Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 21, 2007

Somalia’s Islamist Insurgency

The Middle East is not the only battlefront in the war on terror; Africa has long been a staging ground. The spectacular bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 put the issue of Islamism in Africa onto front pages, but the battle has hardly let up since then. Case in point: Somalia.

In December of last year, Ethiopian troops invaded Somalia to overthrow an Islamist government that had taken control of the capital, Mogadishu, and declared a jihad against its Christian neighbor. The United States, rightfully, assisted the Ethiopian invasion by providing satellite imagery and bombing Islamist positions.

The American assistance to this vital anti-terrorism operation raised the usual cackles amongst some on the American Left, but mostly, it went unnoticed. The Ethiopian invasion was an open and shut case of a justified, state-level response to cross-border attacks. The United Nations’ senior representative in Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, however, begs to differ:

United Nations officials now concede that the country was in better shape during the brief reign of Somalia’s Islamist movement last year. “It was more peaceful, and much easier for us to work,” Mr. Laroche said. “The Islamists didn’t cause us any problems.”

Mr. Ould-Abdallah called those six months, which were essentially the only epoch of peace most Somalis have tasted for years, Somalia’s “golden era.”

This is a brazen statement by Ould-Abdallah, considering that the transitional government the Islamists overthrew, established in 2004, was supported by his employer as well as the African and European Unions and the United States. Claiming that the illegal, Islamist overthrow of this internationally-recognized government brought upon a “golden era” should merit Ould-Abdallah’s immediate termination as a United Nations official.

The grave situation in Somalia is of concern to the United States not just because of the humanitarian distress caused by famine and plagues, but also because of the political instability that has created a vacuum in which anti-Western, Islamist elements can prosper. If American policymakers wish to avoid another Afghanistan, they would do well to ensure that Somalia’s Islamist insurgency is defeated.

The Middle East is not the only battlefront in the war on terror; Africa has long been a staging ground. The spectacular bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 put the issue of Islamism in Africa onto front pages, but the battle has hardly let up since then. Case in point: Somalia.

In December of last year, Ethiopian troops invaded Somalia to overthrow an Islamist government that had taken control of the capital, Mogadishu, and declared a jihad against its Christian neighbor. The United States, rightfully, assisted the Ethiopian invasion by providing satellite imagery and bombing Islamist positions.

The American assistance to this vital anti-terrorism operation raised the usual cackles amongst some on the American Left, but mostly, it went unnoticed. The Ethiopian invasion was an open and shut case of a justified, state-level response to cross-border attacks. The United Nations’ senior representative in Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, however, begs to differ:

United Nations officials now concede that the country was in better shape during the brief reign of Somalia’s Islamist movement last year. “It was more peaceful, and much easier for us to work,” Mr. Laroche said. “The Islamists didn’t cause us any problems.”

Mr. Ould-Abdallah called those six months, which were essentially the only epoch of peace most Somalis have tasted for years, Somalia’s “golden era.”

This is a brazen statement by Ould-Abdallah, considering that the transitional government the Islamists overthrew, established in 2004, was supported by his employer as well as the African and European Unions and the United States. Claiming that the illegal, Islamist overthrow of this internationally-recognized government brought upon a “golden era” should merit Ould-Abdallah’s immediate termination as a United Nations official.

The grave situation in Somalia is of concern to the United States not just because of the humanitarian distress caused by famine and plagues, but also because of the political instability that has created a vacuum in which anti-Western, Islamist elements can prosper. If American policymakers wish to avoid another Afghanistan, they would do well to ensure that Somalia’s Islamist insurgency is defeated.

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Al-Dura Raw Footage? It Doesn’t Exist.

On November 14, 2007, before a packed courtroom with an overflow of dozens left outside, a three-judge appellate court panel screened raw footage turned over by France 2/Charles Enderlin, plaintiffs in a defamation case against Philippe Karsenty, director of the French news watchdog site Media-Ratings. Convicted in October 2006 for declaring the al-Dura news report a scandalous hoax, Karsenty is conducting a vigorous counterattack that has been met with a heavy silence in France and that has repercussions in high profile international media. Throughout seven years of controversy, France 2/Enderlin had consistently refused to show the raw footage shot by France 2 stringer Talal Abu Rahma at Netzarim Junction in the Gaza Strip on September 30, 2000, the day when twelve-year-old Muhammad al-Dura allegedly was shot in cold blood by Israeli soldiers.

The cameraman declared under oath three days after the incident that he had filmed, intermittently, 27 minutes of the ordeal, which lasted 45 minutes. Elsewhere, he claimed that he had filed a satellite feed of six minutes that day and subsequently turned over two full cassettes to his producers. Enderlin claimed he edited out the boy’s “agonie” (death throes), too unbearable to show.

In place of the unedited raw footage filmed that day, France 2 submitted a “certified copy” that lasted eighteen minutes. Instead of 27 minutes focused on Jamal al-Dura and his son Muhammad, the document consisted of miscellaneous scenes, three brief interviews, and less than one minute of the al Dura incident. The accusation that the “victims” were the “target of gunfire from the Israeli positions” is baseless; it does not appear. There is no crossfire, no hail of bullets, no wounds, no blood. In the final seconds that had been edited out of the France 2 broadcast, the boy whose death had just been dramatically announced lifts his elbow, shades his eyes, glances at the camera, and resumes the appropriate prone position.

