Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 16, 2007

Hunting the PKK

As I have indicated previously in contentions, I have limited sympathy for Turkish complaints about the Armenian genocide resolution. Although I think it’s a mistake for Congress to pass this legislation because it will aggravate the Turks, I also think it’s a mistake for the Turks to engage in genocide-denial. From their own perspective, they would be much better off to admit the crimes committed against the Armenians by the Ottoman Empire, and move on.

But the Turks are on firmer ground with their complaints about the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, known as the PKK, which uses northern Iraq as a sanctuary for launching attacks into southern Turkey. The Erdogan government has responded by asking parliament for authorization to conduct raids into northern Iraq—something that the Turkish military has long been seeking and a demand to which I am sympathetic, notwithstanding the problems it undoubtedly will cause with America’s Kurdish allies in Iraq.

Countries have a responsibility for policing their own soil and ensuring it is not used for attacks on neighboring states. Iraq has been falling down on the job. In general, of course, the Iraqi state is incapable of policing itself, but this is much less the case in the Kurdish North, where the peshmerga fighters—many now part of the Iraqi Security Forces—exercise a fair degree of control. And yet the PKK, a vicious Marxist terrorist group that seeks independence for Kurdish areas of Turkey, has been able to operate from northern Iraq with impunity. Turkey has suffered a steady stream of casualties, including the loss of thirteen soldiers in just one attack this month.

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As I have indicated previously in contentions, I have limited sympathy for Turkish complaints about the Armenian genocide resolution. Although I think it’s a mistake for Congress to pass this legislation because it will aggravate the Turks, I also think it’s a mistake for the Turks to engage in genocide-denial. From their own perspective, they would be much better off to admit the crimes committed against the Armenians by the Ottoman Empire, and move on.

But the Turks are on firmer ground with their complaints about the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, known as the PKK, which uses northern Iraq as a sanctuary for launching attacks into southern Turkey. The Erdogan government has responded by asking parliament for authorization to conduct raids into northern Iraq—something that the Turkish military has long been seeking and a demand to which I am sympathetic, notwithstanding the problems it undoubtedly will cause with America’s Kurdish allies in Iraq.

Countries have a responsibility for policing their own soil and ensuring it is not used for attacks on neighboring states. Iraq has been falling down on the job. In general, of course, the Iraqi state is incapable of policing itself, but this is much less the case in the Kurdish North, where the peshmerga fighters—many now part of the Iraqi Security Forces—exercise a fair degree of control. And yet the PKK, a vicious Marxist terrorist group that seeks independence for Kurdish areas of Turkey, has been able to operate from northern Iraq with impunity. Turkey has suffered a steady stream of casualties, including the loss of thirteen soldiers in just one attack this month.

The Turks’ desire to take military action is understandable, and fully in keeping with the Bush Doctrine. It would be better, of course, if Iraqi and U.S. forces were to do more to shut down PKK activities. But if they can’t (or won’t), the Turks have a right to act. The Iranians already have been taking similar action, shelling Kurdish villages supposedly sheltering terrorists operating against the regime in Tehran.

Naturally, however, if the Turks and Iranians exercise their right of “hot pursuit” of terrorists, then the U.S. should as well. Of course, if our military starts hunting those responsible for terrorist attacks in Iraq, it might well wind up crossing the borders of Syria and Iran. So be it. As Bill Kristol has argued: “After all, if Khameini . . . has already established the principle of cross-border attacks against accelerators of violence, who are we to disagree with the wisdom of the Supreme Leader?”

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“Integration” of the Intelligence Community

Are we safer today than we were on September 10, 2001?

The answer is undoubtedly yes. But the sixteen agencies that comprise the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) still do not adequately share with one another the secret information they acquire. Fixing that problem remains an urgent task: organizational “stovepiping,” as the phenomenon is known, was one of the dysfunctions that led to our failure to thwart the plot behind September 11.

Michael McConnell, the Director of National Intelligence, has now unveiled a 500 Day Plan for Integration and Collaboration aimed at coordinating the work of the disparate agencies. But whoever prepared the plan seems to have understood the meaning of the word “integration” in an unexpected way. Thus, the plan contains two “core initiatives” and number one on the list is to “Treat Diversity as a Strategic Mission Imperative.” The Intelligence Community, it says, needs to have “a workforce that looks like America.”

