We did not go by choice, we went because of necessity. I am aware that some question or justify the events of 9/11. But let us be clear: al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people on that day. The victims were innocent men, women and children from America and many other nations who had done nothing to harm anybody. And yet Al Qaeda chose to ruthlessly murder these people, claimed credit for the attack, and even now states their determination to kill on a massive scale. They have affiliates in many countries and are trying to expand their reach. These are not opinions to be debated; these are facts to be dealt with....

We also know that military power alone is not going to solve the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That is why we plan to invest $1.5 billion each year over the next five years to partner with Pakistanis to build schools and hospitals, roads and businesses, and hundreds of millions to help those who have been displaced. And that is why we are providing more than $2.8 billion to help Afghans develop their economy and deliver services that people depend upon.

All very good. Unfortunately in between all this we find this statement

The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind; and whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind. The enduring faith of over a billion people is so much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few. Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism - it is an important part of promoting peace.
As Robert Spencer points out, this is utter nonsense. The idea that Islam is part of "promoting peace" flies against what one reads in the daily papers. Islam as currently practiced in much of the world is part of the problem. It is a religion for the most part stuck in the Middle Ages that desperately needs real reform. That President Bush also spun us with the "religion of peace" line is no excuse.
Let me also address the issue of Iraq. Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world. Although I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible. Indeed, we can recall the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said: "I hope that our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be."

Here we go again, back to his serial apologies. He just has to remind everyone that he that he opposed the war in Iraq, the clear implication being "we're sorry." Absolutely disgraceful.

How about other countries being asked to apologize to us for a change? For that matter, instead of us trying to understand the rest of the world, how about they try to understand us?

On to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people - Muslims and Christians - have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations - large and small - that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.

As the invaluable Melanie Phillips reminds us "The Palestinians have been offered a homeland repeatedly - in 1936, 1947, 2000 and last year. They have repeatedly turned it down. The Arabs could have created it between 1948 and 1967, when the West Bank and Gaza were occupied by Jordan and Egypt. They chose not to do so. They could have created it after 1967, when Israel offered the land to them in return for peace with Israel. They refused the offer. The Palestinians have suffered because they have tried for six decades to destroy the Jews' homeland."

But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.

This is relativism at it's worst.

Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It's a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.

Yes the Palestinians must abandon violence, but comparing their situation to that of black people is absurd. It implies an equality of justice that simply is not there. The Palestinians are in their current situation not because they have been mistreated by the Israelis, but because 1) they have been mistreated by their fellow Arabs, and 2) they have taken a bad situation and made it infinitely worse by their own behavior.

Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, and to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel's right to exist.

He's certainly right that the Palestinians need to switch their energies from building rockets to building industry. And yes Hamas needs to do the things he outlines, and maybe one day pigs will fly.

At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.

I'm not a fan of the settlements either, but they're not the problem. I guess he figures he has to say this though to appear even handed.

Moving to Iran, we have this

This issue has been a source of tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is indeed a tumultuous history between us. In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically- elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians. This history is well known. Rather than remain trapped in the past, I have made it clear to Iran's leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward. The question, now, is not what Iran is against, but rather what future it wants to build.

With Obama, every criticism of the Muslim world has to be met with an equal criticism of the United States. So before he can talk about Iranian transgressions, he has to apologize for something the United States did - as if there is an equality. We had to put up with this moral equivalency all throughout the Cold War from the anti-anticommunists and it looks like that attitude is alive and well in the White House today.

Next the president moves to the issue of Iran and nuclear weapons. Much of what he says is standard dipomatic drivel, but we do have this which is of note

I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons. That is why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. And any nation - including Iran - should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the Treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I am hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal.

Several points.

First, this business about how "no single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons" is again just so much moral relevancy. A gun in the hands of a policeman is good, while a gun in the hands of a bank robber is bad. Nuclear weapons in the hands of France or the United States is good, nuclear weapons in the hands of the Soviet Union or Iran is bad.

Second, energy concerns do not justify Iran's nuclear program.

Third, the idea of a world without nuclear weapons is a childish fantasy. I know, I know, Reagan said it too. All politicians say it. And it's silly coming from any of them. For some reason though they all feel compelled to repeat it.

Next the president addresses democracy. Or at least how he doesn't think it particularly important.

I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: no system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other.

That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.

The best reading of this is that he wants everyone to live in liberty but the exact structure of that government is left to the people. One wonders if he knows or cares that after World War II we imposed systems of government on Japan and Germany.

Again fine words, but not backed up by the needed challenge to the Muslim world; "you need to reform because there is precious little liberty in your part of the world."

Next the president addresses religion

Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition. I saw it firsthand as a child in Indonesia, where devout Christians worshiped freely in an overwhelmingly Muslim country. That is the spirit we need today. People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind, heart, and soul. This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive, but it is being challenged in many different ways.

The idea that "islam has a proud tradition of tolerance" is so insanely at odds with reality I'm speechless.

Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit - for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We cannot disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism.

I hardly see religious tolerance in the West as a problem.

Next we come to women's rights.

I know there is debate about this issue. I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality. And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well-educated are far more likely to be prosperous.

Can he actually believe that the veil is anything less than a symbol of subjugation?

Now let me be clear: issues of women's equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia, we have seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead. Meanwhile, the struggle for women's equality continues in many aspects of American life, and in countries around the world.

As if there is an equivalence between the struggle by women for equal rights in the West and in the Muslim world. Two hundred years ago women had it better in the West than they have it in much of the Muslim world today. Obama had a chance to demand women's rights and he blew it.

In his final comments President Obama discussed economic and scientific cooperation, but it was all boilerplate and as such of little interest.

Conclusion

Islam needs to be challenged to reform, and Obama dropped the ball. Yes I realize that it all must be couched in diplo-speak, but even so.

The Muslim world does not need our "understanding." It needs liberty for its people.

One problem with not standing up to dictators is that this is used by those leaders to squash dissent in their countries. Former political prisoners Natan (Anatoly) Sharansky (gulag, Soviet Union) and Armando Valladares (Cuba) have spoken and written about this. What they say is that obsequiousness by a US president is shown to dissidents and political prisoners and they are told "see, the US president doesn't care about you!" On the other hand, when a US president calls out the totalitarians, word eventually makes it to even political prisoners, whose morale is boosted. Sharansky, for example, tells of being told of Reagan's "evil empire" speech while in the gulag and being greatly encouraged.

The bottom line: President Obama had an opportunity to challenge the Muslim world to reform and adopt principles of liberty and he failed.

Dissidents across the Middle East are weaping.

Other Opinion


The Washington Times
:

Respect is a two-way street. Recent polls suggest that about half of Americans hold negative views of Islam, and this is not merely blind bigotry. If they want respect, Muslim states must seek active ways to improve relations with the United States

Melanie Phillips

So in conclusion, yes, there was some positive stuff in this speech - but it was outweighed by the United States President's shocking historical misrepresentations, gross ignorance, disgusting moral equivalence between aggressors and their victims, and disturbing sanitising of Islamist supremacism.

In short, deeply troubling.

Angelo Codevilla

Just imagine: After a thousand years during which Islam and Western civilization have trod opposite paths in philosophy, science, and the most basic attitudes toward relations between the sexes and the role of work in life -- and after a half-century during which Muslims have murdered Western ambassadors and Olympians, to the cheers of millions of their own -- suddenly a young American seems to believe he can conjure up a "new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world." How could anyone imagine he possesses such a "reset button"? The answer only starts with Yuppie hubris.

Dr Zuhdi Jasser

As long as this administration ignores ideology and focuses only on superficial public relations, the Islamists will continue to advance the ideas of political Islam while we sleep. It is time for a comprehensive, public domestic and foreign strategy against Islamism. It is time for Muslims to lead this effort with real American support and not just lip service.

Mansoor Ijaz

The architecture of President Obama's speech was brilliant -- it certainly addressed the most burning issues facing Muslims around the world today.

Atmospherically, he hit it just right. His recitations from the Koran, his greeting to the gathering in Arabic, and even the respect he showed by saying "Muhammad, peace be upon him" when referring to Islam's Holy Prophet, all demonstrated an abiding respect for Islamic traditions...

Where he failed in Cairo was to delineate the overarching fact that Islam's troubles lie within. It is not that America is not at war with Islam. It is that Islam is at war within itself -- to identify what this religion and system of beliefs is in the modern age. Osama bin Laden and his Egyptian sidekick Ayman Al Zawahiri want to take us all back to the Stone Age because they have nothing better to offer their followers than hate-filled preaching. Why didn't Obama say that?

Islam's worst enemies are within it. If wealthy Gulf Arabs want peace for Palestinians with Israel, why don't they take a fraction of their profligate spending (in nightclubs in Geneva, at bars in London, at boutiques in Milan) and redirect it to rebuilding Palestinian enclaves with schools, hospitals, food-production facilities, and manufacturing plants? We might then have durable peace possible in the Middle East. Why didn't Obama say that?

Charles Krauthammer: "Abstraction...self-absorption...vapidity...moral equivalence"

Wesley Pruden

He told the Cairo audience that "to move forward we must say openly the things we hold in our hearts," but he wasted the opportunity to forcefully instruct Muslims that respect and appreciation must be mutual. While conceding the mote in American eyes, he said almost nothing about the beam that blinds Muslim eyes. He enumerated the "sources of tension" between Islamic countries and the West and never mentioned terrorism. He chided the West for its harsh view of Islamic treatment of women - "I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal" - and suggested that denying education to women is the gravest Muslim sin against women. He could have denounced "honor killings," forced marriages and how women in Muslim countries are flogged on the pretext of minuscule violations of eighth-century Sharia law.


Posted by Tom at 10:25 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 6, 2009

Democracy v Authority in Nation Building

In the wake of Vietnam we forswore nationbuilding. Today we are heavily engaged in at least two such enterprises, Iraq and Afghanistan. Amazing how circumstances force such changes in policy.

But in a sense the West has been engaged in nationbuilding for decades, if not a century, whether we wanted to admit it or not. The Weimar Republic in Germany was a form of nationbuilding in that we pretty much forced democracy on that country in the wake of what was then called The Great War. In the 1950s and 60s, when ex-colonies were becoming nations, we insisted that they choose their government in democratic fashion. While some turned out to be one-man, one-vote, one-time, others, such as India, have turned into successful democratic states.

It is unclear whether our ventures in Iraq and Afghanistan will be successes or failures. What is clear is that it's not easy to create anything like what we would call a democracy in either. One of my pet theories is that we in the West are good at setting up votes, but not so good at instilling true liberty, or creating a pluralistic societies. Germany after World War II was a Western society, so at least had the benefit of having gone through the Renaissance, Enlightenment, and Reformation. We pounded Japan so hard that although their society had not gone through these things it didn't really matter. But neither Iraq nor Afghanistan have the Western experience, and we pounded neither into the ground as we did Japan. Thus, perhaps, our difficulty.

It was Rich Lowry's post at NRO's The Corner which set me thinking on this today. He brings up how many conservatives, seeing the difficulty of the project in Iraq, have said "sure these societies are having trouble setting up governments, but so did the United States." This is a fascicle comparison, he says, because it ignores the cultural differences, and that "it's the absence of order and functioning institutions not democracy that is the fundamental problem in these societies."

He then quotes Samuel Huntington from his book Political Order in Changing Societies:

[A] reason for American indifference to political development was the absence in the American historical experience of the need to found a political order. Americans, de Tocqueville said, were born equal and hence never had to worry about creating equality; they enjoyed the fruits of a democratic revolution without having suffered one. So also, America was born with a government, with political institutions and practices imported from seventeenth-century England. Hence Americans never had to worry about creating a government. This gap in historical experience made them peculiarly blind to the problems of creating effective authority in modernizing countries.

When an American thinks about the problem of government-building, he directs himself not to the creation of authority and the accumulation of power but rather to the limitation of authority and the division of power. Asked to design a government, he comes up with a written constitution, bill of rights, separation of powers, checks and balances, federalism, regular elections, competitive parties--all excellent devices for limiting government. The Lockean American is so fundamentally anti-government that he identifies government with restrictions on government. Confronted with the need to design a political system which will maximize power and authority, he has no ready answer. His general formula is that governments should be based on free and fair elections.

In many modernizing societies this formula is irrelevant. Elections to be meaningful presuppose a certain level of political organization. The problem is not to hold elections but to create organizations. In many, if not most, modernizing countries elections serve only to enhance the power of disruptive and often reactionary social forces and to tear down the structure of public authority. "In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men," Madison warned in The Federalist, No. 51, "the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself." In many modernizing countries governments are still unable to perform the first function, much less the second. The primary problem is not liberty but the creation of a legitimate public order. Men may, of course, have order without liberty, but they cannot have liberty without order. Authority has to exist before it can be limited.

Indeed we take public order for granted in the West. We've had our riots, but nothing that came anywhere near doing anything more than keeping some people from going to work for a few days. The American Civil War happened so long ago it's ancient history for us (in the U.S. we slap a historical marker on a house that's 100 years old, something that must make Europeans smile). We entertain ourselves with an apocalyptic movie here and there, but the idea of it really happening... no, not to us.

And this of course is a good thing. When listing the virtues of the West, most of us put things like democracy, liberty, pluralism, freedom, capitalism, tolerance, that sort of thing. Few people would put "public order." Natan Sharansky failed to discuss the importance of keeping public order as a prerequisite to democracy in his much-discussed 2004 book The Case for Democracy

Fewer people, I think, miss the "(already) functioning institutions not democracy," that Lowry brings up. We know that we inherited our institutions from Britain, as our revolution was fundamentally different than the French or Russian Revolutions, which completely overthrew the old order and started anew. In this sense our revolution was Burkean in that it was "to preserve the rights of Englishmen." But I'm not here to argue history.

My point, and question, is how do we take these lessons and apply them to the future? As I've said ad nauseum here on this blog, we are where we are with regard to Iraq and Afghanistan, so I've little patience in refighting the battle of whether it was right to invade either. I'm all for learning lessons, don't get me wrong. For example, one of the biggest lessons of Iraq is that democracy is impossible unless public safety is first ensured.

More to it, what about other third world countries around the world? What will happen with North Korea implodes? Is there any hope in the near term for African or Arab countries? Pakistan may be on the verge of sliding into Taliban-style fundamentalism, so is there any hope for them as well? What about Iran if or when they can rid themselves of their crazy mullah rulers? We tend to think of how we can create democracy and liberty in these countries, but as we've learned just keeping order is a huge challenge. And as we learned with Afghanistan, ignoring a problem won't make it go away. We forgot about that country when the Soviets left and the resulting chaos led to the Taliban, their hosting of al Qaeda, and 9-11.

I don't know the answers, but it's certainly worth pondering, because whether we like it or not I believe the world is going to present us with more challenges sooner rather than later, regardless of who holds the presidency in the U.S.

Posted by Tom at 10:30 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 2, 2009

The Coming War on American Sovereignty

What do these stories have in common?

