Terry Teachout discusses his essay in the October issue of Commentary “Beyond the Musical Avant Garde”, Claire Danes as Eliza Doolittle, the Japanese lithographer Toko Shinoda, and more.
Posts For: October 24, 2007
Yesterday in Florida, Fred Thompson announced his immigration reform plan. The plan is in some ways fairly run-of-the-mill in this Republican primary season: Thompson opposes amnesty, wants tougher enforcement of existing laws, calls for cracking down on employers, and wants to tighten the rules governing legal immigration without reducing the number of legal immigrants. But Thompson’s approach does stand out in a few ways, and also highlights a potential Republican advantage on immigration that the Democrats have yet to notice.
More than most other Republicans this year, Thompson has addressed the state of legal immigration in his plan, as well as the quandary of contending with the millions of immigrants now here illegally. He calls, for instance, for the narrowing of family immigration categories, by permitting new Americans to obtain immigration status only for their spouses and minor children—not, as is currently the case, for siblings, parents, and adult children. This would cut down dramatically on so-called “chain immigration,” which accounts for an enormous portion of legal immigrants to America, and distorts the aims of our immigration system. (I discussed this problem at some length, and called for the same kind of reform, in the May issue of COMMENTARY.)
Thompson also calls for an end to the utterly senseless visa lottery program, and for a greater preference for labor-based immigration—both of which make good sense (and which I also discussed in that same essay).
Osama bin Laden released a message Tuesday, calling on jihadists to attack “the Crusader invaders,” not just in Iraq, but also in the Darfur region of Sudan.
Bin Laden must have a rather expansive understanding of who constitutes “Crusader Invaders.” After all, the only peacekeepers in Darfur right now belong to a 7,000-strong force from African Union member states. Come January, this force will be reconstituted as a 31,000-man United Nations peacekeeping deployment known as the United Nations African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), authorized by the Security Council in July. It will be headed by a Nigerian commander with a Rwandan Deputy Commander. Yesterday, Rwanda dispatched 800 soldiers to Darfur (with the help of U.S. transport planes; to bin Laden this must make them collaborators with the Great Satan). But there has been no serious proposal to send American troops to Darfur, nor is there likely to be. As it is currently constituted, UNAMID will comprise forces mainly from African countries, with 95 percent of the infantry African. The only Western countries to provide significant levels of support are Norway and Sweden, which have collectively offered 400 military engineers.
So it is not just the American military that bin Laden considers an infidel army that must be fought anywhere and everywhere, but also apparently the rag-tag African soldiers sent on humanitarian peacekeeping missions and the Norwegians and the Swedes. So much for the contention that it is only those countries in Iraq that elicit the jihadist anger.
Islamic militants like bin Laden pride themselves on their contention that Islam is universal, that it ignores racial, ethnic and national differences in its ability to unite all believers under a caliphate, the dar al-Islam (land of Islam). Yet with this latest pronouncement, bin Laden has revealed his Arab supremacist roots: shilling for an Arab Muslim regime killing black Muslims.
The Syrian state-run propaganda organ Cham Press published a fake story about Lebanese Member of Parliament Walid Jumblatt’s supposed plan to meet Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak in the United States last weekend to coordinate a regime-change in Syria. No Western media organization I know of took this non-story seriously. Israeli media, though, scooped it right up. Haaretz, the Jerusalem Post, and Infolive TV published their own articles about the imaginary meeting between Jumblatt and Barak. None had a source for their story other than the Syrian government’s website.
It goes without saying that Israeli journalists aren’t in cahoots with the Baath Party regime in Damascus. Many Israeli reporters and editors, however, are frankly clueless about Lebanese and Syrian politics.
First of all, it is illegal for a Lebanese citizen to speak to an Israeli citizen no matter where in the world their meeting takes place. Even quietly waving hello to an Israeli on the border is treason.
A significant portion of the Lebanese people sided with Israel during the first Lebanon War in 1982, including Lebanon’s president-elect Bashir Gemayel before he was assassinated. The South Lebanese Army was Israel’s proxy militia in what is now Hizballah-controlled territory, until then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak withdrew Israeli occupation forces from their “security belt” in South Lebanon in 2000. The draconian law is in place precisely to prevent such sympathizers from working with Israelis against Lebanese.