This objective will be attained in 500 days by working toward four “key milestones”:

• Design mechanisms to hold IC leaders accountable for excellence in EEO and diversity management in concert with the IC Chief Human Capital Officer (CHCO) policies
• Assist in workforce planning to increase diversity representation
• Improve the IC’s ability to recruit, hire, develop, and retain a diverse workforce
• Promote career development and advancement to ensure all IC employees have the opportunity to realize their full potential

One can have no doubt that, with concerted efforts and sufficient resources, the Intelligence Community can be made more diverse within 500 days, and that it can measurably improve in its stated goal of increasing “the representation, recruitment, hiring, development, and retention of minorities, women, and persons with disabilities.”

But how does any of this affirmative-action gobbledygook contribute to making us safer? And what does any of this have to with ending bureaucratic stovepiping?

Are we safer today than we were on September 10, 2001?

The answer is undoubtedly yes. But the sixteen agencies that comprise the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) still do not adequately share with one another the secret information they acquire. Fixing that problem remains an urgent task: organizational “stovepiping,” as the phenomenon is known, was one of the dysfunctions that led to our failure to thwart the plot behind September 11.

Michael McConnell, the Director of National Intelligence, has now unveiled a 500 Day Plan for Integration and Collaboration aimed at coordinating the work of the disparate agencies. But whoever prepared the plan seems to have understood the meaning of the word “integration” in an unexpected way. Thus, the plan contains two “core initiatives” and number one on the list is to “Treat Diversity as a Strategic Mission Imperative.” The Intelligence Community, it says, needs to have “a workforce that looks like America.”

This objective will be attained in 500 days by working toward four “key milestones”:

• Design mechanisms to hold IC leaders accountable for excellence in EEO and diversity management in concert with the IC Chief Human Capital Officer (CHCO) policies
• Assist in workforce planning to increase diversity representation
• Improve the IC’s ability to recruit, hire, develop, and retain a diverse workforce
• Promote career development and advancement to ensure all IC employees have the opportunity to realize their full potential

One can have no doubt that, with concerted efforts and sufficient resources, the Intelligence Community can be made more diverse within 500 days, and that it can measurably improve in its stated goal of increasing “the representation, recruitment, hiring, development, and retention of minorities, women, and persons with disabilities.”

But how does any of this affirmative-action gobbledygook contribute to making us safer? And what does any of this have to with ending bureaucratic stovepiping?

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Tempest over Tibet

Today, Beijing issued a warning to Washington over the planned award of the Congressional Gold Medal to the Dalai Lama. “The move will seriously damage China-U.S. relations,” said Liu Jianchao, a Foreign Ministry spokesman. He also noted that his country hoped that the United States would “correct its mistakes” and cancel the “relevant arrangements.” Those arrangements include President Bush’s receiving His Holiness at the White House today and House Speaker Pelosi’s presenting the award tomorrow at the Capitol. The increasingly visible Laura Bush will attend tomorrow’s ceremony. And so will her husband, who will be speaking at the event. He will be the first sitting President to appear publicly with the 1989 Nobel laureate.

The Chinese government has already shown its displeasure at American defiance of its wishes. Beijing diplomats have raised the issue a number of times at the ambassadorial level. Furthermore, earlier this month Beijing put off a visit by Wu Bangguo, the second-ranked Communist Party leader, to the United States. Beijing has also pulled out of a meeting, scheduled for tomorrow in Berlin, to talk about Iran.

On Sunday, the German government announced that China had canceled upcoming human rights talks (supposed to take place in December) with Chancellor Angela Merkel. The German foreign ministry refused to give any reason for the change in plans, yet an explanation was unnecessary. Beijing’s diplomats have been complaining publicly for weeks that Merkel had met with the world’s most famous refugee last month. In fact, they had been protesting the visit before she received His Holiness, and the cancellation announced Sunday is only the latest in a series of meetings the Chinese have aborted with their German counterparts since last month.