One: The New York Times reports that a Spanish court wants to indite former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez on five other Bush Administration officials, charging that they "violated international law by providing the legal framework to justify the torture of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay." If this evokes a response of "oh these are some kooks and nothing will come of it," think again.

Two: The Times also reports that President Obama has appointed Yale law school dean Harold Koh has to head the legal adviser's office in the State Department. Ed Whelan at NRO says that "Koh is a leading proponent of transnationalism."

Three: There's a new push for the United States to ratify something called the innocuous sounding UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Last month I was fortunate enough to attend a lecture by Michael Farris in which he explained why it's not so innocuous.

The answer is that they're signs of what is coming down the pike and fast; a determined attack on the concept of national sovereignty in general, and American sovereignty in particular.

These may seem isolated incidents, and in a way they are. What's important is that we recognize is that there is a large and well organized effort by the internationalist left to destroy traditional concepts of sovereignty. Now that President Obama is in office with large Democrat majorities in each house of Congress, they're determined to strike while the iron is hot.

Their plan is laid out for all to see. You can find it at the website of The Brookings Institution, one of the largest and most influential liberal think tanks in Washington DC. It's part of their Managing Global Insecurity (MGI) project. The MGI is a cooperative effort between them, tanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation, and New York University's Center on International Cooperation.

Rolled out last November, the full title is A Plan for Action A New Era of International Cooperation for a Changed World: 2009, 2010, and Beyond. There's a link where you can download it from the aformentioned page.

I did, and what I found concerns me greatly.

This document is the worst of the worst regarding the plans of the internationalist left. If this represents anything like what the Obama Administration wants to do, then America as we know it will come to an end. It would represent a victory for second and third-world dictators and statists, and jihadists, and a defeat for traditional notions of liberty.

At the end of the Cold War it seemed that liberty and democracy (not quite the same thing) were on the ascendancy, and indeed the 90s seemed to bear that out if one didn't look to hard at demographic figures.

After 9-11 many of us woke up to the jihadist threat. We realized that we were in a World War IV (or War of Ideas, Clash of Civilizations, choose your term) and that a new long era of struggle awaited us. Those who looked more closely at our traditional allies in Europe saw problems that we had ignored for too long

Let's look at some of the American members of the Advisory Group who contributed to this document

  • Madeleine Albright - President Clinton's Secretary of State. 'Nuff said
  • Richard Armitage - Who undercut the Bush Administration and leaked the information about Valerie Plame to Robert Novak
  • Samuel Berger - who stole top secret documents from the National Achives
  • Lawrence Eagleburger - how he was duped into this business I'll never know
  • John Podesta - big lib
  • Brent Scowcroft - champion of stability uber alles in foreign affairs to the point where all action is forbidden as "destabilizing"
  • Strobe Talbott - one-world goverment guy. He was famously wrong about Soviet IRBMs in the 1980s, urging President Reagan to abandon his insistence on a "zero-zero" solution.

Some of the International Members

  • Wu Jianmin - former Ambassador of China to the UN. I'm sure he has our best interests in mind.
  • Igor S. Ivanov - former Russian Foreign Minister. Ditto to what i said about Jianmin
  • Salim Ahmed Salim - Former Secretary-General of the Organization of African Unity, an oxymoron if there ever was one.

Their Recommendations

Let's just go straight to the end of this document and see what it says

Under "TRACK 1 GOAL: America restores its standing internationally--a necessary foundation for credible U.S. leadership across this action agenda" we see

Deliver Consistent and Strong Messages on International Cooperation
  • High-level consultations conducted to promote global dialogue
  • Presidential speeches in the lead-up to the G8, UNGA, and in strategic international capitals;
  • message delivered on U.S. leadership to build a 21st century international security system
  • U.S. shifts rhetoric away from a general GWOT and towards a specific war against Al Qaeda and its affiliates
  • Demonstrate Respect for a Rules-Based System
  • U.S. upholds Geneva Conventions, Convention Against Torture and other laws of war
  • U.S. President closes Guantanamo and works with Congress on a sustainable detainee policy

As with everyone who insists that we close Gitmo they never say what we're supposed to do with the prisoners there. Obama, we now know, is shipping some of them to prisons in the United States. Ok... but how many? What about the foreigners? We know that their countries won't take them, or we won't extradite them because we're afraid they'll torture them. This itself could be the subject of an entire post. What bugs me is the self-assured arrogance of these people that all they have to do is say "close Guantanamo" and presto problem solved.

Of course, there is the general wrongness of moving " away from a general GWOT and towards a specific war against Al Qaeda and its affiliates" which completely misunderstands our current struggle.

Under "TRACK 3 GOAL: Utilize enhanced international cooperation and international institutions to tackle key global threats" we have, among other things

Negotiate Two-Track Agreement on Climate Change Under UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) auspices
  • Track 1 is emissions abatement: major emitters agree on global 2020 and 2050 emissions targets, price carbon, and legislate/coordinate national measures
  • Track 2 is investment: investment in technology, adaptation, and rainforests to manage the impacts of climate change on the developing world
  • Negotiations led through a G16 climate group under UNFCCC auspices

Man-made climate change is at best debatable, and possibly outright fiction. I'm fine with a scientific debate, but what what bothers me is how this is being used by internationalists to dilute American power, increase the power of second and third-world dictators, and control the citizens of developed countries such as the United States. That their schemes will drive us to economic ruin is oddly the least of our worries.

Revitalize the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Regime
  • Nuclear states re-pledge commitment to disarmament: initiate a joint study of reducing their nuclear weapons to zero

Which will allow countries from China to Iran to blackmail us, because only a fool would think they'll give up their nukes.

Under "TRACK 4 GOAL: Internationalize crisis response in the broader Middle East to address regional conflict and transnational threats" we have this fantasy

Improve International Strategy and Increase Investments for Afghanistan
  • Seek further troop commitments to secure volatile regions

The Europeans have made it clear they're not interested in contributing more than a token number of troops, and many of those who do have troops there have imposed such strict rules on what they can do that they're largely useless.

There's the usual blather about a negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, but that's an idea so stupid that only an intellectual could think it possible (with apologies to Orwell).

Worst of all, perhaps, is this

Improve Relations Between Islam and the West
  • (The) West focuses on messages that build bridges rather than alienate, including avoiding phrases such as Islamic terrorism
  • U.S. focuses on respect for international law, and avoiding double standards on democratic principles in the Muslim world

Grrr. There are so many things wrong with these two sentences one hardly knows where to start.

The entire problem is that Islam is a Medieval religion that has never undergone a Renaissance, Reformation, or Enlightenment. Pandering or ignoring the problem will not help bring this about. We must confront Islam and encourage true reformers, not blather about "building bridges" and the like. Most of all, we must use terms like "Islamic Terrorism" because that's what it is.

Further, the "double standards" are almost entirely on the Muslim side. Everyone has some hypocrisy in them, but the Muslim world takes the cake.

Most importantly, this talk about "international law" is really just an attempt by the hate-America crowd to limit American power. This is wrong because all values and cultures are not equal, some are better than others. Sorry relativists, but "the West is Best."

The entire document is only 42 pages so please download and read it, but what I have quoted is representative and if anything other quotes would be even worse.

Better than I could say it, though, is John Bolton. In an article in Commentary titled The Coming War on Sovereignty (yes I stole his title and just added a word, and h/t Andy McCarthy at NRO) he outlined what is happening and why it is so nefarious. Money quotes:

...the authors provide a brief for what they call "responsible sovereignty." They define it as "the notion that sovereignty entails obligations and duties toward other states as well as to one's own citizens," and they believe that its application can form the basis for a "cooperative international order." At first glance, the phrase "responsible sovereignty" may seem unremarkable, given the paucity of advocates for "irresponsible sovereignty." But despite the Plan's mainstream provenance, the conception is a dramatic overhaul of sovereignty itself.

"Global leaders," the Plan insists, "increasingly recognize that alone they are unable to protect their interests and their citizens--national security has become interdependent with global security." The United States must therefore commit to "a rule-based international system that rejects unilateralism and looks beyond military might," or else "resign [our]selves to an ad-hoc international system." Mere "traditional sovereignty" is insufficient in the new era we have entered, an era in which we must contend with "the realities of a now transnational world." This "rule-based international system" will create the conditions for "global governance."...

Diplomacy is a tool, not a policy. It is a technique, not an end in itself. Urging, however earnestly, that we "engage" with our enemies tells us nothing about what happens after concluding the initial pleasantries at the negotiating table...

For the authors and signatories of A Plan of Action, sovereignty is simply an abstraction, a historical concept about as important today as the "sovereigns" from whose absolute rights the term originally derived. That is not the understanding of the U.S. Constitution, which locates the basis of its legitimacy in "we the people," who constitute the sovereign authority of the nation.

"Sharing" sovereignty with someone or something else is thus not abstract for Americans. Doing so by definition will diminish the sovereign power of the American people over their government and their own lives, the very purpose for which the Constitution was written. This is something Americans have been reluctant to do. Now their reluctance may have to take the form of more concerted action against "responsible sovereignty" if its onward march is to be halted or reversed. Our Founders would clearly understand the need.

More To It Than Even This

If you think all this is just about Iraq and Bush's GWOT think again. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child cited above is only the tip of the iceberg. We know how bad the climate change stuff will be. The internationalists are also working to destroy our Second Amendment as well. Just as bad, they're working to take away our free speech, ostensibly through a "Combating defamation of religions" resolution, this latter pushed by the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

If you don't believe me google around and see for yourself.

My Plea to Liberals

If you want to hate George W. Bush and all Republicans fine. If you think that our country needs to be reformed from within fine. We can debate issues such as foreign policy, the role of the armed forces, health care, taxes, the mimimum wage, a maximum wage for executives or whatever. If you want to take a hard liberal position on each of them fine.

And maybe you'll win. Maybe you'll get a majority of Americans to agree with you.

But let's debate and decide these things ourselves. Let's make our own decisions amongst ourselves.

I ask; do you really, really and truly, want to give the theocrats in the Middle East a say in what we've traditionally considered our internal decisions? The kleptocrats of Africa? The timpot dictators of Central and South America?

Update

A Radical Perspective has linked to this post. He makes some good points, so go checkit out.

Posted by Tom at 9:45 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

May 16, 2008

Bush in Israel and the Democrat Melt Down

Well well, so Senator Obama and a whole slew of Democrats are all bent out of shape over what President Bush said in Israel. Here's the part of his speech before the Knesset yesterday that has them all in a tizzy:

Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: "Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided." We have an obligation to call this what it is -- the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history. (Applause.)

Note, of course, that no Democrat is actually named. If the currently outraged Democrats had been thinking, they would have issued statements that went something like this:

"One thing all Americans agree on is that appeasement doesn't work. As president, I will engage in tough, principled, and direct diplomacy just like Kennedy, Nixon and Reagan before me. And of course, no American president will engage with terrorists, least of all those who seek to destroy our stalwart ally, Israel. I look forward to celebrating the 65th anniversary of Israel's independence."

But nooooo, they had to all go off and through a big hissy fit.

Senator Obama showed why he'll never be qualified to be president:

I'm a strong believer in civility and I'm a strong believer in a bipartisan foreign policy, but that cause is not served with dishonest, divisive attacks of the sort that we've seen out of George Bush and John McCain over the last couple days

and

That's exactly the kind of appalling attack that's divided our country and that alienates us from the world

"Divisive"? This from a senator who's party wants to force "gay marriage" on us through the courts; the most undemocratic branch of government? That is in bed with Movon.org, one of the most "divisive" groups out there? That panders to the nutroots crowd who regularly deride Bush and Cheney in the most vile terms?

Mark Salter nails Obama's M.O.

We have all become familiar with Senator Obama's new brand of politics. First, you demand civility from your opponent, then you attack him, distort his record and send out surrogates to question his integrity. It is called hypocrisy, and it is the oldest kind of politics there is.

Rich Lowry lists Obama's "rules", and what is "off limits"

He can't be called a "liberal" ("the same names and labels they pin on everyone," as Obama puts it); his toughness on the war on terror can't be questioned ("attempts to play on our fears"); his extreme positions on social issues can't be exposed ("the same efforts to distract us from the issues that affect our lives" and "turn us against each other"); and his Chicago background too is off-limits ("pouncing on every gaffe and association and fake controversy").

Should we on the right take Obama up on his stated desire to have an oh-so-clean campaign?

We could take Obama's rules in good faith if he never calls John McCain a "conservative" or labels him in any other way. If he never criticizes him for his association with George Bush. If he doesn't jump on his gaffes (like McCain's 100-years-in-Iraq comment that Obama distorted and harped on for weeks). And if he never says anything that would tend to make Americans fearful about the future or divide them (i.e., say things that some people agree with and others don't).

Oh, and he would have to stop lying about the meaning of Senator McCain's "100 years in Iraq" statement.

Obama's not alone, though, in his whining. Michael Goldfarb, blogging at The Weekly Standard, has usefully compiled a list of reactions. Here's one

(Senator Joe) Biden again did not mince words when discussing Bush's remarks, accusing the president of engaging in "long-distance swiftboating" with his speech in Israel. Biden also cited numerous examples of the Bush Administration reaching out to unfriendly regimes in Libya, North Korea and Iran, arguing that Bush's insinuation that the Democrats were soft on terrorism was "truly delusional ... and truly disgraceful."

The Democrats can sure dish it out but they can't take it.

So What of Appeasement?

The Democrats claim that they're not appeasers of dictators and terrorists. Are they?

Since Senator Obama is the one in the limelight, let's look briefly at his record:

Senator Obama: yesterday "George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists..."

Senator Obama November 1, 2007: "I would meet directly with Iranian leaders. I would meet directly with Syrian leaders. "

A quick look at the relevant website for the State Department confirms what we already know

Iran remained the most active state sponsor of terrorism....

Since Syria's 1979 designation as a state sponsor of terrorism, it has continued to provide political support to Palestinian terrorist groups.....

What really is the difference between meeting with Hamas, Hezbollah, and the leaders of those who sponsor them? Neither group could survive were it not for their sponsors.

Want more? Here's Obama at one of the Democrat debates last year:

Asked if he would be willing to meet separately "without precondition" during the first year of his administration with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea, Obama said, "I would."

Here he is again:

"The notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them...is ridiculous," Sen. Obama said in a debate last year. "One of the first things that I would do in terms of moving a diplomatic effort in the region forward is to send a signal that we need to talk to Iran and Syria."

What's ridiculous is the notion that such a meeting will not be trumpeted as a victory by the Jihadists. What Obama does not seem to realize is that the United States is not just an average run-of-the-mill nation. The President, Democrat or Republican, is not called "the leader of the free world" for nothing. Simply meeting with the President will be interpreted as lending legitimacy to regimes that are illegitimate and worried about it. Dictators, by their very nature, have no real legitimacy. The pseudo-elections in Iran and Venezuela (they probably have them in Syria, Cuba, and North Korea too) change this not at all.