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On November 14, 2007, before a packed courtroom with an overflow of dozens left outside, a three-judge appellate court panel screened raw footage turned over by France 2/Charles Enderlin, plaintiffs in a defamation case against Philippe Karsenty, director of the French news watchdog site Media-Ratings. Convicted in October 2006 for declaring the al-Dura news report a scandalous hoax, Karsenty is conducting a vigorous counterattack that has been met with a heavy silence in France and that has repercussions in high profile international media. Throughout seven years of controversy, France 2/Enderlin had consistently refused to show the raw footage shot by France 2 stringer Talal Abu Rahma at Netzarim Junction in the Gaza Strip on September 30, 2000, the day when twelve-year-old Muhammad al-Dura allegedly was shot in cold blood by Israeli soldiers.

The cameraman declared under oath three days after the incident that he had filmed, intermittently, 27 minutes of the ordeal, which lasted 45 minutes. Elsewhere, he claimed that he had filed a satellite feed of six minutes that day and subsequently turned over two full cassettes to his producers. Enderlin claimed he edited out the boy’s “agonie” (death throes), too unbearable to show.

In place of the unedited raw footage filmed that day, France 2 submitted a “certified copy” that lasted eighteen minutes. Instead of 27 minutes focused on Jamal al-Dura and his son Muhammad, the document consisted of miscellaneous scenes, three brief interviews, and less than one minute of the al Dura incident. The accusation that the “victims” were the “target of gunfire from the Israeli positions” is baseless; it does not appear. There is no crossfire, no hail of bullets, no wounds, no blood. In the final seconds that had been edited out of the France 2 broadcast, the boy whose death had just been dramatically announced lifts his elbow, shades his eyes, glances at the camera, and resumes the appropriate prone position.

Reports of the boy’s death resounded in September 2000 when the “al-Aqsa intifada” was revving up. The alleged child killing inflamed the “spontaneous” rage that led to an unprecedented wave of murderous Jew hatred. Today’s resurrection of this supposed witness to Israeli incursion is not yet earth-shaking, but it has generated extensive coverage in reputable media. (My account of the screening, along with links to other sources, can be found here.)

Neither the terse Agence France Presse release nor an authentic international buzz has been able to penetrate the French media firewall. Imagine the Dan Rather incident percolating everywhere but in the United States. Imagine Dan Rather seven years after the fake memo still enthroned as reliable reporter. Above and beyond any particular harm caused by the al-Dura news report as blood libel, broad issues of media ethics are engaged. And they concern all media in the free world.

The screening of the raw footage proved that the al-Dura news report was baseless. For seven years, Charles Enderlin has claimed that the raw footage would prove, on the contrary, that the report was accurate, authentic, verified, and verifiable. And yet he was able to stand before three judges and recite a monotonous tale of intifada as the images unfolded.

Is it possible that no one remembered what was supposed to be contained in that cassette? Eighteen minutes or 27, that’s not the issue. This was supposed to be the raw footage of the al-Dura ordeal that, according to the cameraman and the boy’s father—sole living witnesses—lasted 45 minutes. Talal Abu Rahma declared under oath three days after the incident that he had been at Netzarim Junction since seven in the morning, that the incident began around 3 P.M., and that, filming intermittently “to conserve his battery,” he shot a total of 27 minutes of the terrible ordeal.

The France 2 stringer was filming all day long. The eighteen minutes screened in the Paris courtroom is not the raw footage of that day. And it is not, albeit truncated, the 27 minutes he himself unambiguously described.

While the esteemed French journalist stationed in Jerusalem may have acted in haste when he edited and broadcast the footage for prime time news that evening and distributed the news report free of charge to worldwide media, when he received the cameraman’s cassettes the next day, he had to notice the total absence of raw footage of the al-Dura scene.

In conclusion: nothing of what has been said about the incident can be seen in the 55-seconds of sole existing footage. No crossfire, no shots hitting the man or the boy, no duration of the ordeal. There is no footage to substantiate the report or the framing human interest narrative that accompanied it.

Can this be responsible journalism? Could it be so widely practiced that professionals, and particularly French media, do not consider it noteworthy? Is there no difference between a news report based on ample verifiable evidence and a news report based on an inconclusive snippet of what appears to be a clumsily staged one-minute scene? How is it possible to obtain total compliance with an unwritten law to the point that no one in French media will break ranks and give the facts about this controversial affair?

One week before the shaky Annapolis meeting, the al-Dura affair stands as a pinpoint of evidence in a vast enterprise of media sabotage. The fate of the free world hangs on our capacity to conserve a free press. Informed citizens must make life and death decisions about their own lives and the commitments of their nation.

How is it possible that a Palestinian faction (or individual or authority…we don’t know who) could produce false news and inject it directly into international media without encountering the slightest resistance, while the exposé that shows that the news report does not respect any normal journalistic criteria knocks its head against a stone wall and cannot reach the general public?

This explains the somewhat disarming passion of the al-Dura debunkers, which often works to their (our) disadvantage. The issue is burning and the flames are still spreading. They could be extinguished by intelligent international scrutiny. Perhaps this requires a brilliant strategy that has not yet been devised.