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Today, Beijing issued a warning to Washington over the planned award of the Congressional Gold Medal to the Dalai Lama. “The move will seriously damage China-U.S. relations,” said Liu Jianchao, a Foreign Ministry spokesman. He also noted that his country hoped that the United States would “correct its mistakes” and cancel the “relevant arrangements.” Those arrangements include President Bush’s receiving His Holiness at the White House today and House Speaker Pelosi’s presenting the award tomorrow at the Capitol. The increasingly visible Laura Bush will attend tomorrow’s ceremony. And so will her husband, who will be speaking at the event. He will be the first sitting President to appear publicly with the 1989 Nobel laureate.

The Chinese government has already shown its displeasure at American defiance of its wishes. Beijing diplomats have raised the issue a number of times at the ambassadorial level. Furthermore, earlier this month Beijing put off a visit by Wu Bangguo, the second-ranked Communist Party leader, to the United States. Beijing has also pulled out of a meeting, scheduled for tomorrow in Berlin, to talk about Iran.

On Sunday, the German government announced that China had canceled upcoming human rights talks (supposed to take place in December) with Chancellor Angela Merkel. The German foreign ministry refused to give any reason for the change in plans, yet an explanation was unnecessary. Beijing’s diplomats have been complaining publicly for weeks that Merkel had met with the world’s most famous refugee last month. In fact, they had been protesting the visit before she received His Holiness, and the cancellation announced Sunday is only the latest in a series of meetings the Chinese have aborted with their German counterparts since last month.

Unfortunately for the Chinese, they’re rapidly losing their ability to intimidate Western leaders over Tibet. All of them recognize Beijing’s sovereignty over Tibetan homelands, but increasingly few of them are willing to shun the Dalai Lama. In addition to Merkel, Australia’s John Howard and Austria’s Alfred Gusenbauer met with him over the course of the last few months. Canada’s Stephen Harper will receive the famous Tibetan this month.

Chinese diplomats are ramping up their threats, but few are listening. Nobody believes that human rights dialogues with Beijing are effective, and Wu’s trip to the United States was more for China’s benefit than ours. It’s a shame that China won’t attend the Berlin meeting on Iran, but that will be rescheduled—and in any event Chinese attendance would only complicate matters.

Who cares if the Chinese authoritarians huff and puff? They need the West more than the West needs them. So let them threaten all they want. Why should we prevent the Chinese from creating a diplomatic disaster for themselves?

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False Hopes

In Zimbabwe, presidential and parliamentary elections have been scheduled for March of 2008. The decision to hold these elections—brokered after a series of negotiations held under the auspices of South African president Thabo Mbeki—has been hailed by none other than the regime of Robert Mugabe itself. What, then, is to make us believe that the outcome of next March’s balloting will prove any different than the results of past elections in 2000, 2002, and 2005, all of which were rigged? Indeed, there have been several disturbing developments over the past several weeks which indicate that neither Mugabe nor (more worryingly) Mbeki are serious about free and fair elections.

According to opposition leaders, since the end of the South African-brokered negotiations, the Zimbabwean government has turned down 103 applications for political rallies (the fact that political parties must register with the government before holding a rally is itself indicative of the nature of the Mugabe regime) and it is still meting out violence against democracy activists. Yesterday, the government reiterated its support for stringent media laws which make it practically impossible for foreigners to own television or radio stations (effectively banning the foreign television and radio media from operating freely in the country). This will make it easier for the regime to cover its inevitable election abuses come next year.

And to add insult to injury, after having declared victory over British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in a diplomatic row over his attendance at an upcoming European Union-African Union summit in Lisbon, Mugabe’s mouthpieces are now demanding that the E.U. tell Brown to “shut up” about Mugabe’s gross abuses of human rights because “Gordon Brown is not even qualified to talk to us on human rights and as you can see he failed his own country’s internal democracy in Britain.” This is in reference to Brown’s decision not to call an immediate election to ratify his mandate as an unelected prime minister who assumed power following the resignation of his predecessor. An absurd allegation, of course, but one that apparently seems to convince Mugabe’s fellow African leaders.

Amidst all of these recent developments, how can anyone honestly believe that next year’s elections will be free and fair?