So even if nothing is decided at these "talks", they will be portrayed as a victory by the other side. We can say all we want that no, they're not a victory for Iran/Syria/Cuba/North Korea/Venezuela, but it won't matter. The propaganda organs of our opponents will be out in full force, and in one of Bush's biggest failings he hasn't beefed up ours, so there won't be much of a response.

Not Just Obama

It's not just Sen. Obama who is an appeaser. Kathryn Jean Lopez has helpfully compiled a list of other Democrats the President could have been talking about, such as

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, freelance diplomat, who in December 2007 said: "the road to Damascus is a road to peace."

Or, perhaps he meant Speaker Pelosi in April 2007: "I believe in dialogue. As my colleagues have said over and over again, unless you communicate, you cannot understand each other. You cannot reach agreement."

Or maybe he meant recent Obama endorser and former North Carolina senator John Edwards, who, according to his own press release in February of last year, believes "the U.S. should step up our diplomatic efforts by engaging in direct talks with all the nations in the region, including Iran and Syria."
...

Or former Democratic presidential candidates and senators Chris Dodd and John Kerry, who met with Syria's al-Assad and said: "As senior Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee, we felt it was important to make clear that while we believe in resuming dialogue, our message is no different: Syria can and should play a more constructive role in the region ...


Liberals typically bring up the fact that U.S. presidents from Roosevelt to Reagan met with Soviet leaders. This is true, but misleading. These were meetings well scripted out in advance, with little being left to chance. Reykjavik in 1986 was the exception, not the rule.

Further, Obama seems blissfully unaware that unscripted high-level meetings are highly risky. As often as not they backfire. Reykjavik backfired on Gorbachev. Khrushchev sized up Kennedy as a "weakling" in their initial meeting, prompting the former to believe he could get away with sneaking nuclear-armed missiles into Cuba. It's widely thought that Stalin snookered Roosevelt at Yalta. If nothing else, Obama should read Khrushchev's rants at Eisenhower or Nixon during some of their meetings. That alone would give him second thoughts.

So should we not "talk" with these regimes? I hate to sound Clintonian, but it depends on what you mean by "talk". A meeting with an Iranian representative in the back room of the Canadian embassy in Madrid? No problem. President-to-President talks surrounded by thousands of reporters? Hold your horses.

Lastly, in fairness I will say that President Bush's tough talk hasn't extended to the Saudis, who's export of Wahhabism is designed to destroy the West. Also, our dopey Secretary of State has been "pressuring Israel to meet with Hamas representatives". Side

On the upside, Senator John McCain tells it like it is

If Senator Obama wants to sit down across the table with the leader of a nation that calls Israel a stinking corpse--what is it that he wants to talk about with him?

Nothing.

Meaningful negotiations could take place if they stop sponsoring terrorist organizations...those are the preconditions for sitting down with the Iranians.

Exactly right.

Update

This is the guy who wants to negotiate with the dictators of Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and Cuba (h/t Dagney's Rant)


I'm sure they'll all take him very seriously after he destroys our ability to respond to anything militarily.

What we need to do is spend more money on weapons, not less.


Posted by Tom at 8:00 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

December 2, 2007

Newt Nails It

Many of us on the right are increasingly dissatisfied with the Bush Administration's handling of the "war on terror". Most of us aren't even really happy with that term, and those of us who accept it tend to do so only because either they don't think it can be changed or because none of the other choices seem better.

The president started out strong after 9-11, and it seemed that there was a new sheriff in town. The rest of the world saw that after those attacks on our homeland we did not hesitate in quickly going to Afghanistan and routing the Taliban and al Qaeda there. A little over a year later we removed another cancer in the region by quickly smashing the Iraqi army and rolling into Baghdad.

The outlaw regimes of the world trembled and the rest of the world looked on in awe.

This is the type of respect that I want for our country. When Democrats, reporters, news anchors ask "how can the U.S. regain the respect of the rest of the world" they are looking for a politically correct answer along the lines of "pull out of Iraq, apologize for invading, and only do what the UN allows us to do". But that's appeasement, not respect (As a side note, why is it that no one thinks to ask "what can the rest of the world do to gain our respect?")

When Iraq turned out to be more difficult than anticiplated we stumbled, and in the years that followed slowly lost our way. I've detailed all this in numerous posts on this blog, but no one does it better than Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich is simply one of the most brilliant speakers there is. I heard him last year at CPAC

In an article posted the other day at Family Security Matters, he takes us through the genesis of our problem and how to fix it. Following are the most important excerpts, but I encourage you to read the whole thing

Our current problem is tragic. You have an administration whose policy is inadequate being opposed by a political Left whose policy is worse, and you have nobody prepared to talk about the policy we need. Because we are told if you are for a strong America, you should back the Bush policy even if it's inadequate, and so you end up making an argument in favor of something that can't work. So your choice is to defend something which isn't working or to oppose it by being for an even weaker policy. So this is a catastrophe for this country and a catastrophe for freedom around the world. Because we have refused to be honest about the scale of the problem. ...

What's the primary source of money for al Qaeda? It's you, re-circulated through Saudi Arabia. Because we have no national energy strategy, when clearly if you really cared about liberating the United States from the Middle East and if you really cared about the survival of Israel, one of your highest goals would be to move to a hydrogen economy and to eliminate petroleum as a primary source of energy.
...

So then you look at Saudi Arabia. The fact that we tolerate a country saying no Christian and no Jew can go to Mecca, and we start with the presumption that that's true while they attack Israel for being a religious state is a sign of our timidity, our confusion, our cowardice that is stunning.
...

So we accept this totally one-sided definition of the world in which our enemies can cheerfully lie on television every day, and we don't even have the nerve to insist on the truth. We pretend their lies are reasonable. This is a very fundamental problem. And if you look at who some of the largest owners of some of our largest banks are today, they're Saudis.
...

So we accept this totally one-sided definition of the world in which our enemies can cheerfully lie on television every day, and we don't even have the nerve to insist on the truth. We pretend their lies are reasonable. This is a very fundamental problem. And if you look at who some of the largest owners of some of our largest banks are today, they're Saudis.
...

We have created our own nightmare because we refuse to tell the truth. We refuse to tell the truth to our politicians. Our State Department refuses to tell the truth to the country. If the president of the United States, and again, we're now so bitterly partisan, we're so committed to red vs. blue hostility, that George W. Bush doesn't have the capacity to give an address from the Oval Office that has any meaning for half the country. And the anti-war Left is so strong in the Democratic primary that I think it's almost impossible for any Democratic presidential candidate to tell the truth about the situation.

And so the Republicans are isolated and trying to defend incompetence. The Democrats are isolated and trying to find a way to say, "I'm really for strength as long as I can have peace, but I'd really like to have peace, except I don't want to recognize these people who aren't very peaceful.
...

None of our enemies are confused. Our enemies don't get up each morning and go, "Oh, gosh, I think I'll have an existential crisis of identity in which I will try to think through whether or not we can be friends while you're killing me." Our enemies get up every morning and say, "We hate the West. We hate freedom." They would not allow a meeting with women in the room.
...

Now what do we need?

We need first of all to recognize this is a real war. Our enemies are peaceful when they're weak, are ruthless when they're strong, demand mercy when they're losing, show no mercy when they're winning. They understand exactly what this is, and anybody who reads Sun Tzu will understand exactly what we're living through. This is a total war. One side is going to win. One side is going to lose. You'll be able to tell who won and who lost by who's still standing. Most of Islam is not in this war, but most of Islam isn't going to stop this war. They're just going to sit to one side and tell you how sorry they are that this happened. We had better design grand strategies that are radically bigger and radically tougher and radically more honest than anything currently going on, and that includes winning the argument in Europe, and it includes winning the argument in the rest of the world. And it includes being very clear, and I'll just give you one simple example because we're now muscle-bound by our own inability to talk honestly.

Iran produces 60% of its own gasoline. It produces lots of crude oil but only has one refinery. It imports 40% of its gasoline. The entire 60% is produced at one huge refinery.
...

n the 28 years since the Iranians declared war on us, in the six years since 9/11, in the months since Gen. Petraeus publicly said they are killing young Americans, we have not been able to figure out how to take down one refinery. Covertly, quietly, without overt war. And we have not been able to figure out how to use the most powerful navy in the world to simply stop the tankers and say, "Look, you want to kill young Americans, you're going to walk to the battlefield, but you're not going to ride in the car because you're not going to have any gasoline."
...

We had better take this seriously because we are not very many mistakes away from a second Holocaust. Three nuclear weapons is a second Holocaust. Our enemies would like to get those weapons as soon as they can, and they promise to use them as soon as they can.

I suggest we defeat our enemies and create a different situation long before they have that power.

I don't think we're quite at the point where we need to take out that single Iranian refinery, or blockade their shipping, but we're getting close.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 1, 2007

Sarkozy Rocks

The more I read about the new President of France the more impressed I am. Consider this in today's Washington Times

New hints that France may rejoin NATO's military wing after a 41-year absence underscore a stunning foreign-policy shift under new President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Gone are the Iraq war diatribes, the Palestinian sympathies, the close ties with Moscow and the crumbling ones with Washington — all trademarks of French foreign policy under former President Jacques Chirac.

With his penchant for jogging, American movies and summering in New Hampshire, the 51-year-old Mr. Sarkozy has embraced a decidedly pro-U.S. tone, even as his government scores trans-Atlantic points through sharpened rhetoric against Iran and overtures to Iraq.

I know that American conservatives have had quite a bit of fun bashing France these past few years, but as long as he's in power and keeps up like this, you won't read anything bad about France on this blog.

Not only does Sarkozy seek better ties with the U.S. and has stopped his anti-American bashing, he has even made statements about joining us in bombing Iran if it looks like they might get the bomb.

In case you're wondering, yes France does have a navy that would come in quite handy in any showdown with Iran. Their flagship is the Charles de Gaulle (R 91), which at 40,000 tones displacement is a smaller version of one of our Nimitz-class ships. But unlike the British carriers, which can only carry the Harrier, the Charles de Gaulle carries regular fixed-wing aircraft, including E-2c Hawkeyes. At only 40 aircraft it's hardly the equal of one of our carriers, but then again Iran isn't the Soviet Union.

We should be very happy if France would join us in any attack on Iran, and at least while Sarkozy is President stop needless French-bashing.

Posted by Tom at 9:32 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 12, 2007

Update II: New Rules for Going To War

Well that was fast. Just last Monday I published an updated version of our New Rules for Going to War if Liberals Were in Charge, and here already have one more to add.

Here it is:

* Every fatality in a hostile area requires its own formal investigation. This will be known as the Cpl. Pat Tillman Rule.

Here are the compete rules, including our addition

• The UN Security Council must approve all US action before it is taken

• A majority of nations in Europe must approve of and participate in military operations

• France in particular must approve, though they need not actually participate

• Before any ground, sea, or air forces are committed, a limit is set on US casualties, and we withdraw all forces the moment that limit is reached

• Before ground, sea, or air forces are committed, a timeline for disengagement is established before we go in. We must withdraw forces according to the established timeframe regardless of whether the mission has been achieved

• Members of Congress have the right to change their mind at any time for any reason and demand an immediate withdrawal

• It at any time a poll of the American people show that their support for military operations goes below 50% the troops are to be immediately withdrawn

• It at any time a poll of active-duty military personnel show that their support for military operations goes below 50% the troops are to be immediately withdrawn. This is the Senator James Webb rule.

• It at any time a poll of active-duty military personnel show that they do not support current tactics and strategy, those tactics and strategy will be immediately changed.

• No one who has not served in the military may speak in favor of offensive military operations

• No one who does not have at least one son or daughter of military age may express concern for the troops because obviously they do not understand what they're going through. This is the Senator Barbara Boxer rule.

• All troops that are in the United States, and have seen combat, must not be returned to combat until they have had a rest period equal to their time in combat. Further, no National Guard or Reserve unit may be deployed for three years after a deployment. This is another Senator James Webb rule.

• US allies must contribute as many troops as does the United States, as measured as a percentage of their population. This is the Senator Barack Obama rule.

• Any active duty general or admiral who agrees with the administration must be a toadie and only telling them what they want to hear. Therefore, all advice will be taken from panels of retired generals, preferably those who have been critical of the administration.

* Every fatality in a hostile area requires its own formal investigation. This will be known as the Cpl. Pat Tillman Rule.

• All of the rules are null and void if the president is a Democrat. This is another Senator Barack Obama rule.

Posted by Tom at 8:57 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 6, 2007

Updated: New Rules for Going to War

If we took the left at its word we'd have some awfully strange and restrictive rules we'd have to follow before and during any conflict. They're not at all like classic Just War Theory but they seem to be what some people want. I first posted them last January but it's time to add some new ones. So here they are, with the new ones at bottom

• The UN Security Council must approve all US action before it is taken

• A majority of nations in Europe must approve of and participate in military operations

• France in particular must approve, though they need not actually participate

• Before any ground, sea, or air forces are committed, a limit is set on US casualties, and we withdraw all forces the moment that limit is reached

• Before ground, sea, or air forces are committed, a timeline for disengagement is established before we go in. We must withdraw forces according to the established timeframe regardless of whether the mission has been achieved

• Members of Congress have the right to change their mind at any time for any reason and demand an immediate withdrawal

• It at any time a poll of the American people show that their support for military operations goes below 50% the troops are to be immediately withdrawn

• It at any time a poll of active-duty military personnel show that their support for military operations goes below 50% the troops are to be immediately withdrawn. This is the Senator James Webb rule.

• It at any time a poll of active-duty military personnel show that they do not support current tactics and strategy, those tactics and strategy will be immediately changed.

• No one who has not served in the military may speak in favor of offensive military operations

• No one who does not have at least one son or daughter of military age may express concern for the troops because obviously they do not understand what they're going through. This is the Senator Barbara Boxer rule.

• All troops that are in the United States, and have seen combat, must not be returned to combat until they have had a rest period equal to their time in combat. Further, no National Guard or Reserve unit may be deployed for three years after a deployment. This is another Senator James Webb rule.

• US allies must contribute as many troops as does the United States, as measured as a percentage of their population. This is the Senator Barack Obama rule.

• Any active duty general or admiral who agrees with the administration must be a toadie and only telling them what they want to hear. Therefore, all advice will be taken from panels of retired generals, preferably those who have been critical of the administration.

• All of the rules are null and void if the president is a Democrat. This is another Senator Barack Obama rule.

Posted by Tom at 9:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 1, 2007

Here's an Idea Guaranteed to Stir Up Trouble

Let's invade Pakistan.

So says Barack Obama in a speech to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars this morning

...let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will.

What exactly Obama means by "act" he doesn't actually say. Maybe he just means a strike with a Hellfire missile from a Preditor drone, maybe special forces lifted in by helicoper, maybe an invasion by the 10th Mountain Division... who knows.

Either way, Obama seems not to understand the import of his words.