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Annapolis: Engaging With What?

Yesterday I attended two Annapolis-related presentations in Washington, the first at the New America Foundation and the second at the National Press Club, sponsored by The Israel Project. The events offered a useful contrast in the way that two camps view not just the state of the peace process, but the conflict itself. The Israel Project symposium featured Shmuel Rosner of Haaretz, Tamara Cofman Wittes of Brookings, and David Wurmser, the former Middle East adviser to Vice President Cheney. This was by far the more interesting presentation, as the three participants were serious people trafficking in serious ideas.

The New America event, on the other hand, was intended to publicize the “re-release” of a letter first published in the New York Review of Books on October 10th, most notably signed by Zbigniew Brzezinski, Lee Hamilton, and Brent Scowcroft, which has now attracted a couple dozen more signatories. It was ignored the first time it was published, and it’s enjoyable to predict that the addition of the signatures of Joseph Wilson and Gary Hart is going to further cement its irrelevance.

In any event, the New America panelists were Daniel Levy, Robert Malley, Ghaith al-Omari, and Steve Clemons, and they lodged as their major criticism the United States and Israel’s refusal to “engage” Hamas. That refusal is shaping up, for the realist and leftist critics of the peace process, as a primary objection, and in the coming months it will likely be invoked by the same critics as a major reason why Annapolis accomplished nothing. This faction is positioning its argument so that the failure of Annapolis can be leveraged to undermine the isolation of Hamas. As such, it is worth wondering whether people like Malley and Levy actually have a point.

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Yesterday I attended two Annapolis-related presentations in Washington, the first at the New America Foundation and the second at the National Press Club, sponsored by The Israel Project. The events offered a useful contrast in the way that two camps view not just the state of the peace process, but the conflict itself. The Israel Project symposium featured Shmuel Rosner of Haaretz, Tamara Cofman Wittes of Brookings, and David Wurmser, the former Middle East adviser to Vice President Cheney. This was by far the more interesting presentation, as the three participants were serious people trafficking in serious ideas.

The New America event, on the other hand, was intended to publicize the “re-release” of a letter first published in the New York Review of Books on October 10th, most notably signed by Zbigniew Brzezinski, Lee Hamilton, and Brent Scowcroft, which has now attracted a couple dozen more signatories. It was ignored the first time it was published, and it’s enjoyable to predict that the addition of the signatures of Joseph Wilson and Gary Hart is going to further cement its irrelevance.

In any event, the New America panelists were Daniel Levy, Robert Malley, Ghaith al-Omari, and Steve Clemons, and they lodged as their major criticism the United States and Israel’s refusal to “engage” Hamas. That refusal is shaping up, for the realist and leftist critics of the peace process, as a primary objection, and in the coming months it will likely be invoked by the same critics as a major reason why Annapolis accomplished nothing. This faction is positioning its argument so that the failure of Annapolis can be leveraged to undermine the isolation of Hamas. As such, it is worth wondering whether people like Malley and Levy actually have a point.

The engagement camp says that it wishes to bolster the moderates while engaging the extremists, which is presented as a cost-free way to conduct diplomacy—never mind that U.S. diplomatic attention directed at Hamas thoroughly would discredit Mahmoud Abbas, whose only selling point to the Palestinian people at this point is the fact that he is the Palestinians’ only focal point for American and Israeli attention. That is a rather obvious point, of course. But the one I wish to emphasize involves the incompleteness with which the engagement camp makes its case.

What I have always found strange about the engagers is their reluctance to make arguments that move beyond bumper-sticker bromides about the need to talk to your enemies, and to explain precisely what would be up for discussion with Hamas. The Hamas charter seems to preempt diplomacy insofar as it says that “there is no solution for the Palestinian question except through jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.” I say “seems,” because perhaps in practice Hamas does not hew to the strict language of its founding declaration—but alas, there is no historic or contemporary evidence for this conceit. Hamas is famous for denying the right of Israel to exist, but not many people seem to pay much regard to the fact that Hamas also denies the right of Palestine to exist: Hamas has always been abundantly clear that its goal is the violent imposition of an Islamic caliphate throughout the Middle East—not the establishment of a Palestinian state.

So what, pray tell, do people like Daniel Levy and Robert Malley propose is up for negotiation with Hamas? In the face of both Hamas’s plainly stated antipathy to diplomacy, in addition to decades of concrete experience of the same, would it not behoove Levy and Malley to pay special attention to this particular aspect of engaging Hamas? Shouldn’t an explanation about the contours of, and prospects for, a successful pursuit of diplomacy with Hamas indeed be the very first thing to which Levy and Malley set themselves? I know that if I were arguing in good faith for engagement, this is where I would be compelled to start: to provide an answer to the question, What can Israel offer Hamas other than its own suicide?