In Zimbabwe, presidential and parliamentary elections have been scheduled for March of 2008. The decision to hold these elections—brokered after a series of negotiations held under the auspices of South African president Thabo Mbeki—has been hailed by none other than the regime of Robert Mugabe itself. What, then, is to make us believe that the outcome of next March’s balloting will prove any different than the results of past elections in 2000, 2002, and 2005, all of which were rigged? Indeed, there have been several disturbing developments over the past several weeks which indicate that neither Mugabe nor (more worryingly) Mbeki are serious about free and fair elections.

According to opposition leaders, since the end of the South African-brokered negotiations, the Zimbabwean government has turned down 103 applications for political rallies (the fact that political parties must register with the government before holding a rally is itself indicative of the nature of the Mugabe regime) and it is still meting out violence against democracy activists. Yesterday, the government reiterated its support for stringent media laws which make it practically impossible for foreigners to own television or radio stations (effectively banning the foreign television and radio media from operating freely in the country). This will make it easier for the regime to cover its inevitable election abuses come next year.

And to add insult to injury, after having declared victory over British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in a diplomatic row over his attendance at an upcoming European Union-African Union summit in Lisbon, Mugabe’s mouthpieces are now demanding that the E.U. tell Brown to “shut up” about Mugabe’s gross abuses of human rights because “Gordon Brown is not even qualified to talk to us on human rights and as you can see he failed his own country’s internal democracy in Britain.” This is in reference to Brown’s decision not to call an immediate election to ratify his mandate as an unelected prime minister who assumed power following the resignation of his predecessor. An absurd allegation, of course, but one that apparently seems to convince Mugabe’s fellow African leaders.

Amidst all of these recent developments, how can anyone honestly believe that next year’s elections will be free and fair?

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An Announcement

We are delighted to announce that John Podhoretz has been named to succeed Neal
Kozodoy in the position of COMMENTARY’s Editor as of January 1, 2009.

Mr. Podhoretz will join the COMMENTARY staff this November. In the interim role of Editorial Director, he will assume particular responsibility for the development and expansion of our online editorial activities. Our blog, inaugurated less than a year ago, has become an important daily source of thought and opinion for readers around the world, and online operations will play an increasingly significant role in COMMENTARY’s growth.

Mr. Podhoretz, who upon his accession in January 2009 will become the fourth Editor in COMMENTARY’s six-decade history, brings long and varied experience as an editor, columnist, writer, and blogger. He has held executive positions at several publications, including the Weekly Standard, which he co-founded, Insight, and the New York Post. The author of three books about presidential politics, he is the lead political columnist of the New York Post, has served as the regular film critic of the Weekly Standard since its inception, and is a daily contributor to “The Corner,” National Review’s group blog. He was a regular on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” and is now a frequent on-screen contributor to the Fox News Channel. In government, he was a speechwriter to Ronald Reagan in 1988.

Mr. Podhoretz, forty-six, lives in New York with his wife and two daughters. He is the son of Norman and Midge Podhoretz.

Following the January 2009 transition in COMMENTARY’s editorship, Neal Kozodoy, who has been with the magazine since 1966 and has served as its Editor since 1995, and as President of Commentary, Inc. since the beginning of this year, will continue his active association in a consulting role.

We welcome John Podhoretz warmly to the COMMENTARY team.

We are delighted to announce that John Podhoretz has been named to succeed Neal
Kozodoy in the position of COMMENTARY’s Editor as of January 1, 2009.

Mr. Podhoretz will join the COMMENTARY staff this November. In the interim role of Editorial Director, he will assume particular responsibility for the development and expansion of our online editorial activities. Our blog, inaugurated less than a year ago, has become an important daily source of thought and opinion for readers around the world, and online operations will play an increasingly significant role in COMMENTARY’s growth.

Mr. Podhoretz, who upon his accession in January 2009 will become the fourth Editor in COMMENTARY’s six-decade history, brings long and varied experience as an editor, columnist, writer, and blogger. He has held executive positions at several publications, including the Weekly Standard, which he co-founded, Insight, and the New York Post. The author of three books about presidential politics, he is the lead political columnist of the New York Post, has served as the regular film critic of the Weekly Standard since its inception, and is a daily contributor to “The Corner,” National Review’s group blog. He was a regular on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” and is now a frequent on-screen contributor to the Fox News Channel. In government, he was a speechwriter to Ronald Reagan in 1988.

Mr. Podhoretz, forty-six, lives in New York with his wife and two daughters. He is the son of Norman and Midge Podhoretz.