The speech is full of tough talk. Obama sounds like a regular warmongering conservative through most of it, full of threats and intimidating talk. It's also full of several outright lies, such as his claiming that the Bush Administration followed a "a deliberate strategy to misrepresent 9/11 to sell a war against a country that had nothing to do with 9/11." But never mind that for now. Jim Geraghty "Fisks" the speech brilliantly over at NRO. I don't have the time tonight to go through it line-by-line.

The main thing that strikes me about the speech is that typical of the left these days it's always to fight another war, to send troops to another location, to talk tough to someone else. Wherever it is we're fighing, he's against it. But boy he's tough when it comes to doing something else. Call me cynical, but I rather think that this speech today is more a response to Hillary's criticsm than anything else. If by some accident he does become president something tells me that the Democrat left will make sure that none of these strong words become action.

It all reminds me of the latter stages of the Cold War, when most Democrats could be counted on to oppose whatever weapons system was currently being proposed by the Pengagon; but in favor of something that was safely years down the road.

Instead of going on, I think that John Podhoretz has it about right so I'll just quote him

Obama is full of it. This country is never — never — going to stage a major military action against Pakistan. Pakistan is a nation of 170 million people that has nuclear weapons and whose admittedly problematic and troublesome regime has, to some extent, cooperated with the United States in the war against Al Qaeda both in ways we know and ways we have no idea about. The concern that this strategically vital county might become an Islamic fundamentalist state is, should be, and will be paramount in every and all discussions about how to conduct the fight against Al Qaeda.

What's more, every serious person knows the United States won't invade Pakistan, even with Special Forces — since the reason we cancelled the proposed action against Al Qaeda in 2005 is that it was going to take many hundreds of American troops to do it. This isn't 15 people dropping like ninjas in the darkness. It's an invasion, with helicopters and supply lines and routes of ingress and escape. It would have had unforseen and unforeseeable consequences, but it would have been reasonable to assume the Pakistanis would have turned violently against the United States and hurtled toward Islamic fundamentalist control.

If the evil Bushitler Cheney Rumsfeld Monster wouldn't do it, nobody will do it. And you can bet there isn't a single person in line to run a Democratic State Department or Democratic Defense Department who would give the idea three seconds of thought. Obama is using Pakistan to talk tough, in the full knowledge that he will never actually pull the trigger.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharaff is hanging on by a thread. An attack into Pakistan would stir up an already unsettled hornets nest. If he were to be overthrown it is possible that radical Islamists would fill the void. This would be sending us from the frying pan into the fire. Just as the Shah was bad but Khumeini worse, it's hard to see a good outcome to a revolution in Pakistan.

For some reason I can't upload a map of the region tonight, but if you go and find one you'll discover that we can't get to Afghanistan without flying over Pakistan. Close that route off and we're screwed. The only other route from the Persion Gulf is over Iran, and I rather doubt they'll grant permission.

What I Would Do

There is no doubt that al Qaeda and the Taliban are in the Waziristan section of Pakistan, that this is a problem, and that as such we need to do something. That Obama doesn't seem to get that it's not so simple as making aid to Musharraf contingent on acting in the region, he is right that it is a problem we need to deal with.

I think that David Ignatius, writing in the Washington Post, has found the best idea

The best answer I've heard comes from Henry Crumpton, a former CIA officer who was one of the heroes of the agency's campaign to destroy al-Qaeda's haven in Afghanistan in late 2001. After retiring from the CIA in 2005, he served as the State Department's coordinator for counterterrorism. He resigned from State in February and is now a fellow at the EastWest Institute and a private consultant.

Crumpton argues that the United States must take preventive action but that it should do so carefully, through proxies wherever possible. The right model for a Waziristan campaign is the CIA-led operation in Afghanistan, not the U.S. military invasion of Iraq. Teams of CIA officers and Special Forces soldiers are best suited to work with tribal leaders, providing them weapons and money to fight an al-Qaeda network that has implanted itself brutally in Waziristan through the assassination of more than 100 tribal leaders during the past six years. It would be better to conduct such operations jointly with Pakistan, but if the government of Gen. Pervez Musharraf can't or won't cooperate, the United States should be prepared to go it alone, Crumpton argues.

"The United States has an obligation to defend itself and its citizens," says Crumpton. "We either do it now, or we do it after the next attack."

Crumpton proposed a detailed plan last year for rolling up these sanctuaries, which he called the Regional Strategic Initiative. It would combine economic assistance and paramilitary operations in a broad counterinsurgency campaign. In Waziristan, U.S. and Pakistani operatives would give tribal warlords guns and money, to be sure, but they would coordinate this covert action with economic aid to help tribal leaders operate their local stone quarries more efficiently, say, or install windmills and solar panels to generate electricity for their remote mountain villages.

This is a long-term plan but makes a lot of sense to me. CIA paramilitaries, mostly made up of ex-Special Forces and SEAL veterans, could do a lot of damage to al Qaeda and the Taliban. Crumpton's plan seems loosely modeled on the Vietnam-era SOG ("Studies and Observation Group") and other such operations.

So let's go get al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan, but let's do so as quietly as possible.

Update

Looks like Obama's stirred up trouble in Pakistan with his comments. Nice guy, but not ready for prime-time.

Posted by Tom at 8:12 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 17, 2007

The Polls! The Polls!

So Senator Webb thinks that we need to pull out of Iraq because a NYT poll says that 55% of enlisted soldiers say we should withdraw from Iraq. He said this in a debate with Sen Graham last weekend on Meet the Press. Webb also used this argument when he made the Democrat rebuttal to President Bush's State of the Union address last January.

It isn't just Sen. Webb, the anti-war folks in general use polling results incessantly to justify their demand that we withdraw now from Iraq.

Logically speaking this type of argument is called an enthymeme, which is a syllogism without one it it's parts; major premise, minor premise, or conclusion. Webb and those like him who use this argument don't spell out their reasoning, but based on what

We should base our policy on the latest poll
The latest poll on Iraq says that most people favor immediate withdrawal
Therefore we should withdraw immediately

If those who use polls as part of their argument deny that this is their argument, which part are they denying? Most likely they'd deny the major premise (line 1). Perhaps what they mean is

We should base Iraq policy on the latest poll
The latest poll on Iraq says that most people favor immediate withdrawal
Therefore we should withdraw immediately

or

We should base military policy on the latest poll The latest poll on Iraq says that most people favor immediate withdrawal Therefore we should withdraw immediately
But syllogisms 2 & 3 seem rather selective. If you're going to base Iraq policy, or military policy on the polls, why not policy in all areas? Why not decide other issues on the polls too, such as abortion, school choice, or illegal immigration? It is not clear why we should choose policy based on polls in one area and not another.

Perhaps, however, those who use polls as part of their argument are saying yet something else.

We should base our policy on poll readings if said poll holds firm over a period of time Polls on Iraq have said for some time that most people favor immediate withdrawal Therefore we should withdraw immediately

This is the only argument that really makes any sense. Unfortunately, those who make their argument based on polls rarely get into this level of detail, so I'm forced to guess.

Truth be told, I realize I am seriously overthinking this. My general observation is that people who make their arguments based on polls, whether they be conservatives or liberals, rarely think through what they are saying to this level. Most of they time they are simply pulling numbers to support a predetermined conclusion and we all know it.

And lets be clear, conservatives can be just as guilty of this as liberals. In the recent debate over the immigration (really amnesty) bill in Congress, some conservatives based their opposition to the bill on poll numbers which showed that the majority of Americans opposed the legislation.

But I think you need to be consistent. If you're going to use poll numbers to justify your position in one area, you've got to do it in others. You can't say, for example, that we should pull out of Iraq because the polls say we should, then take a position against school choice even though polls show the majority of Americans favor it.

We can get into a deep philosophical discussion on this whole matter of public opinion and public policy, and I'm sure it gets rather complicated, but since that isn't really the subject of this post I'll just touch on a few areas.

Of course in any republic public opinion matters. But this opinion gets to be expressed at regularly scheduled intervals called voting. The founding fathers were just as afraid of mob rule as they were of tyranny. They wanted a government somewhat insulated from the passions of the moment. This is one reason why our Congress is divided into two houses, in which the House most closely represents the immediate will of the people with the Senate a bit more insulated.

Once elected, should represenatives take notice of changes in the public mood? My answer is that yes they should take notice but they should be wary of making radical policy changes based on polls and focus groups.

A few months ago I wrote a post on the Democrat Party's "New Rules for Going to War" Two of my mock rules were

• It at any time a poll of the American people show that their support for military operations goes below 50% the troops are to be immediately withdrawn

• It at any time a poll of active-duty military personnel show that their support for military operations goes below 50% the troops are to be immediately withdrawn

I guess I could call my latter rule the "Senator Jim Webb honorary rule for going to war".

It'd all be funny if it wasn't so pathetic. They didn't poll the troops in the Revolution, Civil War, WWII, or Korea, or any other war to see what they thought. Yes public opinion matters, yes it matters what the troops think. It's rather the modern obsession with polls, especially when they're used selectively and really to bolster predetermined conclusions that bothers me. And you just can't make public policy by turning to the latest poll, whether it's of the general public or the military.

Reasonable people can disagree about what exactly the public thinks we ought to do about Iraq, and how long they've felt that way. On the one hand I don't think it's nearly as clear cut as the anti-war left would have us believe, but at the same time there's no denying that there's a deep frustation and disillusionment.

But enough of my philosophical ramblings. The bottom line is that too many politicians and people in general use polls to justify predetermined positions. They also only use polls when it bolsters their position on an issue, and ignore them when they go against their position. I'm sure I've been guilty of this too on occasion. It's an easy trap to fall into.

The bottom line is that too many politicians, mainly in the Democrat Party but also in the GOP, are completely poll-driven and seem utterly devoid of principle. This needs to change.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 15, 2007

Consequences of Failure

What would happen if we left Iraq as soon as possible, as many now want? What if we just immediately halted offensive operations, returned to our bases, and began packing?

Austin Bay has come up with seven scenarios. Summarized, they are

1) Three new countries are formed; Kurdistan, Southern Iraq dominated by the Shia, and Anbar, controlled by the Sunni. The latter two fight over Baghdad, but the rest of the country is relatively peaceful.

2) Full-scale civil war between Sunnis and Shias breaks out. Sunni Arab states aid the former, and Iran the latter. Iran sees this as an opportunity to expand its border. The Kurdish north remains relatively peaceful.

3) Turkey invades the Kurdish north. This scenario can be combined with others.

4) The Iraqi state quickly becomes a Shia dictatorship. Sunnis are either massacred or flee (or a little of both). The Kurds throw in their lot with the Shia in return for limited autonomy.

5) Chaos. This differes from #2 in that the country devolves into many factions, instead of two or more large warring parties. More than in any of the other scenarios, in this al Qaeda is able to use the situation to build up a series of terrorist training camps in the country.

6) The Shia tribes "gang up" and expel virtually all Sunnis from the country (note; I am not clear on how this differs from #4)

7) The democratic government holds, and ultimately proves popular. After several months, the Iraqi Army defeats all major rivals.

As Bay accurately concludes, only numbers 1 and 7 benefit all Iraqis, the US, and the civilized world.

At this point there's no way I'm going to try and predict which would happen if we withdraw.

Ralph Peters, along with Austin Bay a retired Army colonel, thinks that the result will be a massacre along the lines of what happened in Cambodia when the Khmer Rouge took over.

I'll tell you what happens: massacres. And while I have nothing against Shia militiamen and Sunni insurgents killing each other 24/7, the overwhelming number of victims will be innocent women, children and the elderly

Bosnia? That was just rough-necking at recess compared to what Islamist fanatics and ethnic beasts will do. Given that Senate Majority Misleader Harry Reid and Commissar of the House Nancy Pelosi won't tell us what they foresee after we quit, let me lay it out:

* After suffering a strategic defeat, al-Qaeda-in-Iraq comes back from the dead (those zombies again . . .) and gets to declare a strategic victory over the Great Satan.

* Iran establishes hegemony over Iraq's southern oil fields and menaces the other Persian Gulf producers. (Sorry, Comrade Gore, even that Toyota Prius needs some gasoline . . . )

* Our troops will have died in vain. Of course, that doesn't really matter to much of anyone in Washington, Democrat or Republican. So we'll just write off those young Americans stupid enough to join the military when they could've ducked out the way most members of Congress did.

* A slaughter of the innocents - so many dead, the bodies will never be counted.

Obviously Peters does not subscribe to Bay's scenario numbers 1 or 7.

Assuming neither 1 or 7 occur, we should not think that repercussions will be limited to Iraq. As Michael Rubin points out

The idea floating around Washington that Iraq can be separated from Afghanistan is naive. The Iranians, who interfere in both, have the same objectives in both. Iraq is a laboratory. If strategies applied there cause the U.S. Congress to embrace defeat, then those same strategies will be applied in Afghanistan.

And how long before those who tell us we need to "redeploy" so as to better fight al Qaeda will decide that Afghanistan isn't worth it after all? Not too long, I'll wager.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 25, 2007

Our New Friends at Fatah

The other day I wrote about the Bush Administration's plans to send Fatah $60 million in aid money in a post I titled "The Dead Bush Doctrine". Fatah, I wrote, is basically a terrorist organization that has no intention of accepting the existance of Israel. I provided some information about them which I thought bolstered my case.

In case you doubt me here's a tidbit from the Jerusalem Post (h/t NRO)

A Fatah faction and the Islamic Jihad both claimed responsibility for Sunday morning's Kassam rocket attack on Sderot, which damaged a home and left three people lightly wounded.

Love that "faction" bit.

These clowns aren't even a coherent organization. They're more an armed mob. The "faction" business only serves to give Abu Mazen Mahmoud Abbas an excuse to say he had nothing to do with it.

Andy McCarthy also reminds us of another faction, er, wing, within Fatah; Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (love that name).

Let's connect the dots here:

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades are Fatah's terrorist wing. They have been a specially designated Foreign Terrorist Organization under U.S. law since 2002, and, as I noted here, have now taken to directly threatening the United States. (“We won't remain idle in the face of the siege imposed on the Palestinian people by Israel, the U.S. and other countries[.]…We will strike at the economic and civilian interests of these countries, here and abroad.”)

Fatah's Abbas, our "moderate" "peace partner," maintains close ties to the Brigades — even if he didn't want to (which I doubt) he has no choice as they are very popular among Palestinians.

Even as the administration announced its strong support for Fatah in the wake of Fatah's ouster from Gaza by Hamas, Fatah's al Aqsa Brigades have continued to carry out attacks against Israel, in coordination with Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another designated terrorist organization with a long history of working with Fatah.

As predicted here last week, Abbas will not try to disband the al Aqsa Brigades. Instead, he will be incorporating them into the Palestinian Authority Security Forces.

The administration, meanwhile, is pushing for a renewal of millions of foreign aid dollars for the PA, including for its security forces to buck them up against Hamas. Thus, our tax dollars will be directly underwriting and arming the al Aqsa Brigades (instead of indirectly underwriting and arming them, as they have been doing up until now).