At yesterday’s event, as he has elsewhere, Levy proposed an Israel-Hamas cease-fire as a starting measure…and then changed the subject. Well, what comes after that, Daniel? How many times has Hamas agreed to cease-fires with Israel (and with Fatah) out of its own need to regroup and rearm, only to attack later at a time of its choosing? At what point in the course of the “engagement” process do the leaders of Hamas renounce the basic premises and tactics for which their movement stands? Does Khaled Mashal march down to his local Al Jazeera office in Damascus to announce to the world that because he got a phone call from a member of the Quartet, he’s realized that all the crazy stuff in the Hamas charter—about how the Jews started the French Revolution, the Communist Revolution, both World Wars, the League of Nations, the United Nations, the Rotary Club and the Freemasons, all in pursuit of Zionist world domination—was perhaps a bit too anti-Semitic? Can you tell us, Robert Malley—you who has argued repeatedly that giving money, diplomatic attention, and concessions to Hamas will change the group—of a single instance in which Hamas permanently has moderated a position or altered its behavior because of diplomatic pressure? As people who continuously are banging on the table about “genuine engagement” with Hamas, is it too much to ask, you know, for some genuine details?

As it stands right now, the intellectual output of the Levy-Malley faction involves bromides about “engagement” that are quickly buried in an avalanche of ambiguous diplomatic jargon designed to avoid the possibility of having to commit themselves to engaging in a serious explanation of how diplomacy is going to transform Hamas from a genocidal Islamic supremacist group to a peaceful Palestinian nationalist movement. This is an act of alchemy that Levy and Malley cannot credibly perform, and it is the reason why all of their voluminous babble about engagement never manages to rise above the level of the vague cliché.

There are dozens of reasons why Annapolis will be unable to achieve anything close to its stated goals, but, contrary to popular opinion, one of them is not the absence, next week, of representatives of Hamas at the Naval Academy. Nevertheless, that absence will emerge, from the Scowcrofts and Malleys, as a major source of the peace process’s failure. I propose a different failure: the refusal of the most prolific advocates for engagement to display a little intellectual courage and put themselves on the record explaining how their concessions are going to transform Hamas. Because if that actually works, and one of the most intransigent Islamist groups in the world can be defeated by diplomacy, then clearly there are two other diplomatic summits that should be convened—between Israel and Hizballah, and the United States and al Qaeda.

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The Anti-Immigration-Isolationism Connection

Mark Krikorian, the leading theorist of immigration restriction in America, offers a surprising, but honest, implicit ackowledgement of how much his own vision of a walled-off America primarily under threat from border-crossing immigrants comports with the isolationist foreign policy of George McGovern in the headline of this item attacking our own Max Boot on National Review’s The Corner.

“Come Home, America,” is Krikorian’s headline.

“Come Home, America” was McGovern’s campaign slogan in 1972.

Mark Krikorian, the leading theorist of immigration restriction in America, offers a surprising, but honest, implicit ackowledgement of how much his own vision of a walled-off America primarily under threat from border-crossing immigrants comports with the isolationist foreign policy of George McGovern in the headline of this item attacking our own Max Boot on National Review’s The Corner.

“Come Home, America,” is Krikorian’s headline.

“Come Home, America” was McGovern’s campaign slogan in 1972.

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The Two-Man Republican Race

Rudy Giuliani has either stalled or fallen some in the polls over the last month, and questions are being raised about his campaign’s “theory of the race” — which is, basically, that he can successfully wait to win a state until Florida’s primary on January 29 and use his victory there to rack up a huge number of delegates a week later when Republican voters in 21 states go to the polls to select a nominee.

Friend and foe alike ask whether Giuliani can really afford to lose the first three states of the primary season — Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina — especially when those states may all be won by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Why won’t these losses cause the bloom to fade from the Giuliani rose? Why won’t Republicans then transfer their affections to Romney? Why wouldn’t those Romney triumphs put the former governor in a position to win the crucial Florida primary on January 29, thereby effectively putting an end to the Giuliani candidacy?

These are all very good questions, and there is something notable about them. They suggest that the Republican primary is a two-man race.

Romney has a coherent plan for victory: He is fighting like mad to win early states in the hope that those victories will catapult him into the big primary as the leader. So he is leading in polls in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina but is trailing badly in national polls.

Giuliani has a coherent plan for victory: Use his persistent standing at the top of the national leader board and his deep popularity in Florida (land of ex-New Yorkers) to his advantage by allowing him to bypass the earlier, smaller, more eccentric states where he has less of a chance to prevail.

The other three contenders for the nomination seem to have no plan for victory. John McCain is refusing to go gentle into that good night, and his brave advocacy of the Petraeus surge has given him renewed standing among Republican primary voters — but he has no money and has just made too many enemies. Fred Thompson got into the race in September to test the notion that dissatisfaction with the choices on hand would cause a wave of support to flow his way. Interesting idea, but it didn’t work, and now the support that did flow to him is flowing away. Mike Huckabee, Baptist preacher turned politician, has taken Thompson’s place as the Southern conservative to watch, but while he is conservative on social issues, on economic and political matters he seems more in the populist traditions of the Democratic party, and he has no plausible path to the nomination.

That leaves Giuliani and Romney. So, knowing what we know today – Giuliani leading in the national polls but slipping and Romney leading in the early states, slipping in Iowa but gaining in New Hampshire and South Carolina — which candidate is in a better position?