Following the January 2009 transition in COMMENTARY’s editorship, Neal Kozodoy, who has been with the magazine since 1966 and has served as its Editor since 1995, and as President of Commentary, Inc. since the beginning of this year, will continue his active association in a consulting role.

We welcome John Podhoretz warmly to the COMMENTARY team.

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An Announcement

We are delighted to announce that John Podhoretz has been named to succeed Neal
Kozodoy in the position of COMMENTARY’s Editor as of January 1, 2009.

Mr. Podhoretz will join the COMMENTARY staff this November. In the interim role of Editorial Director, he will assume particular responsibility for the development and expansion of our online editorial activities. Our blog, inaugurated less than a year ago, has become an important daily source of thought and opinion for readers around the world, and online operations will play an increasingly significant role in COMMENTARY’s growth.

Mr. Podhoretz, who upon his accession in January 2009 will become the fourth Editor in COMMENTARY’s six-decade history, brings long and varied experience as an editor, columnist, writer, and blogger. He has held executive positions at several publications, including the Weekly Standard, which he co-founded, Insight, and the New York Post. The author of three books about presidential politics, he is the lead political columnist of the New York Post, has served as the regular film critic of the Weekly Standard since its inception, and is a daily contributor to “The Corner,” National Review’s group blog. He was a regular on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” and is now a frequent on-screen contributor to the Fox News Channel. In government, he was a speechwriter to Ronald Reagan in 1988.

Mr. Podhoretz, forty-six, lives in New York with his wife and two daughters. He is the son of Norman and Midge Podhoretz.

Following the January 2009 transition in COMMENTARY’s editorship, Neal Kozodoy, who has been with the magazine since 1966 and has served as its Editor since 1995, and as President of Commentary, Inc. since the beginning of this year, will continue his active association in a consulting role.

We welcome John Podhoretz warmly to the COMMENTARY team.

We are delighted to announce that John Podhoretz has been named to succeed Neal
Kozodoy in the position of COMMENTARY’s Editor as of January 1, 2009.

Mr. Podhoretz will join the COMMENTARY staff this November. In the interim role of Editorial Director, he will assume particular responsibility for the development and expansion of our online editorial activities. Our blog, inaugurated less than a year ago, has become an important daily source of thought and opinion for readers around the world, and online operations will play an increasingly significant role in COMMENTARY’s growth.

Mr. Podhoretz, who upon his accession in January 2009 will become the fourth Editor in COMMENTARY’s six-decade history, brings long and varied experience as an editor, columnist, writer, and blogger. He has held executive positions at several publications, including the Weekly Standard, which he co-founded, Insight, and the New York Post. The author of three books about presidential politics, he is the lead political columnist of the New York Post, has served as the regular film critic of the Weekly Standard since its inception, and is a daily contributor to “The Corner,” National Review’s group blog. He was a regular on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” and is now a frequent on-screen contributor to the Fox News Channel. In government, he was a speechwriter to Ronald Reagan in 1988.

Mr. Podhoretz, forty-six, lives in New York with his wife and two daughters. He is the son of Norman and Midge Podhoretz.

Following the January 2009 transition in COMMENTARY’s editorship, Neal Kozodoy, who has been with the magazine since 1966 and has served as its Editor since 1995, and as President of Commentary, Inc. since the beginning of this year, will continue his active association in a consulting role.

We welcome John Podhoretz warmly to the COMMENTARY team.

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Bookshelf

• The trouble with the Internet is . . . well, fill in the blank. Me, I’d fill it in like this: The trouble with the Internet is that it increases the velocity of incivility and stupidity. I suspect that Daniel J. Solove, who teaches at George Washington University Law School and blogs at concurringopinions.com, would agree. His new book, The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet, paints a grim picture of the myriad ways in which the web is being misused, sometimes knowingly and sometimes not, to make people miserable:

Somebody you’ve never met can snap your photo and post it on the Internet. Or somebody that you know very well can share your cherished secrets with the entire planet. Your friends or coworkers might be posting rumors about you on their blogs. The personal e-mail you send to others can readily be forwarded along throughout cyberspace, to be mocked and laughed at far and wide. And your children might be posting intimate information about themselves on the Web—or their friends or enemies might be revealing your family secrets. These fragments of information won’t fade away with time, and they can readily be located by any curious individual. . . . As people chronicle the minutiae of their daily lives from childhood onward in blog entries, online conversations, photographs, and videos, they are forever altering their futures—and those of their friends, relatives, and others.

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• The trouble with the Internet is . . . well, fill in the blank. Me, I’d fill it in like this: The trouble with the Internet is that it increases the velocity of incivility and stupidity. I suspect that Daniel J. Solove, who teaches at George Washington University Law School and blogs at concurringopinions.com, would agree. His new book, The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet, paints a grim picture of the myriad ways in which the web is being misused, sometimes knowingly and sometimes not, to make people miserable:

Somebody you’ve never met can snap your photo and post it on the Internet. Or somebody that you know very well can share your cherished secrets with the entire planet. Your friends or coworkers might be posting rumors about you on their blogs. The personal e-mail you send to others can readily be forwarded along throughout cyberspace, to be mocked and laughed at far and wide. And your children might be posting intimate information about themselves on the Web—or their friends or enemies might be revealing your family secrets. These fragments of information won’t fade away with time, and they can readily be located by any curious individual. . . . As people chronicle the minutiae of their daily lives from childhood onward in blog entries, online conversations, photographs, and videos, they are forever altering their futures—and those of their friends, relatives, and others.

If you think that sounds apocalyptic, you haven’t been checking your e-mailbox lately. Fortunately, the first half of Solove’s book is a primer devoted in large part to a wide, well-documented assortment of privacy-related horror stories. Not only do social exhibitionists now write about the most intimate aspects of their private lives on the web, but it is becoming common for electronic vigilantes to engage in what Solove calls “shaming,” launching websites whose purpose is to embarrass transgressors ranging from bad tippers to careless drivers. Never before has gossip been so easy to circulate—or so hard to suppress.

Solove is no less interested in putting these phenomena in a wider perspective. He argues, to my mind convincingly, that the prevailing libertarian paradigm of privacy in the electronic age is not adequate to addressing the problems caused by the unique power of the Internet to disseminate information, be it true, false or somewhere in between. Richard Epstein summed up that paradigm when he observed that “the plea for privacy is often a plea for the right to misrepresent one’s self to the rest of the world.” Solove’s view of the matter is both more generous and less doctrinaire in its conceptual underpinnings. America, he points out, is “the land of second chances,” and he worries that the Web is making it difficult to the point of impossible for people to start fresh—or to indulge in the kind of “hypocrisy” that the Victorians taught us to regard as an essential social lubricant. He astutely quotes Milan Kundera in this connection: “Any man who was the same in both public and intimate life would be a monster. He would be without spontaneity in his private life and without responsibility in his public life.”

Alas, Solove has no quick fixes to offer, and the weakest parts of The Future of Reputation are the chapters in which he speculates on how the legal system might be used to bolster the right to privacy under the aspect of Googling. But sometimes it’s more important to ask the right questions than to give the right answers, and Solove asks more than enough good questions to make the most hard-nosed opponent of regulation think twice. At the same time, he also suggests that many of the problems caused by the Internet might be ameliorated, if not solved, were more of us to take to heart the advice now being given out by a top law school to those of its students who blog:

We urge you to take the long view and the adult view of what you write. THINK about the words you send out into the world, and imagine what they would make you look like when you—and surely some of you will—find yourself under review at a confirmation hearing for a professional position you dearly desire.

You don’t have to aspire to a seat on the Supreme Court to profit from that advice.

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Putin’s Rage

What is Vladimir Putin’s problem? Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates pay a rare joint visit to the Kremlin, and he snubs them by keeping them cooling their heels for 40 minutes. Then he treats them to a highly undiplomatic tirade before television cameras.

His diatribe was laced with threats. Should the U.S. continue with planned deployment of a small missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, Russia will withdraw from the agreement on conventional force deployments in Europe and another treaty governing European nuclear weapons, and perhaps retaliate in additional ways. Putin’s performance, said the New York Times, “appeared to catch Gates and Rice off guard.”

Why the surprise? Because the subject of Putin’s rage, a shield avowedly intended against Iran, could not possibly diminish Russia’s nuclear deterrent. It would comprise enough interceptors to stop a handful of missiles, but Russia disposes of thousands. Moreover, lest Moscow fear that these sites could camouflage a larger anti-Russian system, the two U.S. officials came bearing a plan of transparency. As described by the Times, it

included an invitation for Russia to join the United States and NATO as a full partner in designing and operating an anti-missile system guarding all of Europe. The offer even could include invitations for Russian and American officers to inspect—and even be stationed as liaison officers at—each other’s missile defense sites.

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What is Vladimir Putin’s problem? Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates pay a rare joint visit to the Kremlin, and he snubs them by keeping them cooling their heels for 40 minutes. Then he treats them to a highly undiplomatic tirade before television cameras.

His diatribe was laced with threats. Should the U.S. continue with planned deployment of a small missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, Russia will withdraw from the agreement on conventional force deployments in Europe and another treaty governing European nuclear weapons, and perhaps retaliate in additional ways. Putin’s performance, said the New York Times, “appeared to catch Gates and Rice off guard.”

Why the surprise? Because the subject of Putin’s rage, a shield avowedly intended against Iran, could not possibly diminish Russia’s nuclear deterrent. It would comprise enough interceptors to stop a handful of missiles, but Russia disposes of thousands. Moreover, lest Moscow fear that these sites could camouflage a larger anti-Russian system, the two U.S. officials came bearing a plan of transparency. As described by the Times, it

included an invitation for Russia to join the United States and NATO as a full partner in designing and operating an anti-missile system guarding all of Europe. The offer even could include invitations for Russian and American officers to inspect—and even be stationed as liaison officers at—each other’s missile defense sites.

Putin, however, was unmoved. Why? The answer can be found in his most revealing comment: “We hope . . . you will not be forcing forward your relations with the Eastern European countries.” Putin knows full well that the planned U.S. interceptors pose no threat to Russia. But they would transform America’s relationship with Poland and the Czech Republic. They are already allies, to whose defense America bears a legal and moral obligation. But nations sometimes betray allies. The missile defense installations would make those countries more than allies; they would become the frontline of America’s own defense. It would cement them to the U.S. and make it virtually unthinkable that America would ever fail to come to their defense.

Although a Russian design on these countries seems unimaginable at the moment, Putin views them as belonging to Russia’s sphere of influence. (Ergo, his designation of them as “Eastern European,” whereas they call themselves and we call them “Central European,” a term that better fits geographic as well as cultural realities.) Systematically and implacably, Putin, who publicly laments the disappearance of the Soviet Union, has rolled back democracy in Russia and worked to restore hegemony over the other former Soviet republics, the so-called “near abroad.” There is little danger that he aims to restore Communism: he seems to understand economics too well for that. But by all signs he envisions the rebirth of an imperial and authoritarian Russian state, mighty enough to silence its citizens and dominate its neighbors.

Long before Lenin, Russia subjugated whatever other nations came within its grasp, notably including Poland. Today, Warsaw and Prague are beyond reach. But tomorrow, who knows? If they cannot be conquered, perhaps they can be bent to Moscow’s will. Here, then, is the fear that stirs Putin. An American missile defense system, solidifying a special U.S-Polish-Czech relationship, will foreclose future options for the Greater Russia Putin is laboring to resurrect. That was not our original purpose, but it is another good reason to proceed full speed ahead.

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Imperiled by the Imperial Judiciary

Must reading today is Andy McCarthy at NRO on recklessness at the FISA court, the secret panel established under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to place electronic surveillance in matters of espionage and counterterrorism under judicial review.

Earlier this year, a judge who sits on the FISA court took the unprecedented step of ruling that our intelligence community “needs the permission of a federal judge before it can conduct electronic surveillance on non-Americans outside the United States who are communicating with other non-Americans outside the United States.”

In other words, in the middle of a war in which the interception of enemy communications is one of our most vital tools, an unelected judge, whose name remains secret, is tying our counterterrorism effort abroad in knots.

Is the judge’s astonishing ruling a remotely plausible interpretation of FISA? McCarthy argues persuasively that it is not. But ultimately, we cannot say. The ruling itself, like the judge’s identity, remains secret.