BONUS ROUND: We were arming Abbas even before the latest outbreak of fighting between Hamas and Fatah. As a result, when Fatah got run out of Gaza, Hamas took control of caches of American assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, rocket launchers and ammunition.

So our new policy both arms terrorist factions designated as such under U.S. law and throws U.S. support behind an organization, Fatah, with a long history of terrorism, a constitution that dedicates the organization to the annihilation of Israel, an academic and media program that relentlessly inculcates hatred of Jews and the illegitimacy of Israel, and which doesn't even have the good grace, ability or will to stop its terrorist wing from launching attacks on Israel while the U.S. and Europe are publicly pressing for a renewal of financial and political support.

Super.

Hamas is in full bragging mode about the U.S. weapons they seized. Here's Mahmoud Zahar, a co-founder of the organization, as interviewed by the German magazine Spiegel (h/t LGF)

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What will improve for people in Gaza now that Hamas is in control?

Zahar: The good thing is that we can now collect information about our enemies and informants from foreign powers. We will look for Israel’s spies.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Last week there were street battles in the West Bank between Fatah and Hamas militias. Fatah maintained the upper hand. How will Hamas loyalists defend themselves in the event of any new fighting?

Zahar: Let me ask you: How have we defended ourselves so far against the Israeli occupation?

SPIEGEL ONLINE: With bombs and attacks?

Zahar: Exactly. But you said that, not me. ...

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The militant wings of Fatah and Hamas have been fully armed over the last few months. Are these weapons still in circulation?

Zahar: There are naturally very many weapons around now. Two years ago, one bullet in Gaza cost around €3.50 — now it would cost 35 cents. The American aid money has been translated into weapons. Thank you, America!

(emphasis added)

What are they going to do with their new weapons? "We Will Try to Form an Islamic Society" says Zahar.

But of course.

I suppose, though, I shouldn't be too hard on our president. After all, Israeli President Ehud Olmert said he would release "hundreds of millions" of dollars tied up in frozen accounts to Fatah, " a gesture to bolster the moderate Palestinian leader in his standoff against the Islamic militant group Hamas."

All through the 90s we propped up Arafat for just the same reason and look where it's gotten us. We never learn.

As a final bit of depressing news, Michael Rubin reminds us that the Bush Administration was once committed to democracy for the Palestinians. How times have changed.

Posted by Tom at 9:18 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 24, 2007

Fake Arguments against Democracy

The latest argument coming from the left is that by not supporting Hamas, the Bush Administration, and conservatives in general, do not respect Democracy.

Here's Jimmy Carter (h/t NRO)

The United States, Israel and the European Union must end their policy of favoring Fatah over Hamas, or they will doom the Palestinian people to deepening conflict between the rival movements, former US President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday.

Carter, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who was addressing a conference of Irish human rights officials, said the Bush administration's refusal to accept the 2006 election victory of Hamas was "criminal."

Carter said Hamas, besides winning a fair and democratic mandate that should have entitled it to lead the Palestinian government, had proven itself to be far more organized in its political and military showdowns with the Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

Next up is a writer on the Daily Kos (h/t LGF)

The extreme contempt both Israel and the U.S. have for democracy means that, despite recent events in Gaza, the isolation and strangulation of Hamas and the Palestinians of Gaza will likely continue. The probable Israeli response to Hamas’ assumption of power in Gaza will be to ease restrictions in the West Bank and engage in meaningless “peace talks” with Abbas, with the cynical aim of increasing his popularity relative to Hamas’. In the long-term, however, if Hamas remains resilient and does not submit to external pressures to relinquish power, we could very possibly witness a full-blown “‘Bay of Pigs’ type invasion of Gaza”, with Dahlan at its head.

If what we want to see is a relatively stable Palestinian democracy with the capacity to engage in meaningful peace negotiations with Israel (and again I emphasise that these are not the objectives of the Israeli government), the policies we should follow are obvious, as they have been for months. The Hamas government should be recognised as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and should be engaged with in the form of meaningful final status negotiations.

Sorry, but I'm not buying this.

The whole issue raises interesting, and I don't think completely easy to answer, questions about the nature of democracy, and it's twin, liberty.

The short version of my answer is that there is a lot more to democracy than just the mechanics of voting. Carter I'm not so sure about, but I have to think that most liberals and even leftists know this full well. So when the folks at Kos berate conservatives for not accepting Hamas because they were elected, I have to think they're not being entirely serious in their criticism, because it's eithe that or they're outright apologists for terrorism. I have to think that most who spout this line are just blinded by their hatred of President Bush. In short, they've got Bush Derangement Syndrome.

After all, if the Ku Klux Klan started winning elections in the U.S., I can't imagine the left would accept their right to rule regardless of the fairness of the vote.

Likewise, the Nazi party won a plurality of the vote in the 1933 elections, coming in first with 43.9%, more than twice that of their nearest opponent. The election itself was relatively free and fair, but who today would say that it really represented "democracy"?

All of this brings to the forefront the central question of elections and their relationship to what we think of as "democracy": Is it just or acceptable for a non-democratic party to come to power through elections?

What is Democracy?

The US Department of State helpfully provides a longish definition. Here are some of the highlights

Freedom and democracy are often used interchangeably, but the two are not synonymous. Democracy is indeed a set of ideas and principles about freedom, but it also consists of a set of practices and procedures that have been molded through a long, often tortuous history. In short, democracy is the institutionalization of freedom.

Several "Pillars of Democracy" are listed

# Sovereignty of the people. # Government based upon consent of the governed. # Majority rule. # Minority rights. # Guarantee of basic human rights. # Free and fair elections. # Equality before the law. # Due process of law. # Constitutional limits on government. # Social, economic, and political pluralism. # Values of tolerance, pragmatism, cooperation, and compromise.

Wikipedia says that

Liberal democracy is a representative democracy along with the protection of minorities, the rule of law, a separation of powers, and protection of liberties (thus the name liberal) of speech, assembly, religion, and property.

I think that most Westerners can agree that all of the above are pretty good definitions of democracy.

Back to the Palestinian Authority

Clearly, then, Hamas does not qualify as an institution committed to democracy. Neither, for that matter, does Fatah. Therefore, when the Kos author talks about "extreme contempt both Israel and the U.S. have for democracy" we can conclude that he either has no understanding of democracy, is just off on a political rant and is thus guilty of lazy thinking, or is just an apologist for terrorism. Or, as I mentioned above, he's got BDS.

As for ex-President Carter, I think he's just a bitter old man. He never reconciled himself to this 1980 defeat, and for a Christian seems not to have learned how to forgive. He's thrown in with the worst dictators, has become a virtual anti-Semite, and I believe will be judged harshly by history.

The Algerian Example

What if a situation develops whereby a political party promises to dismantle the institutions of democracy if it is elected? What if it actually wins a majority of the popular vote?

Such a situation has actually occured, not once but several times in the post-WWII era.

In 1991, the Islamic Salvation Front won the first round of Algeria's first multi-party elections. The ISF had promised to turn the country into an Islamic state and institute sharia law. After the voting, the military stepped in and annuled the elections. Western governments either applauded or remained silent. This led to a civil war, and some 160,000 people were killed over the next ten years. However, in the end the insurgents were defeated and a true democracy (republic, actually) is emerging.

What it Means

We in the West are good at the mechanics of voting. Through international agencies we can set up relatively free and fair votes most of the time.

But our record at installing actual democratic values has been rather hit-or-miss. We got it right in Germany and Japan. India has also turned out to be a stable democracy. We got it wrong in Zimbabwe and most other African states. El Salvadore seems to be doing well, but Nicaragua not so much.

Iraq somewhat parallels the Palestinian Authority. It was easy enough for us to set up voting, not so easy to convince people to respect each other's liberty.

In the end, then, we need to recognise that democracy is about more than voting. We need to think harder about what it takes to instill concepts of liberty in troubled regions, and not fixate on voting. This is a tough subject, and will require much thinking and trial and error in order to get it right in a place like Iraq. The first step, though, is to have moral clarity on the subject, and to recognize the true nature of democracy.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 23, 2007

The Dead Bush Doctrine

This past February Secretary Rice announced that the United States was going to "talk" with Iran and Syria over the future of Iraq. Although she quiclkly "clarified" that the talks would't be direct, it didn't really matter. After 9-11 President Bush announced that "you're either with us or against us in the fight against terror." Because both Iran and Syria are state sponsors of terror, at the time I announced that the Bush Doctrine was dead.

Now the Bush Administration has pledged it's support for Fatah in the wake of Hamas' takover of Gaza. We're even going to send them $60 million to "upgrade Mahmoud Abbas's presidential guard and for other security expenses". No doubt in the months to come we'll see more announcements of programs designed to prop up Fatah, as our "partner in peace".

We allowed al Qaeda in Iraq and other insurgent terrorist groups refuge in Iran and Syria. We refused to attack their bases or supply depots there. We have done nothing about Hezbollah in Lebanon, other than force a "peace" settlement on Israel that does nothinb but give the terrorist group time to rearm.

For a few years Bush insisted on the "six party talks" format with North Korea, but has now seeminly abandoned that and has rewarded the DPRK with direct talks.

At the beginning of his term he refused to buy into the global warming hype, but at the recent G8 summit appeared to acquiese to at least part of the environmental agenda. While this isn't directly related to the "Bush Doctrine", I think it does show how far the administration has fallen in holding onto it's original beliefs.

All this is making the left chortle with glee. But then they've always wanted us to abandon Iraq to it's fate, make nice with every Palestinian terrorist group and Arab dictator (witness Speaker Pelosi's trip to Damascus).

Regarding the Bush Administration's new policy, I think that Andrew McCarthy has it right when he describes it as "Our Terrorists Are Better Than Your Terrorists"

The Palestinians are a backward people, indoctrinated toward brutality. They don’t rate a sovereign state or anyone’s help until they civilize themselves. Sovereignty is a privilege that implies acceptance of civilized norms — that is why we speak of states like Iran and North Korea as “rogues.” Regardless of whether there really are scattered Palestinian moderates, it is a dangerous fantasy to assume the Palestinian people, as a whole, are ready to be anyone’s peace partner.

We are enabling their hatred when we provide support without insisting that the Palestinian people — not just Abbas and Fatah, but the people — convincingly foreswear revolution, terrorism, violence, ethnic-cleansing, and the goal of eliminating Israel. We are a generation or more, at least, from any hope of such developments. In the meantime, as long as we subsidize the hatred, we shall be buying more of it, while giving the Palestinians no incentive to reform.

Tough words about the Palestinians, but it's hard to see things otherwise. If by some magic every Israeli settlement disppeared and the Palestinians got an internationally recognized state tomorrow with at least part of Jerusalem as it's capital, all they'd do is use it as a base from which to attack Israel. And murder each other.

There isn't going to be any "two state solution", as long as either Fatah or Hamas are in charge. Neither wants to live side by side with Israel. We're only fooling ourselves by trying to play one off of the other.

What Fatah Stands For

Fatah is basically a terrorist organization. Its very name means "conquest", that which is supposed to happen during or after a jihad; the holy war leads to conquest. They don't choose these names by accident or without considering their meaning. Fatah was created by the late terror master himself, Yasser Arafat. It was operatives from Fatah which formed Black September, the group which carried out the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic games in Munich.

Today the organization is led by Mahmoud Abbas (or "Abu Mazen", or whatever name he goes by these days). If Arafat was a street punk grown up to be the local crime boss, Mazen Abbas is the nutty neighbor down the street. In his 1983 Phd.D dissertation, The Other Side: the Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism, he

...suggested that the figure of six million Jews murdered by the Nazis was a false one, "peddled" by the Jews. To bolster that thesis, he quotes known Holocaust revisionists as authoritative sources. Seeking conspiracy theories that would serve Arab interests, Abu Mazen also wrote that the Zionist movement "led a broad campaign of incitement against the Jews living under Nazi rule... to expand the mass extermination." Zionists, he contends, collaborated with the Nazis to murder Jews, in order to gain sympathy for the creation of the State of Israel.

And this is the guy we're trying to make nice with. This is insane.

Look at Fatah's Constitution. Under "Goals", we have

Article (12) Complete liberation of Palestine, and eradication of Zionist economic, political, military and cultural existence.

Article (13) Establishing an independent democratic state with complete sovereignty on all Palestinian lands, and Jerusalem is its capital city, and protecting the citizens' legal and equal rights without any racial or religious discrimination.

"Complete liberation" does not mean the West Bank and Gaza. It means that and the whole of Israel too.

Here's the Fatah logo, which you get get straight off of their website at Fateh.net

Fateh%20logo.gif

According to Wikipedia

The Fatah official emblem shows two fists holding rifles and a hand grenade superimposed on a map of historic Palestine (i.e. British Mandate borders, including present-day Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip)

In other words, they want the whole thing.

Elsewhere, on their website, Fatah insists on the "right of return".

The Right of Return is one in which the Palestinians insist that the refugees, and their descendants, allegedly displaced during the 1948 war of independence, have the right to return to Israel proper and claim the land that they say they owned. Depending on which website you believe, this would mean anywhere from 3.5 to 6 million Arabs moving into Israel, a country of 6 million Jews and 1 million Arabs. The clear purpose of the "right of return" is to destroy Israel.

See now why peace with Fatah is impossible?

Until they change their ways we are wasting our time with them. President Clinton was probably smart when he invited Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak to Camp David in 2000 to try and hammer out an agreement based on the 1993 Oslo Accords (the ones which established the "roadmap for peace". Arafat refused all reasonable offers, and the situation has deteriorated every since. Anything we do for them needs to be conditioned on improving their record on human rights, corruption, and terrorism, as Eric Cantor suggests. To do otherwise is to lend aid to our enemies. You know, the ones the President Bush at one time said we were against.

Posted by Tom at 11:10 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 3, 2007

The Iranian Hostage Crisis: The Use and Misuse of "Soft Power"

For some years now elites in places like Europe and Canada have been peddling the idea of "soft power" in international relations.

Harvard Professor Joseph Nye is the architect of the idea of soft power, having laid it all out in his 2004 book Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics. In the preface to the book, Nye defines soft power

[Soft power] is the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payments. It arises from the attractiveness of a country's culture, political ideals, and policies. When our policies are seen as legitimate in the eyes of others, our soft power is enhanced.

The Publishers Weekly review on Amazon identifies Nye as "assistant secretary of defense in the Clinton administration and is certain to be a key player in a new Democratic administration." So his is not a name to forget.

My brief investigation of Nye and his ideas seems to show that he's not a limp-wrist liberal who eschews hard power. Indeed, the Publishers Weekly review also says that he "gives credit to President Bush and his neoconservative advisers in their projection of "hard" military and economic power." Unfortunately we also get the same old tired "go it alone" criticisms, as if we had only waved the "soft power" magic wand a bit harder the "allies" would have all fallen in line.

But for all the benefits of soft power, they're not doing the captured British sailors and Royal Marines much good right now.