Valerie Plame Wilson’s Fair Game is out, complete with lots of blacked-out spots thanks to CIA concerns about the publication of classified information. Thus, in describing how she tended to her twins while holding down her job as an undercover operative, she has passages like this:
It felt a little like feeding a baby bird. Switching between breast and syringe feedings when they took only a few ounces each time and capturing each detail in a notebook soon took its toll. I was exhausted. XXXXXX XXX XXXXX XXXXXX XXXXXXX XXXXXX. Every baby book out there recommends that the mother sleep when the baby sleeps.
She sketches quite a bit of nature, too, but Turgenev she is not.
It was the best time: early evening, the furnace blast from the summer day over, the jasmine just opening to perfume the air, and sunset still streaking the sky pink and orange.
She is candid about many things, including the “relevant life experience” that made her suitable for work as a CIA operative recruiting agents and would-be terrorists:
As a Pi Beta Phi sorority sister at Penn State, I had lived through the frenzied “rush” weeks, and once I’d been accepted by the sorority, I attended many a crowded party where fitting in and exchanging easy banter with others was key to social success. Now, I smiled to myself, envisioning the room as nothing more than another fraternity/sorority party, I dove in, trying to find my target.
This kind of thing, and there is a great deal of it in the book, does not exactly make her come across as a Mata Hari.
She discusses at length the famously controversial sixteen words in President Bush’s State of the Union Address: “the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa,” which prompted her husband, Joseph Wilson, to write an op-ed denouncing the Bush administration for cooking intelligence about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction while building the case for war. But she is either being evasive about how these sixteen words ended up in the President’s speech, or her explanation has been removed by the CIA censors. It does not matter; responsibility for the blunder has already been unequivocally accepted by George Tenet, the CIA’s then-director.
To her credit, Plame is honest in sketching the broader picture of how the U.S. came to believe that Iraq was vigorously pursuing WMD’s. Although she does point to what she regards as pressure from the White House on the agency to adjust its intelligence to fit policy—principally by means of visits to CIA headquarters by Dick Cheney and Scooter Libby to engage in direct talks with analysts—she sticks with the evidence that is by now solidly established, namely, that Langley itself must shoulder the lion’s share of the blame:
The crime and the colossal failure of the intelligence community—and the CIA in particular—was that . . .deep disagreements [about Iraqi WMD programs] were relegated to footnotes in tiny type at the bottom of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE). The NIE was hastily ordered by Congress in October 2002 (just prior to the vote to authorize use of force against Iraq) and pulled together by the CIA in an unprecedented few weeks. Even more damning is the intellectual sloppiness of a document known as the “President’s Summary,” which distills the NIE down to one page. . . The CIA failed to demonstrate convincingly to the administration that there was a serious and sustained debate over this issue [the aluminum tubes thought erroneously to be for nuclear purposes].
I haven’t yet finished reading this heavily padded (even as it is heavily redacted) book, but so far, given how much it reveals about the peculiar and dysfunctional culture of the CIA, it is more engaging than I expected.
In God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World, Walter Russell Mead coyly claims that the originality of his interpretation of the roots of Anglo-Saxon primacy rests in its focus on the meaning, as opposed to the mere dimensions, of American power. This is too modest: Mead’s achievement is larger than that. His real accomplishment is to restore religion to its rightful place in the history of Great Britain and the United States, and their roles in the world. This no small feat. It’s hard enough to explain why Britain—a small island in the North Sea lacking all natural resources except coal, potatoes, and herring—rose to be the first of the great powers by 1815, and equally hard to explain how the United States inherited and adapted the British system in the 20th century. Factoring the influence of religion into this dynamic is vastly more difficult, but Mead does an admirable job of it.
The historic grand strategy of Great Britain and the United States, as Mead understands it, is simply told: Britain was the world’s first enduringly liberal modern society, and the first practitioner of an open and dynamic economic system that traded throughout the world, relying on its navy to defend its trade routes. This system provided Britain the resources to fight and win its wars, and the power and self-confidence to promote liberal values and institutions. In the 20th century, the United States, shaped by its British inheritance, took over the role of protector of this maritime order from the totalitarian empires and enemies of modernity that continued to threaten it, of whom al Qaeda is merely the latest example. But the rise of Britain as a liberal capitalist power is only the better known half of the story. While capitalism generates resources and tax revenues on a scale unimaginable to early modern empires, it poses a big problem: the vast expansion of state power. Once the revenues begin to flow, in other words, the challenge becomes limiting the power of the state.