What is really at stake here? Sometimes it might be the ability to move quickly in finding an al Qaeda operative. Sometimes it might cost an American his life. A story in yesterday’s New York Post, “‘Wire’ Law Failed Lost GI,” offers an example of the trouble the FISA court has placed us in:

U.S. intelligence officials got mired for nearly 10 hours seeking approval to use wiretaps against al Qaeda terrorists suspected of kidnapping Queens soldier Alex Jimenez in Iraq earlier this year. . .

This week, Congress plans to vote on a bill that leaves in place the legal hurdles in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act—problems that were highlighted during the May search for a group of kidnapped U.S. soldiers.

In the early hours of May 12, seven U.S. soldiers—including Spc. Jimenez—were on lookout near a patrol base in the al Qaeda-controlled area of Iraq called the “Triangle of Death.”

Sometime before dawn, heavily armed al Qaeda gunmen quietly cut through the tangles of concertina wire surrounding the outpost of two Humvees and made a massive and coordinated surprise attack.

Four of the soldiers were killed on the spot and three others were taken hostage.

A search to rescue the men was quickly launched. But it soon ground to a halt as lawyers—obeying strict U.S. laws about surveillance—cobbled together the legal grounds for wiretapping the suspected kidnappers.

Starting at 10 a.m. on May 15, according to a timeline provided to Congress by the director of national intelligence, lawyers for the National Security Agency met and determined that special approval from the attorney general would be required first.

For an excruciating nine hours and 38 minutes, searchers in Iraq waited as U.S. lawyers discussed legal issues and hammered out the “probable cause” necessary for the attorney general to grant such “emergency” permission.

Finally, approval was granted and, at 7:38 that night, surveillance began.

Is this any way to wage war? Where is the outrage?

Must reading today is Andy McCarthy at NRO on recklessness at the FISA court, the secret panel established under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to place electronic surveillance in matters of espionage and counterterrorism under judicial review.

Earlier this year, a judge who sits on the FISA court took the unprecedented step of ruling that our intelligence community “needs the permission of a federal judge before it can conduct electronic surveillance on non-Americans outside the United States who are communicating with other non-Americans outside the United States.”

In other words, in the middle of a war in which the interception of enemy communications is one of our most vital tools, an unelected judge, whose name remains secret, is tying our counterterrorism effort abroad in knots.

Is the judge’s astonishing ruling a remotely plausible interpretation of FISA? McCarthy argues persuasively that it is not. But ultimately, we cannot say. The ruling itself, like the judge’s identity, remains secret.

What is really at stake here? Sometimes it might be the ability to move quickly in finding an al Qaeda operative. Sometimes it might cost an American his life. A story in yesterday’s New York Post, “‘Wire’ Law Failed Lost GI,” offers an example of the trouble the FISA court has placed us in:

U.S. intelligence officials got mired for nearly 10 hours seeking approval to use wiretaps against al Qaeda terrorists suspected of kidnapping Queens soldier Alex Jimenez in Iraq earlier this year. . .

This week, Congress plans to vote on a bill that leaves in place the legal hurdles in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act—problems that were highlighted during the May search for a group of kidnapped U.S. soldiers.

In the early hours of May 12, seven U.S. soldiers—including Spc. Jimenez—were on lookout near a patrol base in the al Qaeda-controlled area of Iraq called the “Triangle of Death.”

Sometime before dawn, heavily armed al Qaeda gunmen quietly cut through the tangles of concertina wire surrounding the outpost of two Humvees and made a massive and coordinated surprise attack.

Four of the soldiers were killed on the spot and three others were taken hostage.

A search to rescue the men was quickly launched. But it soon ground to a halt as lawyers—obeying strict U.S. laws about surveillance—cobbled together the legal grounds for wiretapping the suspected kidnappers.

Starting at 10 a.m. on May 15, according to a timeline provided to Congress by the director of national intelligence, lawyers for the National Security Agency met and determined that special approval from the attorney general would be required first.

For an excruciating nine hours and 38 minutes, searchers in Iraq waited as U.S. lawyers discussed legal issues and hammered out the “probable cause” necessary for the attorney general to grant such “emergency” permission.

Finally, approval was granted and, at 7:38 that night, surveillance began.

Is this any way to wage war? Where is the outrage?

Read Less




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