As the invaluable Victor Davis Hanson pointed out today;

Since 9/11 we have been lectured on the advantages of "soft" power, especially in the context of the economic engine of the EU used for moral purposes. But if the Europe Union is still extending trade credits to a belligerent that has committed an act of piracy against a fellow member, then there is neither soft or hard power, but no power at all.

To give Nye credit, he knows that soft power has limits

All power depends on context -- who relates to whom under what circumstances -- but soft power depends more than hard power upon the existence of willing interpreters and receivers. Moreover, attraction often has a diffuse effect, creating general influence rather than producing an easily observable specific action.

So nothing in this post should be construed as criticizing him directly. Indeed, from what I can tell, soft power has a lot to offer as a long-term strategy for dealing with Iran. The regime is hated by most of the people. We should be able to leverage that better than we have. I've offered my own criticisms of our policy in the past.

The Current Problem

But as we said above, soft power has its limits, and one of them is that it is simply inapplicable in the current situation.

Richard Fernandez pointed out the other day that had Prime Minister Blair "gone ugly early" by doing something such as immediately expelling all Iranian diplomats from his country and (hopefully) persuading at least a few European allies to do likewise, the situation today would be completely different. He could have frozen assets and the like. Taking a few simple steps like these would have placed the ball in the mullah's court. They, not Blair, would have had to take the first step towards diplomacy.

As it is, it was Blair who went the diplomatic route first. This took the pressure off of Iran and put the ball in Blair's court. Thus, it is Blair who looks like he is begging for a solution rather than Ahmadinejad.

Of course, there is also absolutely not even a hint of a threat of military power from the British. As VDH says in the article linked to above, Blair is both speaking softly and carrying a small stick.

How Long Will It Last?

A few days ago I tended to think the whole thing would be resolved fairly quickly. Yesterday I wrote that

The diplomats (will) work out some weasel words whereby the British say in effect "we don't think we violated Iran's sovereignty but if we did we're sorry and won't do it again". Immediately upon the release of the hostages Iran will crow that this language means that the UK agreed to never attack it.

I still think this is the way it will end, but now I'm not as sanguine that this will happen quickly. The more I think about it, the way things are going now the mullahs have every reason to string this out as long as possible. Their objectives are 1) to divert attention from their nuclear program, and 2) to show the Sunnis who's really in charge.

David Pryce-Jones pointed out today that the players are now caught in an "honor-shame" conundrum. Each demands an apology from the other, but since an apology means shame, a direct apology is out of the question.

The only ways out of this impasse are the exercise of immense ingenuity to devise a formula that saves the face of all concerned, or unarguable force. Caught in exactly this same predicament over Iran's nuclear program, the powers are equally uncertain how to play their hand. Shame and honour values are conducive to irrational emotion. The 15 now in prison are likely to have to endure a long and agonizing ordeal.

If Blair had moved quickly and decisively all this might have been avoided. Iran might just have said "uh, it really was a mistake, we meant to just turn their boat around" In setting this up, and you better believe they've been planning to seize hostages, the Iranians bet on Western weakness. Nothing I've seen so far has lead me to believe they calculated wrong.

Posted by Tom at 8:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 24, 2007

New Rules for Going to War

If we take the anti-war crowd at their word, here are the new rules we'd have to adopt before committing American forces in the future:

• The UN Security Council must approve all US action before it is taken

• A majority of nations in Europe must approve of and participate in military operations

• France in particular must approve, though they need not actually participate

• Before any ground, sea, or air forces are committed, a limit is set on US casualties, and we withdraw all forces the moment that limit is reached

• Before ground, sea, or air forces are committed, a timeline for disengagement is established before we go in. We must withdraw forces according to the established timeframe regardless of whether the mission has been achieved

• Members of Congress have the right to change their mind at any time for any reason and demand an immediate withdrawal

• It at any time a poll of the American people show that their support for military operations goes below 50% the troops are to be immediately withdrawn

• It at any time a poll of active-duty military personnel show that their support for military operations goes below 50% the troops are to be immediately withdrawn

• It at any time a poll of active-duty military personnel show that they do not support current tactics and strategy, those tactics and strategy will be immediately changed.

• No one who has not served in the military may speak in favor of military operations

• No one who does not have at least one son or daughter of military age may express concern for the troops because obviously they do not understand what they're going through

Posted by Tom at 7:17 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 21, 2007

No More Realism

Whatever foreign policy we as a nation adopt in the future, let it not be "realism".

Yes, the situation in Iraq is such that it must distress even the most die-hard Wilsonian optimist. Whatever mistakes we have made after our invasion, if Iraq comes totally unglued it will ultimately the fault of the Iraqis. If enough of them cannot or will not appreciate what we are trying to give them, in the final analysis that's not our fault. We have handed them a republic, and it is up to them to keep it.

Today, however, there seems to be a growing chorus of voices saying that we should return to a sort of "realism". Jim Baker and his Iraq Study Group are seen as wise sages counseling the naive, stupid, or evil (or sometimes all three) neo-cons of the Bush Administration.

People who call themselves liberals sneer at democracy, chorteling that all it has achieved was Hamas in control of the PA and Shiite extremists in power in Baghdad. It is assumed by many that the natural state of the Arabs is to be governed by dictators of one sort or another. Not only natural, but safer. More stable.

Who better to shred such thinking than Victor Davis Hanson:

Prior to Iraq, there was some American guilt over past realism, whether stopping before Baghdad in 1991, playing Iran off Iraq, cozying up to dictatorships, or predicating American Middle East foreign policy solely on either oil or anti-Communism. ... Arab intellectuals and much of the Western Left once decried Bakerism and called for a new muscular idealism that put us on the side of the powerless reformers and not with the entrenched authoritarians. But if we fail in Iraq, then again, fairly or not, the verdict will be far more sweeping than simply the incompetence of the Bremer proconsulship or the impotence of the Maliki government.

Indeed it will be. But even more important than that is something else:

... Democrats and liberals should likewise realize that for all their hatred of George Bush and the partisan points to be gained by coddling up to the libertarian and paleo-conservative Right, George Bush’s embrace of freedom was far closer to their own past rhetoric than almost any Republican administration in history. And such an effort to foster democracy was in the long run smart as well, since ultimately a free Iraq would be the worst nightmare of the Islamic jihadists — as we read repeatedly in the rantings of Dr. Zawahiri.

Ouch.

But it's true. George Bush is doing what liberals have always said we should do; spread democratic ideals instead of supporting dictators who would oppose the communists and/or sell us oil. The difference between them and him is that instead of giving speeches before Washington elites he put words to action.

We are in our current position precisely because of diplomats such as Brent Scowcroft and Jim Baker who value stability uber alles. Preserve the status quo at all costs. Don't rock the boat. As long as we get our oil, who are we to care if they want to live in the 9th century? Human rights? That was useful against the communists, but they're gone now.

You don't have to believe everything Natan Sharansky said in The Case for Democracy to believe that this policy was wrong. For too many years we ignored or pandered to whatever Arab or Persian dictator was in power as long as we got basing rights and a steady flow of oil. While such thinking held short-term benefits, you can only keep the lid on a pressure cooker for so long.

So we went into Iraq for a variety of reasons, WMD being the primary one but hardly the only. The resolution passed by Congress on October 11 2002 listed many reasons, one of which was:

Whereas the Iraq Liberation Act (Public Law 105-338) expressed the sense of Congress that it should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove from power the current Iraqi regime and promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime;

Ok, so things haven't exactly worked out as planned. But all is not lost either, and readers of this blog know that I think it necessary that we give it our all to save the situation, and this means supporting the president's latest plan.

Once upon a time the left would have applauded, no, cheered, the thinking embodied in the Iraq Liberation Act. They're the ones, after all, who spent much of the Cold War denouncing the US policicy of supporting "authoritarian" regimes on the justification that they were better than "totalitarian" ones.

I understand that there's an anti-war movement. Leftist groups such as ANSWER and United for Peace and Justice will always be with us. Our media culture will create a Cincy Sheehan if none exist. What I don't understand, and what distresses me, is that so many in this country seemed to have joined with them.

In the article cited above, Hanson points out that whatever happens in Iraq, one day it will all be over. What then?

The Democrats are a strong and ever more vocal anti-war constituency. Some indeed, think Murtha or Rangel, are considered party leaders. The Republican party is flat-out in disarray, McCain and Leiberman seemingly being the sole voices of reason on the Hill.

Is it to be thought that Clinton's Kosovo adventure was the "perfect war"? Hanson again

Before Iraq, wild-eyed reformers talked of a new military paradigm of sanitized war, following from wins in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Panama, or Serbia. Bombing from on high with GPS ordinance and a few paratroopers or special forces were the supposed future — not old fashioned, everyday artillery, armor, and infantry.

That either/or dichotomy was, of course, absurd. But if we withdraw defeated from Iraq, like it or not, there will be the charge made that the United States should not commit sizable Army and Marine forces abroad on the ground — period, under any circumstances, at any time.

Vietnam and now Iraq will substantiate in greater detail what we tasted in Lebanon and Mogadishu — the impossibility of using large conventional forces in chaotic conflicts that will inevitably turn asymmetrical and terrorist. In that regard, an army on the shelf will fossilize, as we lose confidence that it can ever achieve anything worth its losses. Generals will promise victories in the sort of rare conventional wars they can easily win, and decline the more common messy ones they cannot.

John McCain puts some hard questions to the withdraw now crowd on his website. So far, I have not seen any serious answers. The left, the palecon right, and those simply out to save their own political skins are creating a monster, and if they succeed in their ambitions it is going to haunt us for a long time.

Posted by Tom at 8:11 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

October 26, 2006

Hanson Demolishes the Talkers

From NRO's The Corner today, here's Victor Davis Hanson:

In the last 24 hours I have heard some of the craziest things of this entire war.

The Palestinians are complaining about the Israeli security fence on grounds that it perpetuates "racial segregation" — in a way perhaps suicide bombers do not? Or the state-run Palestinian megaphones with their usual "apes and pigs" rants?

At a meeting the other day with some political scientists, I was lectured by some that there was nothing such as jihadism in the comprehensive sense. That is, that Hamas, Hezbollah, al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, etc. simply have entirely separate agendas, understandable (i.e., Israel, "occupation" of Arab lands) and particularist grievances, etc. rather than a deeply shared anger at the West that originates from a common sense of lost pride and frustration, brought on by recognition of failure when zeal and religious purity do not restore honor or influence in the age of globalization.

I thought these who advocated such nonsense might at any second suggest that because Mussolini's fascists, Hitler's Nazis, and Tojo's militarists all had quite different agendas, separate racial ideologies, and particular aims in WWII, then, they could hardly be lumped together as the Axis that threatened Western republics and needed a generic anti-fascist response. All during the Vietnam War, we were lectured daily about the intricacies of Vietnamese, Russian, and Chinese Communists — their rivalries, hatreds, and quite separate aims-as they combined to defeat the United States, and trumped their own tensions with an all-encompassing hatred of Western democratic capitalism.

There is also an Alice in Wonderland flavor to the current Democratic response to the Korean and Iranian crises. We talked to the Koreans all during the 1990s as they prepared nuclear materials.

And now are told that we have a catastrophe since we have not recently talked to them. We talked all during the 1990s with Syria — and got nothing. Bill Clinton has always praised Iranian democracy; so, we talked to Tehran too, both stealthily and overtly.

So what is this obsession with talk, talk, talk? It reminds me of all those discredited British empty-headed pacifists and aristocrats who wanted to keep talking to Hitler after the fall of Poland, even after the fall of France, right up to the Battle of Britain.

Ditto that.

Posted by Tom at 9:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 19, 2006

Reasons for Hope Amid Despair

Some of my recent posts have been pretty pessimistic, and while sometimes that's needed, it's also never a good thing to wallow in despair. No situation is so bad that it cannot be salvaged, and so despite out current troubles there is hope.

First up, is the media. Victor Davis Hanson in "Hope Amid Despair" points out, for example, that if there was ever any doubt that much of the media was helping the terrorists (unwittingly or otherwise), they are now completely discredited.

The globalized media is absolutely discredited after the coverage of Lebanon. Reuters has destroyed its reputation, gained from 150 years of world reporting, by releasing doctored pictures and tolerating staged photo-ops. Almost all the Western media outlets failed to distinguish Lebanese civilian from military casualties — as if the Hezbollah terrorists they never filmed and never interviewed never died.
Indeed, thanks to the unprofessional reporters abroad, and their disingenuous chiefs back home, the world never saw the killers who sent the rockets nor many of their civilian victims on the ground in Israel. Nor did the reporters apprise their audience of the different landscapes in which they worked: candor in Israel might win loud disagreement; truth in Lebanon meant death. It would be as if Reuters, AP, or the New York Times embedded its reporters within the Waffen SS, beaming daily reports back home about the great morale and noble suffering of the Wehrmacht as it advanced into the snowy Ardennes.

Next, up are Iran and Syria

Iran and Syria unleashed Hezbollah because they were both facing global scrutiny, one over nuclear acquisition and the other over the assassination of Lebanese reformer Rafik Hariri. Those problems won’t go away for either of them — nor, if we persist, will the democratic fervor in Afghanistan and Iraq on their borders.

Let't also not forget that Israel did significant damage to Hezbollah. The latter may have claimed victory, but it's not as if they are still the fighting force they were a month ago.


We still don’t know the extent of the damage that Hezbollah suffered, but it perhaps took casualties ten times the Israelis’ — losses — not to be dismissed even in the asymmetrical laws of postmodern warfare. Hezbollah’s leaders were hiding in embassies and bunkers; Israel’s were not. For all the newfound magnetism of Nasrallah, he brought ruin to his flock, and fright to the Arab establishment around Israel.

Further, the war may have simply taught Israel how to do it right next time. When the ceasefire proves to be a fraud, for surely it will, won't it reveal the impotence of the UN and those who always drone on about "international solutions"?

A surprised Israel now has a good glimpse of the terrorists’ new way of war, and probably next time will attack the supplier, not the launcher, of the rocketry. And when the Reuters stringers go away, the “civilians” of southern Lebanon, off-camera, might not be so eager to see more real fireworks lighting up their skies — or far-off, pristine Syria and Iran in safety praising the courage of the ruined amid the rubble. Note how Hezbollah already is desperately racing around the craters to assure its homeless constituency that it has enough Iranian cash to buy back lost sympathies.

Even the ceasefire can come back to bite the Islamists and their supporters. Hezbollah won’t be disarmed as promised, much less stay out of Katyusha range of the border. And that defiance will only reveal the impotence of the Lebanese and the U.N., reminding both that they have talked themselves into a corner and now are responsible to keep caged their own pet 7th-century vipers. This can only work to Israel’s favor when the next rockets go off, since no one then will be proposing an “international” solution — although it will be interesting to see whether Jacques Chirac talks of the “nuclear” option once his soldiers begin to be picked off by Hezbollah

Lastly, the London airplane bomb plot proved the fallacy of dealing with domestic Muslim extremists through "multiculturalism" once and for all. To this I would also add the terrorist plot in Canada revealed a few months ago. Both countries worshiped at the altars of "tolerance", "diversity" and "multiculturism", and all it got them was hatred and bombs.

