Commentary Magazine


Posts For: January 22, 2008

The Mahdi Army’s New Threat

In Iraq, a Mahdi Army spokesman is threatening to not renew the Shia militia’s six-month ceasefire with U.S. and Iraqi forces. The Seattle Times reports:

In a statement, Salah al-Obeidi charged that rival Shiite militias have infiltrated Iraq’s security forces and that some senior security officials remain in their jobs although they have been charged with human-rights offenses.
“This will force us to reconsider the decision to extend the cease-fire despite repeated public statements in the past that we will,” al-Obeidi said.

While Sunni Awakening groups continue to patrol their areas and lead raids on al Qaeda and insurgents, progress among Iraq’s Shia has been a more complicated affair. Since the Mahdi Army ceasefire, many Mahdi officials have coordinated anti-militia efforts with the U.S. or joined Iraqi security forces in the South. However, the good news is heavily tempered by pro-Iranian sentiment, sectarian self-determination, and violent rifts within the Shia community and with or without a formal statement, the threat of more fighting was always there.

In truth, Moqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi Army has been more of an indirect threat to U.S. forces since well before the ceasefire. Their immediate enemies were Baathists and Wahhabists. With both those parties being fought off by U.S. and Iraq forces, one question is: will an end to the ceasefire mean new attacks directly against U.S. forces or merely and end to Mahdi cooperation with them?

Sadr is hoping to become Ayatollah, and he’s used the ceasefire period to gain legitimacy. He’s seen how the country’s changed during the time he’s ordered guns down. Just yesterday Shias in Iraq’s police and security forces clamped down on a Shia doomsday cult in Basra. As connected as Sadr is, he knows that Iraqis aren’t going to stomach a breach in the progress that’s been made. He also knows that the bottom-up political progress will eventually translate into shared oil wealth, and if he’s interested in becoming an Ayatollah he’d be unwise to poison the well on a whim. The Mahdi Army has become more of a political force than a fighting force, and it’s unlikely that this threat will materialize as full-blown anti-American warfare anytime soon.

In Iraq, a Mahdi Army spokesman is threatening to not renew the Shia militia’s six-month ceasefire with U.S. and Iraqi forces. The Seattle Times reports:

In a statement, Salah al-Obeidi charged that rival Shiite militias have infiltrated Iraq’s security forces and that some senior security officials remain in their jobs although they have been charged with human-rights offenses.
“This will force us to reconsider the decision to extend the cease-fire despite repeated public statements in the past that we will,” al-Obeidi said.

While Sunni Awakening groups continue to patrol their areas and lead raids on al Qaeda and insurgents, progress among Iraq’s Shia has been a more complicated affair. Since the Mahdi Army ceasefire, many Mahdi officials have coordinated anti-militia efforts with the U.S. or joined Iraqi security forces in the South. However, the good news is heavily tempered by pro-Iranian sentiment, sectarian self-determination, and violent rifts within the Shia community and with or without a formal statement, the threat of more fighting was always there.

In truth, Moqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi Army has been more of an indirect threat to U.S. forces since well before the ceasefire. Their immediate enemies were Baathists and Wahhabists. With both those parties being fought off by U.S. and Iraq forces, one question is: will an end to the ceasefire mean new attacks directly against U.S. forces or merely and end to Mahdi cooperation with them?

Sadr is hoping to become Ayatollah, and he’s used the ceasefire period to gain legitimacy. He’s seen how the country’s changed during the time he’s ordered guns down. Just yesterday Shias in Iraq’s police and security forces clamped down on a Shia doomsday cult in Basra. As connected as Sadr is, he knows that Iraqis aren’t going to stomach a breach in the progress that’s been made. He also knows that the bottom-up political progress will eventually translate into shared oil wealth, and if he’s interested in becoming an Ayatollah he’d be unwise to poison the well on a whim. The Mahdi Army has become more of a political force than a fighting force, and it’s unlikely that this threat will materialize as full-blown anti-American warfare anytime soon.

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Fred Thompson As Vice President?

A few hours ago, Fred Thompson withdrew from the Republican presidential race, having attempted one of the most mystifying bids for high office in modern times. He refused to enter the contest when his name was on everyone’s lips last spring. Over the summer, his undeclared bid featured the hirings and firings of several staffers who clashed with his wife, Jeri. He waited until September, building up a high degree of expectation, and then spent his first couple of weeks talking obsessively about the need for Social Security and entitlement reform — which are, I think it’s safe to say, not high on the public’s to-do list. He would go several days without campaigning, would disappear, and then would show up to debates and barely stir himself into life. Only once, in the debate in South Carolina, did he rouse himself to perform — and he did brilliantly. Then he did nothing to capitalize on his triumphant performance and finished a weak third.