I think Giuliani is, and I do not say this as an advocate. In all three states where Romney is leading, he is facing distinct challenges. Huckabee is gaining on him in Iowa. McCain has advanced in New Hampshire even as Giuliani has faded some. And he is in a statistical dead heat in South Carolina with Giuliani and Thompson.

Under these conditions, Romney might win in all three, but do so in a less than commanding fashion that allows the media to focus attention on those who come in second — Huckabee, McCain, and even Giuliani. After all, the only time a win isn’t a win is in primary politics. (Quick — which Democrat won New Hampshire in 1992? No, it wasn’t Bill Clinton, the self-declared “Comeback Kid.” It was Paul Tsongas.)

Meanwhile, Giuliani still leads by an average of 16 points in Florida. If he wins there, he erases every advantage Romney might have attained, including a delegate lead. And heads into the big primary as the name in the headlines.

All that said, with Romney feeling the heat from Huckabee in Iowa and forced therefore to concentrate on the state in December (the caucuses are on January 3), it is plausible that Giuliani will decide to shift gears a bit and make a far more substantial push in New Hampshire. Because if he wins there, or comes very close, the Romney theory of victory evaporates and then the only man left standing is Giuliani.

(All this theorizing, of course, comes to naught if somebody makes a huge blunder or is the subject of an unflattering revelation.)

Rudy Giuliani has either stalled or fallen some in the polls over the last month, and questions are being raised about his campaign’s “theory of the race” — which is, basically, that he can successfully wait to win a state until Florida’s primary on January 29 and use his victory there to rack up a huge number of delegates a week later when Republican voters in 21 states go to the polls to select a nominee.

Friend and foe alike ask whether Giuliani can really afford to lose the first three states of the primary season — Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina — especially when those states may all be won by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Why won’t these losses cause the bloom to fade from the Giuliani rose? Why won’t Republicans then transfer their affections to Romney? Why wouldn’t those Romney triumphs put the former governor in a position to win the crucial Florida primary on January 29, thereby effectively putting an end to the Giuliani candidacy?

These are all very good questions, and there is something notable about them. They suggest that the Republican primary is a two-man race.

Romney has a coherent plan for victory: He is fighting like mad to win early states in the hope that those victories will catapult him into the big primary as the leader. So he is leading in polls in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina but is trailing badly in national polls.

Giuliani has a coherent plan for victory: Use his persistent standing at the top of the national leader board and his deep popularity in Florida (land of ex-New Yorkers) to his advantage by allowing him to bypass the earlier, smaller, more eccentric states where he has less of a chance to prevail.

The other three contenders for the nomination seem to have no plan for victory. John McCain is refusing to go gentle into that good night, and his brave advocacy of the Petraeus surge has given him renewed standing among Republican primary voters — but he has no money and has just made too many enemies. Fred Thompson got into the race in September to test the notion that dissatisfaction with the choices on hand would cause a wave of support to flow his way. Interesting idea, but it didn’t work, and now the support that did flow to him is flowing away. Mike Huckabee, Baptist preacher turned politician, has taken Thompson’s place as the Southern conservative to watch, but while he is conservative on social issues, on economic and political matters he seems more in the populist traditions of the Democratic party, and he has no plausible path to the nomination.

That leaves Giuliani and Romney. So, knowing what we know today – Giuliani leading in the national polls but slipping and Romney leading in the early states, slipping in Iowa but gaining in New Hampshire and South Carolina — which candidate is in a better position?

I think Giuliani is, and I do not say this as an advocate. In all three states where Romney is leading, he is facing distinct challenges. Huckabee is gaining on him in Iowa. McCain has advanced in New Hampshire even as Giuliani has faded some. And he is in a statistical dead heat in South Carolina with Giuliani and Thompson.

Under these conditions, Romney might win in all three, but do so in a less than commanding fashion that allows the media to focus attention on those who come in second — Huckabee, McCain, and even Giuliani. After all, the only time a win isn’t a win is in primary politics. (Quick — which Democrat won New Hampshire in 1992? No, it wasn’t Bill Clinton, the self-declared “Comeback Kid.” It was Paul Tsongas.)

Meanwhile, Giuliani still leads by an average of 16 points in Florida. If he wins there, he erases every advantage Romney might have attained, including a delegate lead. And heads into the big primary as the name in the headlines.

All that said, with Romney feeling the heat from Huckabee in Iowa and forced therefore to concentrate on the state in December (the caucuses are on January 3), it is plausible that Giuliani will decide to shift gears a bit and make a far more substantial push in New Hampshire. Because if he wins there, or comes very close, the Romney theory of victory evaporates and then the only man left standing is Giuliani.

(All this theorizing, of course, comes to naught if somebody makes a huge blunder or is the subject of an unflattering revelation.)

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Welcoming Trojan Horses

Are our enemies writing our military’s software? Unfortunately, that’s more than just a possibility. The Defense Science Board Task Force, a committee advising the Secretary of Defense, issued a report warning the Pentagon about its vulnerability to software produced by outside contractors. The 92-page document, released in September, received virtually no attention until yesterday, when CNN’s Bill Tucker discussed the subject on Lou Dobbs Tonight.

Code is now being written in countries “that may have interests inimical to those of the United States,” the report diplomatically notes. “The combination of DoD’s profound and growing dependence upon software and the expanding opportunity for adversaries to introduce malicious code into this software has led to a growing risk to the nation’s defense.” Defense contractors naturally have sought the lowest cost software. And as Tucker notes, “In seeking that lowest cost, we’ve lost track of who has written what and where, trusting the intentions of those writing the computer software that ultimately guards our country.”

It’s a mother’s sorrow when a child is sickened due to lead paint on a Chinese-made toy. It’s a nation’s tragedy when multi-billion dollar weapons systems stop working in battle because of malware inserted by a foreign programmer. “The problem is we have a strategy now for net-centric warfare—everything is connected,” said Robert Lucky, chairman of the task force, last year. “And if the adversary is inside your network, you are totally vulnerable.” It only makes sense, as the task force recommends, that only American citizens with security clearances be allowed to write software for “critical system components.”

At this moment, the United States is fighting insurgents in Iraq, the Taliban in Afghanistan, and unseen adversaries elsewhere. Electronic warfare occurs every day, waged against us by China and perhaps other countries as well. We can’t stop others from trying to attack our networks, but we don’t have to let them place trapdoors and Trojan Horses into our weapons. The time to stop outsourcing our security is now.

Are our enemies writing our military’s software? Unfortunately, that’s more than just a possibility. The Defense Science Board Task Force, a committee advising the Secretary of Defense, issued a report warning the Pentagon about its vulnerability to software produced by outside contractors. The 92-page document, released in September, received virtually no attention until yesterday, when CNN’s Bill Tucker discussed the subject on Lou Dobbs Tonight.

Code is now being written in countries “that may have interests inimical to those of the United States,” the report diplomatically notes. “The combination of DoD’s profound and growing dependence upon software and the expanding opportunity for adversaries to introduce malicious code into this software has led to a growing risk to the nation’s defense.” Defense contractors naturally have sought the lowest cost software. And as Tucker notes, “In seeking that lowest cost, we’ve lost track of who has written what and where, trusting the intentions of those writing the computer software that ultimately guards our country.”

It’s a mother’s sorrow when a child is sickened due to lead paint on a Chinese-made toy. It’s a nation’s tragedy when multi-billion dollar weapons systems stop working in battle because of malware inserted by a foreign programmer. “The problem is we have a strategy now for net-centric warfare—everything is connected,” said Robert Lucky, chairman of the task force, last year. “And if the adversary is inside your network, you are totally vulnerable.” It only makes sense, as the task force recommends, that only American citizens with security clearances be allowed to write software for “critical system components.”

At this moment, the United States is fighting insurgents in Iraq, the Taliban in Afghanistan, and unseen adversaries elsewhere. Electronic warfare occurs every day, waged against us by China and perhaps other countries as well. We can’t stop others from trying to attack our networks, but we don’t have to let them place trapdoors and Trojan Horses into our weapons. The time to stop outsourcing our security is now.

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There’s Always a Mike Huckabee

We are six weeks away from the Iowa caucus, and as has frequently been the case, Republicans in the Hawkeye State are beginning to shine the light of their noble countenances on a candidate with no chance of winning the nomination. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is bidding fair to serve as this season’s “Republican Guy Who Is Coming Out of Nowhere to Place a Surprising Second in Iowa.” He follows in the Surprising Second tradition of Pat Robertson, Pat Buchanan, and Steve Forbes, the salutatorians of the caucuses in 1988, 1996 and 2000 respectively. The failure of these candidacies to make any real headway after Iowa (even though Buchanan won the New Hampshire primary a few weeks later) indicates just how little meaning anyone should attach to the Surprising Second. These Roman Candle candidacies do serve to remind other candidates, as Huckabee’s surge is reminding candidates this year, of the importance of social-conservative views to a significant swath of the the Republican electorate. But who didn’t know that already this year?

We are six weeks away from the Iowa caucus, and as has frequently been the case, Republicans in the Hawkeye State are beginning to shine the light of their noble countenances on a candidate with no chance of winning the nomination. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is bidding fair to serve as this season’s “Republican Guy Who Is Coming Out of Nowhere to Place a Surprising Second in Iowa.” He follows in the Surprising Second tradition of Pat Robertson, Pat Buchanan, and Steve Forbes, the salutatorians of the caucuses in 1988, 1996 and 2000 respectively. The failure of these candidacies to make any real headway after Iowa (even though Buchanan won the New Hampshire primary a few weeks later) indicates just how little meaning anyone should attach to the Surprising Second. These Roman Candle candidacies do serve to remind other candidates, as Huckabee’s surge is reminding candidates this year, of the importance of social-conservative views to a significant swath of the the Republican electorate. But who didn’t know that already this year?

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What Is It With Former CIA Officers?

How come so many of them gravitate simultaneously to the extreme Left and the extreme Right?

Michael Scheuer, as we’ve noted here before, is a peculiar hybrid of Noam Chomsky and Patrick J. Buchanan. His writings can be found both at the right-wing American Conservative and at the left-wing crackpot website, anti-war.com.

He is joined in writing for both outlets by Philip Giraldi, another former CIA officer who launched his public career in 2005 by asserting, in the American Conservative, that the U.S. was preparing plans to  attack Iran with nuclear weapons.

Giraldi’s latest “research” also concerns Iran. At anti-war.com, he contends that “despite what the U.S. intelligence community believes,” there is “no evidence to support [the] suspicion” that Iran has a nuclear-weapons program.

Continuing from there, Giraldi writes that “even if Iran is seeking nuclear weapons,” there is “broad consensus that the program is likely not far advanced, is suffering from technical problems, and is susceptible to internationally sanctioned steps to slow it down as long as the United States takes the lead and abandons the role of school bully.”

Do these dots connect?

On the one hand, writes Giraldi, there is “no evidence” that Iran is building nuclear weapons.

On the other hand, there is a “broad consensus” that its nuclear-weapons program is “likely not far advanced.”

On yet another hand, the program can be slowed down only if the U.S. “abandons the role of school bully.”

Am I alone in thinking that these are contradictory propositions? And is this how analysis is conducted inside the CIA these days? Or are these men former CIA officers for good reason?

How come so many of them gravitate simultaneously to the extreme Left and the extreme Right?

Michael Scheuer, as we’ve noted here before, is a peculiar hybrid of Noam Chomsky and Patrick J. Buchanan. His writings can be found both at the right-wing American Conservative and at the left-wing crackpot website, anti-war.com.

He is joined in writing for both outlets by Philip Giraldi, another former CIA officer who launched his public career in 2005 by asserting, in the American Conservative, that the U.S. was preparing plans to  attack Iran with nuclear weapons.

Giraldi’s latest “research” also concerns Iran. At anti-war.com, he contends that “despite what the U.S. intelligence community believes,” there is “no evidence to support [the] suspicion” that Iran has a nuclear-weapons program.

Continuing from there, Giraldi writes that “even if Iran is seeking nuclear weapons,” there is “broad consensus that the program is likely not far advanced, is suffering from technical problems, and is susceptible to internationally sanctioned steps to slow it down as long as the United States takes the lead and abandons the role of school bully.”

Do these dots connect?

On the one hand, writes Giraldi, there is “no evidence” that Iran is building nuclear weapons.

On the other hand, there is a “broad consensus” that its nuclear-weapons program is “likely not far advanced.”

On yet another hand, the program can be slowed down only if the U.S. “abandons the role of school bully.”

Am I alone in thinking that these are contradictory propositions? And is this how analysis is conducted inside the CIA these days? Or are these men former CIA officers for good reason?

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Two Shades of Black

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s September 24 speech at Columbia University seems like ancient history. The news media has long since turned its attention to other obsessions, such as what a helluva nice guy Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee is, or just how low our expectations for the upcoming Annapolis conference should be. But professors at Columbia apparently have remarkably long attention spans, and the handling of Ahmadinejad’s speech remains deeply contentious among faculty members.

The fault lines of this dispute are numbingly predictable. Last week, over 100 faculty members signed a petition, protesting Bollinger’s leadership in light of the Ahmadinejad circus:

The president’s address on the occasion of President Ahmadinejad’s visit has sullied the reputation of the University with its strident tone, and has abetted a climate in which incendiary speech prevails over open debate. The president’s introductory remarks were not only uncivil and bad pedagogy, they allied the University with the Bush administration’s war in Iraq, a position anathema to many in the University community.

Not to be outdone, as of Monday, 70 faculty members had signed a counter-protest petition defending Bollinger, disputing the notion that the president’s combative introduction of Ahmadinejad allied Columbia with (heaven forbid) the Bush administration:

As the publicly available transcript confirms, these remarks addressed sequentially: 1) Holocaust denial; 2) Ahmadinejad’s stated intent to destroy Israel; 3) Iran’s funding of terrorism; 4) Iran’s proxy war against US troops in Iraq; and 5) Iran’s nuclear program. Only the fourth item refers to the war in Iraq, and only in the context of Iran’s role in financing and arming terrorist attacks against our troops.

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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s September 24 speech at Columbia University seems like ancient history. The news media has long since turned its attention to other obsessions, such as what a helluva nice guy Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee is, or just how low our expectations for the upcoming Annapolis conference should be. But professors at Columbia apparently have remarkably long attention spans, and the handling of Ahmadinejad’s speech remains deeply contentious among faculty members.

The fault lines of this dispute are numbingly predictable. Last week, over 100 faculty members signed a petition, protesting Bollinger’s leadership in light of the Ahmadinejad circus:

The president’s address on the occasion of President Ahmadinejad’s visit has sullied the reputation of the University with its strident tone, and has abetted a climate in which incendiary speech prevails over open debate. The president’s introductory remarks were not only uncivil and bad pedagogy, they allied the University with the Bush administration’s war in Iraq, a position anathema to many in the University community.

Not to be outdone, as of Monday, 70 faculty members had signed a counter-protest petition defending Bollinger, disputing the notion that the president’s combative introduction of Ahmadinejad allied Columbia with (heaven forbid) the Bush administration:

As the publicly available transcript confirms, these remarks addressed sequentially: 1) Holocaust denial; 2) Ahmadinejad’s stated intent to destroy Israel; 3) Iran’s funding of terrorism; 4) Iran’s proxy war against US troops in Iraq; and 5) Iran’s nuclear program. Only the fourth item refers to the war in Iraq, and only in the context of Iran’s role in financing and arming terrorist attacks against our troops.

Last week, my contentions colleague Noah Pollak applauded the pro-Bollinger professors for standing up to the “tenured thugs,” who have undertaken “the setting of ideological boundaries by purging and intimidating those who would ignore them.”

Yet, for everything that one finds troubling about the anti-Bollinger petition—most especially, the presumption that we should be hospitable to Holocaust-denying dictators—it is hard to sympathize with Bollinger’s defenders. Indeed, the debate among Bollinger’s supporters and detractors obscures the fact that, no matter ones views of Bollinger’s firm introduction of Ahmadinejad, the entire affair should never have occurred in the first place. By inviting Ahmadinejad, Bollinger granted an academic forum to a most academically dishonest leader, dangerously boosting Ahmadinejad’s credibility where the United States can least afford it: among Iranians.

Again, this is all old news and you’ve probably heard it before. But here’s a new twist: I hereby declare myself the first contentions writer openly to obey a Rashid Khalidi-signed petition: after all, the anti-Bollinger petition decries the “intervention” of outsiders in faculty matters. Thus, as it is impossible to choose between the president that invited Ahmadinejad and professors who would have been more accommodating, I abstain from taking sides. Bollinger and his miffed opponents deserve one another completely.

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Our Bases in Europe

To his credit, Bob Gates continues to unravel some of the misguided decisions made by his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld. His latest decision, as noted in this article, is to stop the drawdown of U.S. troops in Europe.

Rumsfeld was determined to close down or downsize major U.S. bases on the continent that had been in existence for decades, principally in Italy and Germany. He had already reduced the U.S. troop presence to 43,000 from 62,000 two years ago, and he planned further cuts down to 24,000 by the end of next year. Gates has now stopped the exodus, and pledges to maintain U.S. troops at their current level in Europe. This comes on top of his welcome decisions to increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps and to increase the number of U.S. troops in Iraq—both decisions that Rumsfeld should have made years ago.

The impetus for Rumsfeld’s base realignment plan was seemingly logical—the cold war was over and U.S. troops were no longer needed to defend Germany from the Red Army. But in practice what Rumsfeld envisioned didn’t make so much sense—moving most of the troops back to the U.S., and then having small numbers of them rotate for brief periods through new “lily pad” bases established in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and elsewhere, which lacked longterm housing for our forces.

The idea of creating new bases on the new frontiers of freedom makes sense. But moving the bulk of the U.S. troops to permanent bases in “CONUS” (the continental United States) made less sense. The transition would have been a costly one, with new quarters having to be built for the troops and the government having to pick up vast moving costs.

Other costs would have been geopolitical rather than financial: the shift called into question the U.S. commitment to Europe. It also put U.S. forces farther away from future trouble spots in the Middle East, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. (Germany, for all its disagreements with U.S. policy decisions, has never hindered the efficient movement by rail, sea, and air of U.S. troops from its soil to battlefields in the Middle East.)

Finally, there is a cultural cost involved: generations of American soldiers and their families generally have enjoyed living for a few years in Europe, and this has fostered closer trans-Atlantic cultural links. It is hard to see why it is good either for Europeans or Americans to have more troops consolidated on giant, dusty bases in the middle of Texas or other uncongenial spots back home.

To his credit, Bob Gates continues to unravel some of the misguided decisions made by his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld. His latest decision, as noted in this article, is to stop the drawdown of U.S. troops in Europe.

Rumsfeld was determined to close down or downsize major U.S. bases on the continent that had been in existence for decades, principally in Italy and Germany. He had already reduced the U.S. troop presence to 43,000 from 62,000 two years ago, and he planned further cuts down to 24,000 by the end of next year. Gates has now stopped the exodus, and pledges to maintain U.S. troops at their current level in Europe. This comes on top of his welcome decisions to increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps and to increase the number of U.S. troops in Iraq—both decisions that Rumsfeld should have made years ago.

The impetus for Rumsfeld’s base realignment plan was seemingly logical—the cold war was over and U.S. troops were no longer needed to defend Germany from the Red Army. But in practice what Rumsfeld envisioned didn’t make so much sense—moving most of the troops back to the U.S., and then having small numbers of them rotate for brief periods through new “lily pad” bases established in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and elsewhere, which lacked longterm housing for our forces.

The idea of creating new bases on the new frontiers of freedom makes sense. But moving the bulk of the U.S. troops to permanent bases in “CONUS” (the continental United States) made less sense. The transition would have been a costly one, with new quarters having to be built for the troops and the government having to pick up vast moving costs.

Other costs would have been geopolitical rather than financial: the shift called into question the U.S. commitment to Europe. It also put U.S. forces farther away from future trouble spots in the Middle East, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. (Germany, for all its disagreements with U.S. policy decisions, has never hindered the efficient movement by rail, sea, and air of U.S. troops from its soil to battlefields in the Middle East.)

Finally, there is a cultural cost involved: generations of American soldiers and their families generally have enjoyed living for a few years in Europe, and this has fostered closer trans-Atlantic cultural links. It is hard to see why it is good either for Europeans or Americans to have more troops consolidated on giant, dusty bases in the middle of Texas or other uncongenial spots back home.

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