In a larger sense, the foiled London terrorist plot won’t endear either Islamists or their appeasers to millions in the world who face travel delays, cancelled flights, and body searches — on top of paying billions more to the Arab oil producers who in response whine even more in their victimhood.

In the light of recent developments in the Middle East, this might not seem like much. Those who are blind to the threat of Muslim extremism because of their hatred of George W Bush or Tony Blair will not change. We see this in their chortling over their "victory" in court over the Terrorist Survelience Program. But perhaps the average citizen has learned a bit this past month, and, as Hanson says, " that is a sort of progress after all."

Posted by Tom at 12:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 17, 2006

Let's Get Back to Being Feared

Niccolò Machiavelli wrote The Prince to instruct a, well, prince, in the art of diplomacy and foreign affairs. From the Wikipedia entry

In answering the question of whether it is better to be loved than feared, Machiavelli writes, “The answer is of course, that it would be best to be both loved and feared. But since the two rarely come together, anyone compelled to choose will find greater security in being feared than in being loved.” As Machiavelli asserts, commitments made in peace are not always kept in adversity, however commitments made in fear are kept out of fear. However, a prince must ensure that he is not feared to the point of hatred, which is very possible.

In the time between our invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, until it became clear in mid 2003 that the insurgency in Iraq was real and wasn't going away anytime soon, we were feared. More specifically, President Bush was feared.

Being hated was to some degree ok, as long as we were feared. During this time it appeared that we had shaken off the lethargy of the 80s and 90s whereby we let innumerable terrorist attacks go unpunished. Now, by heavens, we were going to use our military might. If the Europeans wanted to come along, fine. If not, so be it. We have the power to "go it alone" if need be, anyone who doesn't like it can get stuffed.

Today we are not feared. We are only hated. I was thinking abou this today, and was going to write about it, when I happened upon an editorial by Gerard Baker that appears in tomorrows London Times in which he says what I was thinking (hat tip NRO)

You (President Bush) invaded Iraq because you argued you would be able to bring about a peaceful, democratic society in the heart of the Arab world, a step vital to the eradication of modern terrorism. Many of us supported the project because we believed the stakes were so high that you would not stint in committing the resources necessary to achieve it.

But you tried to do it on the cheap. If many of us miscalculated the scale of the threat Iraq posed, there was no excuse for the woeful lack of preparation by your Administration for the task of pacifying the country.

The outcome? A broken nation on the verge of civil war, prey to the avarice of tyrannical regional neighbours, violently immolating itself and nurturing new generations of terrorists.

Ouch. But not necessarily inaccurate.

You supported and perhaps even encouraged Israel to invade Lebanon last month, after repeated provocations by terrorists. The aim — a good one in principle — was to crush Hezbollah, weaken its Syrian and Iranian sponsors and put Lebanon on a path to long-term, terror-free stability. But when the largely aerial campaign predictably failed and equally predictably led to the world’s media reaching their one-sided conclusion about Israel’s “aggression” , you quickly backtracked. You encouraged Israel to accept a ceasefire that amounts to the country’s most serious defeat in its 57-year history.

The result? A strengthened Hezbollah and a new Arab hero, Sheikh Hassan Nasrullah; a reprieve for the beleaguered Assad regime in Damascus and a further fillip to Iranian ambitions; a strategic setback for Israel and the condemnation of Lebanon tragically to replay the turmoil of the 1980s.

Not entirely our fault here, Israel is partially to blame. But when it happens on your watch....

You rightly identified Iran as the gravest threat to the West’s long-term security and you pledged to bend US policy to ensure that it did not gain the regional hegemony that would allow it to blackmail the world into acquiescence of its hateful ideology. Above all, Iran would be stopped from getting the bomb.

The result? The despised regime in Tehran has emerged as the true hegemonic power in the region, leeching on the battered bodies politic of Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon, elevating its brand of Shia fundamentalism into position as the dominant force in the Islamic world and continuing on its path towards nuclear status.

Yup. We're headed for a showdown with Iran, but it probably won't happen for a few years. As Henry Sokolski illustrates in an article that appeared today in National Review, our approach is all carrots and no sticks. How long before we finally learn that won't work?

Going it (mostly) alone is fine, Baker argues, if you are agressive and tough and stay that way. But somewhere along the line we got cold feet. We chickened out. Ours was a risky strategy, one that certainly was going to alienate much of the world. But again, that would have been ok if we had been tough and hadn't tried to do it on the cheap.

Now we have the worst of all worlds. Not only is the US despised around the globe, it can’t even make its supposed hegemony work.

It’s one thing to be seen as the bully in the schoolyard; it’s quite another when people realise the bully is actually incapable of getting anybody else to do what he wants. It’s unpleasant when people stop respecting you, but it’s positively terrifying when they stop fearing you.

What we have now is a situation in which the world’s only superpower, with the largest economic and military advantage any country has ever enjoyed on Earth, is pinned down like Gulliver, tormented by an army of fundamentalist Lilliputians.

So can Bush get us back on track? Unfortunately, I doubt it. He's out of political capital, and his administration is curiously lethargic about our current situation. A few weeks ago I wrote that it seemed like it was 1938, with Iran playing the role of Germany. I still think that valid, but the difference is that there is no Churchill on the horizon to save us.

Let's get back to being feared.

Posted by Tom at 11:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 4, 2006

1938 Redux?

Several commentators at National Review have written recently that what they see happening in the world resembles nothing so much as the 1930s.

In the 1930s Britain and France appeased Hitler. Anything to prevent the horrors of what they called The Great War, they said. The United States stood on the sidelines, naively thinking we were secure in our isolationist policies. The elite mocked Churchill as a drunkard alarmist.

Today many in the West so no danger from Iran or the various terrorist groups that cannot be negotiated away. The elite today mock George Bush and Tony Blair.

First up is Michael Ledeen, who points out that although "9/11 was supposed to have been the wakeup call," "we are again asleep". The problem now, he says, is that we fail to recognize that it's not just about fighing "insurgents" in Iraq, or Hezbollah in Lebanon. Iran and Syria are behind much or most of it, and behind that is a virulent form of radical Islam. Although I still say that going into Iraq put us on the strategic offensive, Ledeen points out that since the invasion we have been playing defense.

Meanwhile, a collection of frauds, writing in places like Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and Mother Jones, continuously recycles a story saying that a neocon (code for “Jewish”) conspiracy duped Bush into going to war in Iraq, and is now arranging the invasion of Iran.

For those that forget, President Roosevelt was treated to the same sort of nonsense from the likes of people like Father Coughlin, who accused the president of "leaning toward international socialism or sovietism on the Spanish question." Indeed, as Ledeen says

It is the Thirties again. Many of the statements above apply to Franklin Roosevelt’s first two administrations, and to the political atmosphere of those dreadful years. Then, too, the mounting power of what became the Axis was ignored. As my father often reminded me, a few months before Pearl Harbor, at a time when Nazi armies were long since on the march, the draft passed by a single vote. Apologists for Hitler and Mussolini were legion, and some of our leading intellectuals were saying that American democratic capitalism was a failure, and we would do well to emulate the European totalitarians.

Continuing this same theme, Victor Davis Hanson reviews some of the apologists of that era

...nevertheless it is still surreal to reread the fantasies of Chamberlain, Daladier, and Pope Pius, or the stump speeches by Charles Lindbergh (“Their [the Jews’] greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio, and our government”) or Father Coughlin (“Many people are beginning to wonder whom they should fear most — the Roosevelt-Churchill combination or the Hitler-Mussolini combination.”) — and baffling to consider that such men ever had any influence.

Tell me, what is the difference between any of the above cited men and Michael Moore or Markos "Screw them" Moulitsas? Or Pat Buchanan, for that matter?

And how are our "allies" In Europe responding to all this? Hanson continues

There is no need to mention Europe, an entire continent now returning to the cowardice of the 1930s. Its cartoonists are terrified of offending Muslim sensibilities, so they now portray the Jews as Nazis, secure that no offended Israeli terrorist might chop off their heads. The French foreign minister meets with the Iranians to show solidarity with the terrorists who promise to wipe Israel off the map (“In the region there is of course a country such as Iran — a great country, a great people and a great civilization which is respected and which plays a stabilizing role in the region”) — and manages to outdo Chamberlain at Munich.


Our enemy, as I mentioned, is not just a few Taliban remnants, or "insurgents" in Iraq, it is Islaofascism (or whatever you want to call it) in general. Principal among the villans is the government of Iran. And before we congratulate ourselves, Barbara Lerner says that far from confronting Iran,

...we have yet to admit that Iran is at war with us, or to seriously consider striking back at her, and, in speaking of our own war aims, we never dare use the v-word — victory — anymore. Instead, we make head-in-the-sand happy-talk about “peace,” “democracy,” and “ceasefires,” rejecting any military action against Iran for fear of “widening the war” — as if Iran were not already at war with us — and rely on the U.N. and “the international community” to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions and to prevent her proxies, Hamas and Hezbollah, from continuing to bring death and destruction to our smallest, truest, and most vulnerable ally, Israel. ...

Worse, we meet the jackals halfway by endlessly apologizing for sins our soldiers and guards are falsely accused of, in Iraq and Guantanamo, and by urging “restraint” on Israel — as if she weren’t employing near-suicidal restraint already. Then, we congratulate ourselves for our “courage” in standing up to international pressure by not forcing Israel to stop fighting for her life immediately, and promising, in return, to “protect” her with a “peace-keeping” force of enemies, led by the reborn Vichy France of Jacques Chirac and Phillipe Douste-Blazy — the French foreign minister who just called Iran “a stabilizing force.”

So is this were we are, again on the brink of the precipice? After 9/11 we said "never again", but even a casual reading of any newspaper reveals a large segment of opinion-makers who believe that George W Bush and Tony Blair are the greatest threats to world peace. Sorry, but I don't buy the notion that all would be well if only we hadn't invaded Iraq.

It also doesn't explain current attitudes on the left towards Iran. This article at Mother Jones typifies the "what me worry?" attitude the left has towards Iran: "The confrontation with Iran has very little to do with nukes—and a lot with the agenda of empire".

The good news is that the Bush Administration is letting Israel have a go at destroying Hezbollah. The bad news is that we are not serious about dealing with Iran or Syria. Barbara Lerner, in her article linked to above, has some good ideas for dealing with Iran. All too many of our elites, however, seem mired in the attitudes of the 1930s. And we all know what that got us.

Posted by Tom at 9:15 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 14, 2006

The "More Important Threat" Brigade

Reading this article about Hezbollah and Israel reminded me of something I've wanted to write about for some time but haven't had a chance to.

I've been a participant in lots of rallys and demonstrations, and have been confronted many times by Iraq war opponents with the argument that we should have dealt with (fill in the blank), because they or it was a more important threat. The people who make this argument insist that they are not lefty pacifists, but that Iraq was the lesser threat and as such could have been contained.

Some of these are well-intentioned people. Some, however, are not, and are simply using the argument du jour in an attempt to rattle supporters of the Iraq War.

The "more important" threat they cite is usually North Korea or Iran, but occasionally someone will ask why we don't go after Hezbollah, which is, after all, responsible for killing more Americans than any other terrorist group besides al-Qaeda.

Although I believe it to be incorrect, on the surface it is not an unreasonble argument, and as such deserves a response.

What Would They Have Had Us Do?

I've never really received a clear response to this answer. "Are you saying we should have invaded North Korea or Iran? That we should have destroyed Hezbollah?" I ask. Some say yes, but others I've spoken with demur, and start off with how we're distrated in Iraq and haven't been "dealing" with Iran or North Korea.

Most of the time they simply say that we should apply the same old tried-and-failed techniques of diplomacy, economic sanctions, and "working with the international community." Some have told me that because of Iraq now everyone hates us so we can't use diplomacy.

I therefore try to question these people, and get them to realize that if all they want us to do is to apply diplomatic and economic pressure, coupled with military threats, then whether we had gone into Iraq or not doesn't make any difference.

Further, as world events have shown, it is a fiction to think that because of Iraq we've lost all diplomatic clout. We're able to work well with the Europeans with regard to Iran, for example, despite our differences on Iraq. And ventures such as the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) are unhamptered as well.

Air Strikes?

The military forces we have up in Afghanistan and Iraq are mostly ground forces. Our Navy, and most of our Air Force, isn't doing a whole lot other than providing "just-in-case" support. When people say that because of Iraq we are "stretched thin" they have a point, but only with regards to ground forces and the logistical trail required to support them.

We might have to strike Iran or North Korea at some point, the latter probably before the former. The effectiveness of such strikes is problematical, and both nations are likely to respond in some fashion, as they won't just "sit there and take it". Air strikes on Hezbollah would achieve little and would only give them a cause to send forth their terrorists to hit us.

We'd face the same opposition to air strikes from the same group of suspects, domestic and foreign, regardless of whether we'd gone into Iraq or not. The American left is getting all bent out of shape now over the prospects of our hitting Iran or North Korea. Does anyone seriously believe that had we not gone into Iraq they would approve of such action? Ditto with nations such as France, Russia, and China.

Either way, then, it ishard to see how our invasion of Iraq has made air strikes on anyone more difficult to do.

Ground Invasion

So do the "should have dealt with a more important threat" people think that we should have gone into North Korea, Iran, or Lebanon with ground forces? Iraq is child's play compared to any of those options.

North Korea. likely already has a half-dozen or so nuclear weapons. Most likely they are designed to be delivered by short-range missile or aircraft. It is not likely we could get all of them in an air strike, and at any rate we could not be sure of it. Worst case is that after the initial US air assault they use them to hit South Korea or Japan. Even if that did not occur, North Korea has approximately 500 large artillery guns and 200 multiple-launch rocket systems hidden in underground bunkers just across the border from South Korea. They also have 500-600 Scuds that could hit the South. The South Korean capital, Seoul, lies right on the border. The North Koreans could literally lob artillery shells into downtown Seoul day and night. Yes we would - eventually - take out those guns. But in the meantime tens of thousands of South Koreans would be killed. Happy now?

Iran.has a population of 68 million(CIA Factbook), as against Iraq's 26.7. Iran is 1.636 million sq km, or about the size of Alaska. Iraq is 432,162 sq km, or double the size of Idaho. Just mutiply our troubles with Iraq by two or three. A ground invasion of Iran is simply not realistic.

With Hezbollah, air strikes would undoubtably kill many terrorists, but I think would only have a marginal effect on Hezbollah's effectiveness. You simply can't destroy a large terrorist gang by bombing. Because they place their facilities near civilian population centers, event the most careful of attacks would involve killing many civilians, which would in turn be exaggerated by media outlets such as al-Jazeera. The purpose of a ground assault would be to achieve what? Yes we could kill a great many terrorists, but not all of them, and what would our "exit strategy" be? To create a viable, terrorist-free government in Lebanon? As if that would be significantly easier than Iraq.