Given this record, Thompson has effectively proved what skeptics have been saying all along. He didn’t want to be president. He doesn’t like running for office. He doesn’t have either a killer instinct or a ravenous hunger. And he really doesn’t have a sense of mission.
With all this in evidence, no Republican presidential nominee in his right mind would choose Thompson for his running mate. This isn’t his game or his field or his love. We won’t see Thompson with his arm raised at the nominee’s side at the Minneapolis convention.

A few hours ago, Fred Thompson withdrew from the Republican presidential race, having attempted one of the most mystifying bids for high office in modern times. He refused to enter the contest when his name was on everyone’s lips last spring. Over the summer, his undeclared bid featured the hirings and firings of several staffers who clashed with his wife, Jeri. He waited until September, building up a high degree of expectation, and then spent his first couple of weeks talking obsessively about the need for Social Security and entitlement reform — which are, I think it’s safe to say, not high on the public’s to-do list. He would go several days without campaigning, would disappear, and then would show up to debates and barely stir himself into life. Only once, in the debate in South Carolina, did he rouse himself to perform — and he did brilliantly. Then he did nothing to capitalize on his triumphant performance and finished a weak third.

Given this record, Thompson has effectively proved what skeptics have been saying all along. He didn’t want to be president. He doesn’t like running for office. He doesn’t have either a killer instinct or a ravenous hunger. And he really doesn’t have a sense of mission.
With all this in evidence, no Republican presidential nominee in his right mind would choose Thompson for his running mate. This isn’t his game or his field or his love. We won’t see Thompson with his arm raised at the nominee’s side at the Minneapolis convention.

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Bill’s Nap

Being cranky and needing a nap is no way for Bill Clinton to help his wife grab the youth vote from Barack Obama. And snoozing center-stage during a Baptist service in honor of Martin Luther King isn’t going to help Hillary pick up black votes, either. At this point why is the Hillary camp even torturing the man who’s beginning to resemble Bill Clinton’s grandfather into working for them?

Funnily enough, today’s Washington Post ran a story entitled “The Other Clinton Is an Absent Presence.” It isn’t about his sleeping, but, rather, about Bill Clinton’s supposedly invisible influence in Hillary’s campaign lately. Perhaps not invisible enough.

The piece asserts what everyone already knows: Obama is running against Hillary and Bill Clinton. The Post quotes Hillary:

“I think that he is very much advocating on my behalf, and I appreciate that,” she said. “He is a tremendous asset. And he feels very strongly about this country, and what’s at stake and what our future should be.” She added that “this campaign is not about our spouses.”

But for now it is partly about Bill Clinton.

And Bill Clinton is only partly awake. Which may prove the Post’s point. The article claims that Bill is behind a lot of the nastiness directed at Obama lately, and one should keep that in mind when considering the following Bill Clinton quote from a Jon Stewart Show appearance in September:

“You have no idea how many Republican and Democratic members of the House and Senate are chronically sleep deprived because of this system . . . I know this is an unusual theory but I do believe sleep deprivation has a lot to do with some of the edginess of Washington today.”

Tears, outbursts, and narcolepsy. Is this what all boomers have to look forward to as they hit retirement age?

Being cranky and needing a nap is no way for Bill Clinton to help his wife grab the youth vote from Barack Obama. And snoozing center-stage during a Baptist service in honor of Martin Luther King isn’t going to help Hillary pick up black votes, either. At this point why is the Hillary camp even torturing the man who’s beginning to resemble Bill Clinton’s grandfather into working for them?

Funnily enough, today’s Washington Post ran a story entitled “The Other Clinton Is an Absent Presence.” It isn’t about his sleeping, but, rather, about Bill Clinton’s supposedly invisible influence in Hillary’s campaign lately. Perhaps not invisible enough.

The piece asserts what everyone already knows: Obama is running against Hillary and Bill Clinton. The Post quotes Hillary:

“I think that he is very much advocating on my behalf, and I appreciate that,” she said. “He is a tremendous asset. And he feels very strongly about this country, and what’s at stake and what our future should be.” She added that “this campaign is not about our spouses.”

But for now it is partly about Bill Clinton.

And Bill Clinton is only partly awake. Which may prove the Post’s point. The article claims that Bill is behind a lot of the nastiness directed at Obama lately, and one should keep that in mind when considering the following Bill Clinton quote from a Jon Stewart Show appearance in September:

“You have no idea how many Republican and Democratic members of the House and Senate are chronically sleep deprived because of this system . . . I know this is an unusual theory but I do believe sleep deprivation has a lot to do with some of the edginess of Washington today.”

Tears, outbursts, and narcolepsy. Is this what all boomers have to look forward to as they hit retirement age?

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“What Is Going To Be Done about China?”

Yesterday I suggested that President Bush use all the leverage we have to convince Beijing to disarm Kim Jong Il. The Chinese supply about 90 percent of North Korea’s oil, 80 percent of its consumer goods, and 45 percent of its food. Pyongyang, as we know, has no more loyal supporter in the councils of diplomacy than Beijing. Without China, Kim “could neither bark nor bite.” There would be no North Korean nuclear program, no North Korean missiles, and no North Korea. Jon S, a frequent contentions reader, has borrowed Lenin’s words and asked the critical question: “What is to be done?”

We must first properly understand the “correlation of forces,” if I may continue with Soviet-era lingo. In “China’s century” the general assumption is that the United States must step out of the way of the rising giant. After all, the argument goes, the central government in Beijing owns about $387 billion in U.S. Treasury obligations and holds the bulk of its $1.5 trillion in foreign exchange reserves in dollar-denominated assets. We cannot afford to irritate the Chinese, especially because they have already threatened to exercise the so-called “nuclear option” and dump their dollars. As Hillary Clinton asks, “How do you get tough on your banker?”

Clinton is wrong because she ignores the reality of the financial markets. If the Chinese sold their dollars, they would have to buy something, as a practical matter, euros and yen. The values of those currencies would then shoot through the ceiling. The Europeans and the Japanese, to bring their currencies back into alignment, would then have to buy dollars. In short, our debt would end up in the hands of our friends.

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Yesterday I suggested that President Bush use all the leverage we have to convince Beijing to disarm Kim Jong Il. The Chinese supply about 90 percent of North Korea’s oil, 80 percent of its consumer goods, and 45 percent of its food. Pyongyang, as we know, has no more loyal supporter in the councils of diplomacy than Beijing. Without China, Kim “could neither bark nor bite.” There would be no North Korean nuclear program, no North Korean missiles, and no North Korea. Jon S, a frequent contentions reader, has borrowed Lenin’s words and asked the critical question: “What is to be done?”

We must first properly understand the “correlation of forces,” if I may continue with Soviet-era lingo. In “China’s century” the general assumption is that the United States must step out of the way of the rising giant. After all, the argument goes, the central government in Beijing owns about $387 billion in U.S. Treasury obligations and holds the bulk of its $1.5 trillion in foreign exchange reserves in dollar-denominated assets. We cannot afford to irritate the Chinese, especially because they have already threatened to exercise the so-called “nuclear option” and dump their dollars. As Hillary Clinton asks, “How do you get tough on your banker?”

Clinton is wrong because she ignores the reality of the financial markets. If the Chinese sold their dollars, they would have to buy something, as a practical matter, euros and yen. The values of those currencies would then shoot through the ceiling. The Europeans and the Japanese, to bring their currencies back into alignment, would then have to buy dollars. In short, our debt would end up in the hands of our friends.

And there’s a couple more things that we need to remember about the balance of power between China and the United States. Beijing’s spectacular rise has occurred in a period of sustained worldwide prosperity, but that era is now coming to an end, as the ongoing plunge in global financial markets indicates. China, the world’s largest exporter, has built its economy on selling goods to the United States. Beijing’s trade surplus with us for last year will exceed a quarter trillion dollars when the figures are announced. In short, the stability of the modern Chinese state largely depends on prosperity and that prosperity largely depends on access to American markets, capital, and technology.

Therefore, Beijing’s leaders are not about to cross Washington if they thought we were serious about proliferation. So far, we have not vigorously enforced the trade promises that Beijing made to join the World Trade Organization in 2001. Should we do so, we could drive the Chinese economy into the tank—and Beijing’s leaders know that. It’s time to have a conversation with them about their support for rogues like Kim Jong Il.

Moreover, the United States has never made China pay any price for proliferant activities. We announce slap-on-the-wrist measures on state-owned enterprises every once in a while, but now it’s time to levy real penalties on the Chinese government, which controls those businesses. Until we do that, Beijing’s leaders will just laugh at us while continuing their support for the Kims of the world.

And there’s one more thing. The United States needs to speak clearly to the Chinese, both in public as well as in private, about behavior that is, by any standard, unacceptable. The world looks to Washington for leadership, and we have not been providing it.

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Affirmative Action at the CIA

A thoughtful reader, Orlando Jackson, suggests that in criticizing affirmative action at the CIA, I am trying to have it two ways. On the one hand, he writes, “you and critics, want the CIA to ‘connect the dots’ via a better enabled HUMINT [human intelligence]. Yet, on the other hand, you critique them when they work towards this end” by bringing in people who speak Farsi, Urdu, and Arabic, and you dismiss the value of recruiting “non-white agents to operate in the predominately non-white world of al-Qaeda.”

These would be valid points if Mr. Orlando were accurately capturing what is going on. But as best we can tell, the CIA’s affirmative-action program has never been tailored toward bringing in operatives who speak the languages and/or otherwise resemble al-Qaeda terrorists. Rather, it has been oriented toward the politically-correct goal of creating a workforce that more closely resembles America (or the EEOC’s version of America)–in other words, bringing in more Hispanics, blacks, women, the disabled, and Pacific Islanders.

This is not idle speculation on my part. I wrote about it in detail back in 2005 in What Became of the CIA. Here is a relevant excerpt:

By 1995, under John Deutch, Clinton’s second director, the effort to remake the agency in the name of “diversity” had intensified markedly. Deutch began his tenure by advancing a “strategic diversity plan” and installing a forty-year-old Pentagon official, Nora Slatkin, in the agency’s executive-director slot to carry it out. Slatkin soon formed a Human Resources Oversight Council (HROC) aimed “at improving the agency’s efforts to hire and provide career development for women, minorities, the deaf, and people with disabilities.” The need for such measures, according to HROC, was clear from its own study of shortfalls in “recruiting, hiring, and advancement”:

[M]inorities in the agency’s workforce — particularly Hispanics and Asian-Pacific employees — remain underrepresented when compared with Civilian Labor Force (CLF) guidelines determined by the 1990 census. Hispanic employees in FY 1995 accounted for 2.3 percent of the agency workforce; CLF guidelines indicate Hispanics nationwide account for 8.1 percent of the nation’s workforce. Asian-Pacific employees comprised only 1.7 percent of the agency’s workforce; CLF guidelines indicate Asian-Pacific minorities comprise 2.8 percent of the nation’s workforce.

To reduce these statistical discrepancies, Slatkin declared “a goal that one out of every three officers hired in fiscal years 1995-97 be of Hispanic or Asian-Pacific origin.” She moved no less aggressively to alter the ethnic and sexual complexion of the CIA’s higher levels. In just six months, she was able to report, “42 percent of officers selected for senior assignments ha[d] been women or minorities”. . . .

By 1999, the agency’s top leaders were actively engaged in the campaign for greater diversity, or, in plain English, quotas. Clinton’s third director, George Tenet, issued a major statement deploring the fact that “[m]inorities, women, and people with disabilities still are underrepresented in the agency’s mid-level and senior officer positions,” and asserting his determination to end this state of affairs. It was, he said, incumbent on “supervisors and managers” at all levels to understand that diversity is “one of the most powerful tools we have to help make the world a safer place,” and he declared that they would be held accountable for “ensuring that this agency and community are inclusive institutions.” 

By all means, let’s have a CIA whose composition more closely resembles that of our adversaries. But unless things have changed radically since George Tenet resigned, that is not what affirmative action in the intelligence world is all about.

A thoughtful reader, Orlando Jackson, suggests that in criticizing affirmative action at the CIA, I am trying to have it two ways. On the one hand, he writes, “you and critics, want the CIA to ‘connect the dots’ via a better enabled HUMINT [human intelligence]. Yet, on the other hand, you critique them when they work towards this end” by bringing in people who speak Farsi, Urdu, and Arabic, and you dismiss the value of recruiting “non-white agents to operate in the predominately non-white world of al-Qaeda.”

These would be valid points if Mr. Orlando were accurately capturing what is going on. But as best we can tell, the CIA’s affirmative-action program has never been tailored toward bringing in operatives who speak the languages and/or otherwise resemble al-Qaeda terrorists. Rather, it has been oriented toward the politically-correct goal of creating a workforce that more closely resembles America (or the EEOC’s version of America)–in other words, bringing in more Hispanics, blacks, women, the disabled, and Pacific Islanders.

This is not idle speculation on my part. I wrote about it in detail back in 2005 in What Became of the CIA. Here is a relevant excerpt:

By 1995, under John Deutch, Clinton’s second director, the effort to remake the agency in the name of “diversity” had intensified markedly. Deutch began his tenure by advancing a “strategic diversity plan” and installing a forty-year-old Pentagon official, Nora Slatkin, in the agency’s executive-director slot to carry it out. Slatkin soon formed a Human Resources Oversight Council (HROC) aimed “at improving the agency’s efforts to hire and provide career development for women, minorities, the deaf, and people with disabilities.” The need for such measures, according to HROC, was clear from its own study of shortfalls in “recruiting, hiring, and advancement”:

[M]inorities in the agency’s workforce — particularly Hispanics and Asian-Pacific employees — remain underrepresented when compared with Civilian Labor Force (CLF) guidelines determined by the 1990 census. Hispanic employees in FY 1995 accounted for 2.3 percent of the agency workforce; CLF guidelines indicate Hispanics nationwide account for 8.1 percent of the nation’s workforce. Asian-Pacific employees comprised only 1.7 percent of the agency’s workforce; CLF guidelines indicate Asian-Pacific minorities comprise 2.8 percent of the nation’s workforce.

To reduce these statistical discrepancies, Slatkin declared “a goal that one out of every three officers hired in fiscal years 1995-97 be of Hispanic or Asian-Pacific origin.” She moved no less aggressively to alter the ethnic and sexual complexion of the CIA’s higher levels. In just six months, she was able to report, “42 percent of officers selected for senior assignments ha[d] been women or minorities”. . . .

By 1999, the agency’s top leaders were actively engaged in the campaign for greater diversity, or, in plain English, quotas. Clinton’s third director, George Tenet, issued a major statement deploring the fact that “[m]inorities, women, and people with disabilities still are underrepresented in the agency’s mid-level and senior officer positions,” and asserting his determination to end this state of affairs. It was, he said, incumbent on “supervisors and managers” at all levels to understand that diversity is “one of the most powerful tools we have to help make the world a safer place,” and he declared that they would be held accountable for “ensuring that this agency and community are inclusive institutions.” 

By all means, let’s have a CIA whose composition more closely resembles that of our adversaries. But unless things have changed radically since George Tenet resigned, that is not what affirmative action in the intelligence world is all about.

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Petraeus to NATO? A Bad Idea.

Would it have made sense to replace Eisenhower in early 1945 or Grant in early 1865? Only someone who thinks the answer to those questions is “yes” would be in favor of replacing David Petraeus as the senior commander in Iraq anytime soon. Yet, according to this New York Times article, there is serious consideration being given to sending him to NATO as Supreme Allied Commander later this year

I just got back from eleven days in Iraq and was greatly impressed by the turnaround wrought by U.S. forces in the past year. Streets that were once war zones are seeing a semblance of normality returning, yet much work remains to be done. The accomplishments of the past year are due of course to much hard work by American and Iraqi forces, but ordinary troops have been fighting hard for years without making much progress because they lacked good direction at the top.

In the past year we have finally found a winning team to direct the war effort: Petraeus as head of Multi-National Forces-Iraq, responsible for setting the strategic direction, and Lieutenant General Ray Odierno as head of Multi-National Corps-Iraq, the headquarters responsible for the day to day fight. Odierno is about to leave Iraq along with his entire headquarters staff. That rotation puts in peril some of the recent progress. Moving out Petraeus not long after Odierno leaves would constitute an unacceptable risk.

That doesn’t mean that Petraeus needs to stay in Iraq forever. He’s already logged plenty of time in the war zone, and it would be understandable if he tires of the crushing burden of command. But it would be a waste of the insights that he has accumulated to send him to NATO, where he would be out of the Iraq fight. It would make more sense to send Petraeus to Central Command, replacing the unimpressive Admiral Fox Fallon, and thereby allowing Petraeus to stay involved in the command loop not only in Iraq but also in Afghanistan as well. As for his replacement in Iraq, who better than Odierno, after he has a chance to rest and recharge his batteries stateside? That would keep the winning team together.

Would it have made sense to replace Eisenhower in early 1945 or Grant in early 1865? Only someone who thinks the answer to those questions is “yes” would be in favor of replacing David Petraeus as the senior commander in Iraq anytime soon. Yet, according to this New York Times article, there is serious consideration being given to sending him to NATO as Supreme Allied Commander later this year

I just got back from eleven days in Iraq and was greatly impressed by the turnaround wrought by U.S. forces in the past year. Streets that were once war zones are seeing a semblance of normality returning, yet much work remains to be done. The accomplishments of the past year are due of course to much hard work by American and Iraqi forces, but ordinary troops have been fighting hard for years without making much progress because they lacked good direction at the top.

In the past year we have finally found a winning team to direct the war effort: Petraeus as head of Multi-National Forces-Iraq, responsible for setting the strategic direction, and Lieutenant General Ray Odierno as head of Multi-National Corps-Iraq, the headquarters responsible for the day to day fight. Odierno is about to leave Iraq along with his entire headquarters staff. That rotation puts in peril some of the recent progress. Moving out Petraeus not long after Odierno leaves would constitute an unacceptable risk.

That doesn’t mean that Petraeus needs to stay in Iraq forever. He’s already logged plenty of time in the war zone, and it would be understandable if he tires of the crushing burden of command. But it would be a waste of the insights that he has accumulated to send him to NATO, where he would be out of the Iraq fight. It would make more sense to send Petraeus to Central Command, replacing the unimpressive Admiral Fox Fallon, and thereby allowing Petraeus to stay involved in the command loop not only in Iraq but also in Afghanistan as well. As for his replacement in Iraq, who better than Odierno, after he has a chance to rest and recharge his batteries stateside? That would keep the winning team together.

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Hillary in SC

Most of the conversation about last night’s Democratic debate in South Carolina is about how strikingly personal and heated the exchanges were between Senators Clinton and Obama. It appears as if having to deal with the flood of false charges made by Bill Clinton is starting to agitate the young Senator from Illinois. Bill Clinton is an icon among many Democrats; he is also a promiscuous liar. Barack Obama is having to deal with both things.

But last night there were also two important moments on substantive issues. The first came when Joe Johns of CNN prefaced a question to Hillary Clinton this way: “Last week, U.S. military commanders on the ground in Iraq said that Baghdad is now 75 percent secured. There’s also important signs of political progress, including de-Baathification, which was basically long awaited. That, of course, was a big benchmark. Last week, you said the next president will, quote, ‘have a war to end in Iraq.’ In light of the new military and political progress on the ground there in Iraq, are you looking to end this war or win it?

Senator Clinton responded this way: “I’m looking to bring our troops home, starting within 60 days of my becoming president…”

This is about as clear as things can get. Hillary Clinton, when asked if she is looking to win the war, answered that she is looking to bring the troops home. She obviously believes victory is impossible and that her role as commander-in-chief would be to navigate an American loss in Iraq as quickly as possible. Given the security and political progress we’ve seen there in the last year and the consequences of losing in Iraq, her position is not only unwise; it is reckless. What is it that would drive Mrs. Clinton to delude herself into believing the United States has irredeemably lost a war in which we’re making remarkable and empirically demonstrable progress? And what additional evidence does the nation need that leading Democrats are invested in a narrative of defeat in Iraq – and they will stick with it regardless of the progress we make? This, in turn, gives rise to a third question: Will the American people elect a person for President who has an ideological stake in seeing America lose this war, which is itself part of an epic struggle against militant Islam?

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Most of the conversation about last night’s Democratic debate in South Carolina is about how strikingly personal and heated the exchanges were between Senators Clinton and Obama. It appears as if having to deal with the flood of false charges made by Bill Clinton is starting to agitate the young Senator from Illinois. Bill Clinton is an icon among many Democrats; he is also a promiscuous liar. Barack Obama is having to deal with both things.

But last night there were also two important moments on substantive issues. The first came when Joe Johns of CNN prefaced a question to Hillary Clinton this way: “Last week, U.S. military commanders on the ground in Iraq said that Baghdad is now 75 percent secured. There’s also important signs of political progress, including de-Baathification, which was basically long awaited. That, of course, was a big benchmark. Last week, you said the next president will, quote, ‘have a war to end in Iraq.’ In light of the new military and political progress on the ground there in Iraq, are you looking to end this war or win it?

Senator Clinton responded this way: “I’m looking to bring our troops home, starting within 60 days of my becoming president…”

This is about as clear as things can get. Hillary Clinton, when asked if she is looking to win the war, answered that she is looking to bring the troops home. She obviously believes victory is impossible and that her role as commander-in-chief would be to navigate an American loss in Iraq as quickly as possible. Given the security and political progress we’ve seen there in the last year and the consequences of losing in Iraq, her position is not only unwise; it is reckless. What is it that would drive Mrs. Clinton to delude herself into believing the United States has irredeemably lost a war in which we’re making remarkable and empirically demonstrable progress? And what additional evidence does the nation need that leading Democrats are invested in a narrative of defeat in Iraq – and they will stick with it regardless of the progress we make? This, in turn, gives rise to a third question: Will the American people elect a person for President who has an ideological stake in seeing America lose this war, which is itself part of an epic struggle against militant Islam?

Later in last night’s debate another revealing moment occurred. During a conversation about poverty, Senator Clinton said this:

Well, I respect John’s [Edwards] commitment to ending poverty. That’s why, 35 years ago, when I graduated from law school, I didn’t go to work for a law firm. I went to work for Marian Wright Edelman at the Children’s Defense Fund, because ending poverty– particularly ending poverty for children, has been the central core cause of everything that I’ve been doing for 35 years.

It’s worth recalling that Ms. Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund, was a fierce critic of welfare reform and called the 1996 law an “outrage… that will hurt and impoverish millions of American children.” Her husband Peter Edelman, then Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation at the Department of Health and Human Services, called the new law “awful” policy that would do “serious harm to American children.” He resigned from his post in protest. And Mrs. Clinton was hardly a champion, and at various points a critic, of welfare reform within the Clinton Administration.

Yet it turns out that the 1996 welfare reform bill was the most successful and dramatic social policy innovation in many decades. The welfare caseload has declined by more than 60 percent since its high-water mark in 1994. All but one state reduced its caseloads by at least one-third, and some states reduced them by more than 90 percent. Not only has the number of people on welfare plunged, but in the wake of welfare reform overall poverty, child poverty, black child poverty, and child hunger declined, while employment of single mothers increased.

Last night’s debate also focused on health care, so it is worth recalling that Mrs. Clinton, as first lady, attempted to engineer a government takeover of our health care system. Her idea was awful and she was politically routed. Her health care failure helped set the stage for Republicans taking control of the House of Representatives for the first time in forty years (Republicans picked up 52 House seats, as well as eight Senate seats, in the 1994 mid-term election).

Senator Clinton portrays herself as a person of extraordinary experience and ability, one who would be “the best president on day one.” Yet most of her experience was as first lady of Arkansas and then the United States. She fulfilled that role for 20 years – and to the degree that she was involved in driving specific policies, she was often wrong.

The GOP is in a bad way right now. But if Hillary Rodham Clinton is the Democratic nominee, a pathway for a GOP victory in November opens up. She wants to make the race about her stances on the issues and her record. So do Republicans.

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Britain’s Muslim Suggestion

The Guardian reports that today the British government will suggest that British universities reject demands from Muslim students seeking separate facilities for prayer and ritual washing.

How very British to make suggestions in the face of extremism. This falls under the heading of “too little, too late.” With Europe’s most anti-Western Muslim population, a hidden judiciary imposing shari’a law, and deadly homegrown jihadists, England is fractured in a way polite suggestions won’t mend. As I write this, plans are proceeding to install loudspeakers across parts of Oxford so that local residents will be subject to a thrice-daily call to prayer from the minaret of the Central Mosque.

In 1701, Daniel Defoe wrote the “The True-Born Englishman” in defense of pluralism. The poem included these lines:

Some think of England ’twas our Saviour meant,
The Gospel should to all the world be sent:
Since, when the blessed sound did hither reach,
They to all nations might be said to preach.

Defoe could not have imagined the blessed sound to be the electronic blast “Give to Muhammad his eternal rights of intercession.”

The coddling of extremists and extremist-sympathizers is only one factor in England’s increasing Islamist menace. Until western Europe, as a whole, revokes the ample benefits that allow virtually anyone to live off the state, discouraging separate washrooms at universities will remain pointless. As gracious host to thousands of jihad-trained citizens, the British government needs to adress the shadow state that’s sprung up in Muslim enclaves before they worry about university plumbing.

The Guardian reports that today the British government will suggest that British universities reject demands from Muslim students seeking separate facilities for prayer and ritual washing.

How very British to make suggestions in the face of extremism. This falls under the heading of “too little, too late.” With Europe’s most anti-Western Muslim population, a hidden judiciary imposing shari’a law, and deadly homegrown jihadists, England is fractured in a way polite suggestions won’t mend. As I write this, plans are proceeding to install loudspeakers across parts of Oxford so that local residents will be subject to a thrice-daily call to prayer from the minaret of the Central Mosque.

In 1701, Daniel Defoe wrote the “The True-Born Englishman” in defense of pluralism. The poem included these lines:

Some think of England ’twas our Saviour meant,
The Gospel should to all the world be sent:
Since, when the blessed sound did hither reach,
They to all nations might be said to preach.

Defoe could not have imagined the blessed sound to be the electronic blast “Give to Muhammad his eternal rights of intercession.”

The coddling of extremists and extremist-sympathizers is only one factor in England’s increasing Islamist menace. Until western Europe, as a whole, revokes the ample benefits that allow virtually anyone to live off the state, discouraging separate washrooms at universities will remain pointless. As gracious host to thousands of jihad-trained citizens, the British government needs to adress the shadow state that’s sprung up in Muslim enclaves before they worry about university plumbing.

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François Heisbourg on the NIE

Professor Heisbourg just offered his view of the four major consequences of the recent NIE on the Iranian nuclear program:

1. It “impairs efforts at coercive diplomacy.”

2. It “cripples or weakens the emerging Sunni-Israel coalition.”

3. “It thrusts the burden of a possible strike on Israel.”

4. It creates a situation in which “Gulf monarchies and other Arab states now have a stronger incentive to look for alternative policies — acquisition of their own nuclear capabilities and/or appeasement of Iran. …Many of us have been able to see the drift of the Arab states recently toward appeasement.”

Professor Heisbourg just offered his view of the four major consequences of the recent NIE on the Iranian nuclear program:

1. It “impairs efforts at coercive diplomacy.”

2. It “cripples or weakens the emerging Sunni-Israel coalition.”

3. “It thrusts the burden of a possible strike on Israel.”

4. It creates a situation in which “Gulf monarchies and other Arab states now have a stronger incentive to look for alternative policies — acquisition of their own nuclear capabilities and/or appeasement of Iran. …Many of us have been able to see the drift of the Arab states recently toward appeasement.”

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Watch the Herzliya Conference Live

Click here to stream the conference. You can check out the program here. As we speak, a panel just commenced entitled “Can a Nuclear Iran be Deterred?” with Norman Podhoretz on it.

For those who might not know, the Herzliya conference is the annual big-deal gathering on Israeli national security.

Click here to stream the conference. You can check out the program here. As we speak, a panel just commenced entitled “Can a Nuclear Iran be Deterred?” with Norman Podhoretz on it.

For those who might not know, the Herzliya conference is the annual big-deal gathering on Israeli national security.

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What John Bolton Just Said about Iran

A panel on the Iranian nuclear threat just wrapped up here at the Herzliya conference in Israel, and John Bolton answered an audience question with the following, which is not an exact quote (I was scribbling in a notebook as he spoke), but which if in error is not far off:

Make no mistake: The United States is not going to do anything about Iran. The U.S. hasn’t in the past, we have no policy now, and we’re not going to have one for the remainder of this administration. It’s not going to happen.

This was his most terse statement of these ideas; his speech, a transcript of which I’ll post as soon as I can locate one, explained all of the above in more depressing detail.

A panel on the Iranian nuclear threat just wrapped up here at the Herzliya conference in Israel, and John Bolton answered an audience question with the following, which is not an exact quote (I was scribbling in a notebook as he spoke), but which if in error is not far off:

Make no mistake: The United States is not going to do anything about Iran. The U.S. hasn’t in the past, we have no policy now, and we’re not going to have one for the remainder of this administration. It’s not going to happen.

This was his most terse statement of these ideas; his speech, a transcript of which I’ll post as soon as I can locate one, explained all of the above in more depressing detail.

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Learning to Love the Islamic Bomb

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto has plunged Pakistan into what is likely to be a prolonged period of chaos. The United States has two vital interests at stake in the outcome: the future of the significant al-Qaeda presence in the country’s ungoverned borderlands, and the future of the approximately 70 to 115 nuclear weapons in the country’s arsenal. Should any of these Islamic bombs fall into the wrong hands, say, those of al-Qaeda or allied fanatics, neither the United States nor India would not be able to sit by complacently.

But could India locate and destroy the Pakistani weapons in a crisis? That is one of many fascinating questions addressed in an important study by Peter R. Lavoy that appears in Pakistan’s Nuclear Future: Worries Beyond War, a highly informative collection edited by the non-proliferation expert, Henry Sokolski.

Lavoy, formerly a senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, now the National Intelligence Officer for South Asia at the National Intelligence Council, examines the implications of the tightening India-U.S. alliance for the survivability of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal in the face of an Indian strike. Among other weapons systems that India has either recently purchased or is attempting to purchase are Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft, weapon-locating radars, manned and unmanned surveillance aircraft, satellites, and a variety of guided-weapons systems. All told, writes Lavoy, as this collection comes on line, “India may be able to identify and target Pakistan’s strategic assets with its enhanced intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities and it may be able to reach and destroy Pakistani strategic assets using its improved precision-strike aircraft and missile capabilities.”

In the face of the growing vulnerability of its nuclear force, Pakistan is unlikely to stand still. But how will it respond? Sokolski point out in his introduction that to deal with the array of challenges posed by the vulnerability of its nuclear arsenal, not only to a strike by India but to internal threats likes theft and sabotage, Pakistan “would need to have a fairly robust and active national government capable of mastering nuclear regulation, nuclear physical security, emergency preparedness, peacetime military strategic planning, energy research and development, and electrical system planning.” But Pakistan right now has anything but a robust national government.

There is no blinking the fact that the future of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal presents the U.S. and the world, as we have argued before, with a quietly developing strategic nightmare. What should be done about it? Let’s hope that someone somewhere in the U.S. government has better answers than Connecting the Dots currently does.

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto has plunged Pakistan into what is likely to be a prolonged period of chaos. The United States has two vital interests at stake in the outcome: the future of the significant al-Qaeda presence in the country’s ungoverned borderlands, and the future of the approximately 70 to 115 nuclear weapons in the country’s arsenal. Should any of these Islamic bombs fall into the wrong hands, say, those of al-Qaeda or allied fanatics, neither the United States nor India would not be able to sit by complacently.

But could India locate and destroy the Pakistani weapons in a crisis? That is one of many fascinating questions addressed in an important study by Peter R. Lavoy that appears in Pakistan’s Nuclear Future: Worries Beyond War, a highly informative collection edited by the non-proliferation expert, Henry Sokolski.

Lavoy, formerly a senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, now the National Intelligence Officer for South Asia at the National Intelligence Council, examines the implications of the tightening India-U.S. alliance for the survivability of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal in the face of an Indian strike. Among other weapons systems that India has either recently purchased or is attempting to purchase are Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft, weapon-locating radars, manned and unmanned surveillance aircraft, satellites, and a variety of guided-weapons systems. All told, writes Lavoy, as this collection comes on line, “India may be able to identify and target Pakistan’s strategic assets with its enhanced intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities and it may be able to reach and destroy Pakistani strategic assets using its improved precision-strike aircraft and missile capabilities.”

In the face of the growing vulnerability of its nuclear force, Pakistan is unlikely to stand still. But how will it respond? Sokolski point out in his introduction that to deal with the array of challenges posed by the vulnerability of its nuclear arsenal, not only to a strike by India but to internal threats likes theft and sabotage, Pakistan “would need to have a fairly robust and active national government capable of mastering nuclear regulation, nuclear physical security, emergency preparedness, peacetime military strategic planning, energy research and development, and electrical system planning.” But Pakistan right now has anything but a robust national government.

There is no blinking the fact that the future of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal presents the U.S. and the world, as we have argued before, with a quietly developing strategic nightmare. What should be done about it? Let’s hope that someone somewhere in the U.S. government has better answers than Connecting the Dots currently does.

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