Trading One Set of Protesters for Another

Actually, most of the protesters would be the same. ANSWER and Code Pink would still be doing there thing. But instead of a guy in a blue polo shirt approaching me to say that "we should have dealt with Iran", it would be a guy in a brown blazer telling me that "no, we should have hit Iraq." No matter what you do, someone will complain.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 11, 2006

Bring Back the Neocons?

A fascinating editorial titled "Bring Back the Neocons" appeared in today's New York Sun:

So look where President Bush's decision to sideline the neoconservatives has gotten him. Instead of worrying about America, Iran now holds the upper hand, choosing which U.N. officials will inspect it as America begs Tehran to accept an offer of negotiations and "incentives" that include civilian airline parts. North Korea is as belligerent as ever, test-firing medium range missiles. Iraq's capital is a bloodbath of sectarian violence. Israel is under fire from a Hamas state in Gaza. Russia and Communist China are blocking American action at the U.N. Security Council.
...

Well, if this is what four months of a "softer line" has gained us, we say bring back the neoconservatives, particularly because Mr. Bush himself hasn't totally abandoned their — and his — freedom agenda....

The neoconservatives said success in Iraq depended on pressing on to neighboring Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. The administration stopped short, and Mr. Bush strolled through the Texas bluebonnets holding hands with Prince Abdullah of the House of Saud. Neoconservative calls for American support for Iranian democrats were met with a belated administration proposal of a paltry $75 million. ...

Neoconservatives want to liberate North Korea by opening the door to refugees seeking to escape its oppression, the same way that the breach in the Berlin Wall took down the Soviet empire. Mr. Bush did sign into the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004 and did meet on April 28, 2006, with North Korean refugees. But the Bush administration, in a variation on President Clinton's approach, has been devoting energy to negotiating with Pyongyang in six-party talks that the neoconservatives think are a waste of time.

(Hat tip to The Reform Party of Syria for the editorial, which I received through their email list)

The editorial goes on to say that while the Bush Administration put a lot of faith in Mahmoud Abbas, the neocons warned that he would not be much better than Arafat. The Bush Administration also spends a lot of time trying to work with the United Nations on problems such as Iranian nuclear weapons, an institutions most neocons despise.

Who Are the Neocons?

It's always a good idea to define your terms. This definition from Answers.com seems as good as any to me:

Neoconservatism (or neocon) refers to the political movement, ideology, and public policy goals of "new conservatives" in the United States, that are relatively unopposed to "big government" principles and restrictions on social spending, when compared with other American conservatives such as traditional or paleoconservatives.

In the context of United States foreign policy, neoconservative has another, narrower definition. Critics define it as interventionist with hawkish views on foreign policy. Supporters define it as advocating the use of military force, unilaterally if necessary, to replace autocratic regimes with democratic ones. This view competes with liberal internationalism, realism, and non-interventionism.


Is the Editorial Right?

I think it's largely on track. We all know that the insurgency is being fueled by Iran and Syria (not that if we sealed the borders it would totally disappear, but it would help the situation). Failure to strike known terrorist centers is due to the understandable fear of a larger war, but it may have been a risk worth taking.

Although I'm sure we're covertly supporting Iranian democrats, I have to wonder if we're really doing all that we can.

North Korea is a tough nut to crack, and I don't really blame Clinton as much as some do for his virtual appeasement. But while it may have been worth a try once, we should have learned and moved on. And I have to admit that the "Six Party Talks" never seem to really achieve anything.

Mahmoud Abbas, or Abu Mazen, or whatever name he calls himself these days, hasn't done anything more than Arafat to resolve the crisis on the West Bank, and never had any intention of risking anything for peace. The long-term way to resolve the issue there it to promote democracy, but this requires democrats, and Abbas isn't one.

So we've tried the soft line with the Palestinians, North Korea, and Iran, and it hasn't gotten us anywhere. It's time to go back to a freedom agenda.

Posted by Tom at 9:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 22, 2006

The Rise of the "To Hell With Them Hawks"?

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The most important justification for our invasion of Iraq was of course that we had good cause to suspect that Saddam had stockpiles of WMD. Forgotten by most is that the Congressional Resolution which authorized force (Passed by House and Senate in October 2002) offered some 16 justifications. Not mentioned is what would happen to Iraq after the invasion.

It is well know that the President's views have been very much influenced by Natan Sharansky's 2004 book The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror (reviewed by me here)

Sharansky's formula for for defeating totalitarianism, whether of the communist or Islamofascist variety, is simple

When freedom's skeptics argue today that freedom cannot be "imposed" from the outside, or that the freed world has no role to play in spreading democracy around the world, I cannot but be amazed. Less than one generation has passed since the West found the Achilles heel of the Soviet Union by pursuing an activist policy that linked the rights of the Soviet people to the USSR's international standing. The same formula will work again today.

The President and Secretary Rice have largely adopted Sharansky's recommendations. As such, it is said that they are pursuing a "Wilsonian" foreign policy. President Wilson was an idealist, and it is said that Bush is also. Wilson's Fourteen Points, however, were silent on the issue of democracy or even self-determination. Wilson was more interested in peace than anything else.

The To "Hell With Them Hawks"

Rich Lowry has an article in the March 27 print issue of National Review titled The ‘To Hell with Them’ Hawks, And what’s wrong with them (subscription required to view it on-line)

Who is Lowry talking about?

These are conservatives who are comfortable using force abroad, but have little patience for a deep entanglement with the Muslim world, which they consider unredeemable, or at least not worth the strenuous effort of trying to redeem. To put their departure from Bush in terms associated with foreign-policy analyst Walter Russell Mead, they want to detach Bush’s Jacksonianism (the hardheaded, somewhat bloody-minded nationalism) from his Wilsonianism (the crusading democratic idealism). Democrats are headed in this direction too. But the tendency is problematic and, in its own way, as naïve and unrealistic as Bush at his dreamiest.

Lowry does not name anyone in his article, but Scott Johnson at Powerline believes he is talking about conservatives such as William F. Buckley, George Will, Jeffrey Hart, and John Derbyshire, and I think he's got it about right.

President Bush calls Islam a "religion of peace", and, not at all happy with simply knocking off the Taliban in Afghanistan and Ba'athists in Iraq, has set ourselves the task of nation-building. Specifically, to install some sort of democracy in the aforementioned countries.

"Nation-building" has been alternatively seen as good and bad in the post World War II era. Obviously it worked with Germany and Japan. We tried it in South Korea, and it seemed to work there, although it took a lot longer for true democracy to take root. Vietnam was just as obviously a failure, and doubt about nation-building began to set in. However, in the 1980s we took it upon ourselves to build up El Salvador as a bastion of hope against communist insurgencies in Central America. After a fitful start, we succeeded. Then, in the 1990s, we abandoned the concept again. Today we are invested in it lock-stock-and-barrel.

The problems that Bush has encountered are several, but Lowry's points can be boiled down to three

1 With the "cartoon intifada" the idea that "Islam" is a "religion of peace" looks ridiculous to many on the right.

2) "The Palestinian elections have undermined Bush’s contention that all people everywhere desire freedom in their hearts"

3) And the big one, Iraq. Lowry says that it "has reminded us of the enduring importance of culture" because it "suffers from a lack of a democratic culture, and its longstanding ethnic and tribal divisions have worked against us"

Unfortunately, given the daily headlines it doesn't help Bush much to point out that

1) One should never characterize an entire religion as anything. The real struggle is within Islam, between the moderates (yes they exist) and the extremists who want to silence them (see this interesting debate between Mansoor Ijaz and Andy McCarthy)

2) No one ever said that voting alone defined democracy. To have democracy you need democrats.

3) Contrary to popular belief, it was thought in the 1940s that democracy would never work in Japan or Germany because those countries had no history of pluralism. Further, in Germany at least the occupation did not go well all in the early years.

What the 'To Hell with Them' Hawks Want

According to Lowry, these hawks want "to write off reforming Islam, since they consider it inherently unreformable" and consider " the Iraq War as essentially lost". They want to pull out as soon as it is feasible.

They are not isolationists, or dreamy-eyed about negotiations or the UN. They have no problem with using force, they just don't want to stick around for very long afterwards.

A Time for Force

Col Harry Summers made the point in On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War that in order to win a war you have to understand it's nature. Further, you have to tune your military strategy to achieve your political goals. This sounds obvious, but it is evidently lost on some people.

As such, there is a time to use overwhelming firepower to achieve your goals, and a time not to. Lowry says that

“To hell with them” hawks misinterpret the Vietnam War as badly as liberals. They are inclined to conclude that, if only the U.S. had really let loose in Vietnam, bringing to bear even more firepower, the war would have been won. On the contrary, it was only near the end of the war, when the U.S. started to fashion a true counterinsurgency strategy focusing on winning hearts and minds, on holding territory, and on training Vietnamese security forces, that we began to succeed. If there hadn’t been a catastrophic loss of political support for the war at home, this strategy might have held South Vietnam, and it didn’t involve — in a tactic “to hell with them” hawks tend to instinctively favor — bombing anyone back to the Stone Age.

As such, "we will need more engagement with the Muslim world rather than less", he says. To turn from the Muslim world after the riots over the cartoons would only be playing into the hands of the Islamofascists.

Lowry's Recommendations

Lowry says that we need to recognize that the wr in iraq is a counterinsurgency and act accordingly. Lt. Col. John Nagl makes just this point in his book Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam: Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife, reviewed by me here. The question here, I believe, is one of time; now that we've figured out how to fight in Iraq will we be allowed to win before political considerations at home force a troop pullout?

'To Hell with Them Hawks' do not believe that Islam can be reformed. Lowry does. He says that "like Christianity, Islam has within it resources that can be used both to promote liberty and peace and to repress" liberty. This is true, I believe. Only doesn't have to go back very far in Western history to find some truely abominable things. Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani says nicer things in English than he does in Arabic, as Lowry concedes, but asks "is this surprising? He is a conservative Shiite cleric, not an Episcopal minister. Not to realize that someone utterly different from us can still be an ally is a flat-out failure of imagination."

Our Dictator?

For much of the Cold War, and especially with regard to policy in the Middle East, the United States was accused of propping up dictators. Unfortunatly, this charge was usually true. The US tolerated and/or supported authoritarian regimes in South Korea, Taiwan, and throughout the Middle East. What do the critics want? A return to the days of "he may be a son of a bitch, but at least he's our son of a bitch"? (I've seen this quote attributed to both LBJ and Nixon)

We tried this once in Iran. In 1953, along with British Intelligence, we orchestrated the removal of Mohammed Mossadegh, and restored the monarchy, putting former Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi back on the throne. The Shah became more and more dictatorial as the years went by, prompting a revolution in 1979 that put the Ayatollah Khomeini in power. That didn't work out so well.

What do the 'to Hell with Them Hawks' want to do? According to Lowry

For believers in a clash in civilizations, the “to hell with them” hawks have an odd attitude toward their own. They want to put our civilization in a permanent posture of strategic defense. In Cold War terms, they believe in Containment rather than Rollback. Containment was a successful strategy, but especially so when Ronald Reagan invested it with aspects of Rollback, launching insurgencies against Communist states and engaging in unapologetic evangelism for the Western cause.

In short, they want to play defense. This, Rich says, is unacceptable. He concedes that for the moment, the 'to Hell with them Hawks' are in the ascendency. But "If we try their approach, it won’t be long until we are complaining yet again about the lack of realism in U.S. foreign policy, and yearning for something less simplistic and naïve."

The Response

Jed Babbin has written a piece in The American Spectator called Endgame Conservatives. Babbin is a good conservative. I've heard him on the radio many times, and gave his book Inside the Asylum: Why the United Nations and Old Europe are Worse Than You Think a positive review.

Babbin says that the "neo-Wilsonians such as he are profoundly wrong about the nature of this war and how we must fight it to win in the long haul". This is so, he says, because the " nascent Iraqi democracy is neither the center of gravity in this war nor a factor determinative of victory or defeat. Iraq is but one key campaign in a larger war and if it becomes a democracy that is a collateral accomplishment, nothing more." This is quite different than the assessment of most people who look at Iraq, for whom the establishment of an at least somewhat democratic government is seen as the key to stopping the insurgency.

Here is why Babbin says we are at war

We didn't invade Afghanistan and Iraq because they weren't democracies. If the lack of democracy were a casus belli we'd be at war with about two-thirds of the world. We counterattacked the Taliban because with malice aforethought they provided the base from which Osama bin Laden organized an attack that killed three thousand Americans and then refused to turn him over to us when we gave them the choice between doing so and war. In Iraq we sincerely believed that the Saddam Hussein regime posed a threat to Americans and attacked only after the UN failed, as it always does, to deal with such a threat. The only goal of this war, which Lowry and the others lost track of, is to end the threat of radical Islam and the terrorism that is its chosen weapon against us
.

We will win this war, he says, by "destroying the regimes that provide terrorists with weapons, funds, people, and sanctuary" and by defeating "the radical Islamist ideology" just as "we defeated the Soviet communist ideology."

Babbin denies that the global war on terror is like fighting an insurgency. What is it, then"

First, it is a war against nations that has to be fought both diplomatically and on the battlefields, both conventionally and otherwise. Second, it is an ideological war that can't be won with soft words and euphemisms. And third -- in Iraq, the Philippines, and much of the Horn of Africa -- it is both a counterinsurgency and war for ascendancy among tribes and religious sects.

Me: So how exactly do we fight the war? What type of government do we install in Iraq? Maddeningly, Babbin doesn't say. He denies that winning "hearts and minds" was important to winning Vietnam, and blames instead Johnson's on-again off-again incrementalist approach. Maybe so.

But by not offering any concrete alternative, Babbin opens himself to two criticisms:

1) That he just wants to 'bomb them back to the stone age' and leave it at that. Break it and then leave.

2) That all he wants to do is install another dictator, albeit one that is not as murderous as the old one, and is friendly to the US.

Neither of these are acceptable to me.

On the Positive Side for Babbin

Let's be clear that Babbin's criticism is from the right. He wants Bush to be more, not less, aggressive. He's upset because we're stalled in Iraq. In conclusion, he says that

Mr. Bush's democratization strategy, naive and Wilsonian, has put us in the posture of strategic defense. His original formulation -- that nations are either with us or against us -- has been whittled away to a confrontation-cum-engagement strategy that enables Iran to offer cooperation in Iraq while buying time to build nuclear weapons. The President is in the process of putting the UN in control of the Iran nuclear issue. This will result, in all probability, in allowing Iran enough time to achieve nuclear weapons. In Iraq, we are on the defensive because we haven't taken sufficient action to end the foreign interference that disrupts the nation-building effort. It's time to extricate ourselves from the Wilsonian policy quagmire....Let's press on with this war through the endgame and defeat the enemy decisively on both the military and ideological fronts.

Unfortunately, he never says how we are to extricate ourselves. However, I agree that we need to move on to dealing with Iran.

Posted by Tom at 9:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack