Commentary Magazine


Posts For: February 13, 2008

Consensus Wherever You Look

I think we can all agree that leaving the campaign trail to give a paid speech in the Cayman Islands to an “unnamed organization” (h/t The Page) does not exactly increase Mike Huckabee’s stature. (Sounds a bit like a John Grisham novel, in fact.)

The pundits are unanimous: Hillary Clinton is in free fall. (Indeed, she is so desperate to get Barack Obama to debate and possibly slip up that she has shelved her indignation over the comment by MSNBC’s David Shuster about her daughter.) Things are so bad the RNC focuses its attacks now on her opponent. (Ah, remember the good old days when Rudy mocked her at every turn?) Perhaps it is a form of political Stockholm Syndrome, but it seems almost unimaginable that she could lose, or at least lose without a bitter, legal fight over seating Michigan and Florida delegates. In the end, however, the delegate math will prevail.

John McCain is making progress rallying the GOP troops and pundits, in large part because the success of the surge and his role in championing it trumps most other issues. Considering that CPAC was just one week ago, it is hard to deny that he has made considerable progress unifying the party, even though “Republicans divided” remains a favorite media storyline.

Finally, even Barack Obama agrees that less chanting and more details would be a good idea.

I think we can all agree that leaving the campaign trail to give a paid speech in the Cayman Islands to an “unnamed organization” (h/t The Page) does not exactly increase Mike Huckabee’s stature. (Sounds a bit like a John Grisham novel, in fact.)

The pundits are unanimous: Hillary Clinton is in free fall. (Indeed, she is so desperate to get Barack Obama to debate and possibly slip up that she has shelved her indignation over the comment by MSNBC’s David Shuster about her daughter.) Things are so bad the RNC focuses its attacks now on her opponent. (Ah, remember the good old days when Rudy mocked her at every turn?) Perhaps it is a form of political Stockholm Syndrome, but it seems almost unimaginable that she could lose, or at least lose without a bitter, legal fight over seating Michigan and Florida delegates. In the end, however, the delegate math will prevail.

John McCain is making progress rallying the GOP troops and pundits, in large part because the success of the surge and his role in championing it trumps most other issues. Considering that CPAC was just one week ago, it is hard to deny that he has made considerable progress unifying the party, even though “Republicans divided” remains a favorite media storyline.

Finally, even Barack Obama agrees that less chanting and more details would be a good idea.

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IQ2

Political and policy debates in America are too often conducted either with soundbites or speeches. There is not much tradition in this country of Oxford-style debates in which two teams of debaters try to win over the audience with a combination of facts and clever rhetoric. Even on the floor of Congress, lawmakers tend to talk past one another. And on TV the “Firing Line” debates expired almost a decade ago.

That’s a shortfall that Robert Rosenkranz, a New York financier and philanthropist, decided to remedy. In September 2006 he created an American analog to the Intelligence Squared (IQ2) debate series which has been a long-running hit in London. The U.S. version of IQ2 has been equally successfully, playing to sold-out audiences at the Asia Society in New York and to a much larger audience via National Public Radio.

I’ve been a member of the IQ2US advisory board from the start but hadn’t participated in a debate until now. On Wednesday I was part of a team of three, along with Johns Hopkins scholar Michael Mandelbaum and British think tanker Douglas Murray, speaking in favor of the motion, “Resolved, America should be the world’s policeman.” Our adversaries were Ellen Laipson, president of the Henry Stimson Center in Washington; Ian Bremmer, head of the Eurasia Group (a consulting firm); and Matthew Parris, a columnist for the Times of London.

Notwithstanding a snowstorm raging outside, the turnout was good and the debate was lively. Parris went a bit too far in mocking the members of our team, but other than that the debate was conducted on the merits. (For a transcript, see here; it will be aired on NPR stations starting next week.) Various arguments and counterarguments were aired and audience members drew their conclusions. At the end, I was amazed to find that the debate had actually swayed many of those in the room.

At the beginning of the night, 24% of the audience voted in favor of the motion that “America should be the world’s policeman,” while 44% were against and 32% undecided. At the end, 47% voted for the motion, 48% against, and only 5% were still undecided. Although we lost by one point, I think that counts as a moral victory for our side. It’s nice to know that even in a liberal bastion like New York there are still a lot of people who understand the good that America does by policing the globe. Just as importantly, it’s good to see the spirit of reasoned debate alive at a time when snarling talking heads appear to reign supreme.

Political and policy debates in America are too often conducted either with soundbites or speeches. There is not much tradition in this country of Oxford-style debates in which two teams of debaters try to win over the audience with a combination of facts and clever rhetoric. Even on the floor of Congress, lawmakers tend to talk past one another. And on TV the “Firing Line” debates expired almost a decade ago.

That’s a shortfall that Robert Rosenkranz, a New York financier and philanthropist, decided to remedy. In September 2006 he created an American analog to the Intelligence Squared (IQ2) debate series which has been a long-running hit in London. The U.S. version of IQ2 has been equally successfully, playing to sold-out audiences at the Asia Society in New York and to a much larger audience via National Public Radio.

I’ve been a member of the IQ2US advisory board from the start but hadn’t participated in a debate until now. On Wednesday I was part of a team of three, along with Johns Hopkins scholar Michael Mandelbaum and British think tanker Douglas Murray, speaking in favor of the motion, “Resolved, America should be the world’s policeman.” Our adversaries were Ellen Laipson, president of the Henry Stimson Center in Washington; Ian Bremmer, head of the Eurasia Group (a consulting firm); and Matthew Parris, a columnist for the Times of London.

Notwithstanding a snowstorm raging outside, the turnout was good and the debate was lively. Parris went a bit too far in mocking the members of our team, but other than that the debate was conducted on the merits. (For a transcript, see here; it will be aired on NPR stations starting next week.) Various arguments and counterarguments were aired and audience members drew their conclusions. At the end, I was amazed to find that the debate had actually swayed many of those in the room.

At the beginning of the night, 24% of the audience voted in favor of the motion that “America should be the world’s policeman,” while 44% were against and 32% undecided. At the end, 47% voted for the motion, 48% against, and only 5% were still undecided. Although we lost by one point, I think that counts as a moral victory for our side. It’s nice to know that even in a liberal bastion like New York there are still a lot of people who understand the good that America does by policing the globe. Just as importantly, it’s good to see the spirit of reasoned debate alive at a time when snarling talking heads appear to reign supreme.

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Two Great Quotes on Mughniyah

The first from David Schenker:

The fact that Mughniyah was killed in Damascus highlights the Asad regime’s increasing difficulties in protecting the terrorists they provide with “safe haven.” In 2004, another guest of the regime, Hamas leader Izzeddin Subhi Sheikh Khalil, was killed by a car bomb in Damascus. The Israelis bombed an Islamic Jihad training camp in 2003, buzzed Asad’s Latakia palace in 2006, and destroyed a presumed North Korean-supplied nuclear facility in 2007. As Mughniyah’s aunt told AFP earlier today, “We were shocked to learn that he was killed in Syria. We thought he was safe there.”

And the second, from Tony Badran, rounding out Schenker:

Zbig Brzezinski was in Damascus today. And, according to SANA, Zbig told journalists that the US and Syria have a shared interest in stability in the region. Now, we all knew that Zbig was a buffoon, but to say this on the day that Imad Mughniyeh was assassinated in Damascus is really a proud moment for the man on whose watch Mughniyeh’s bosses took over Iran.

A shared interest in stability in the region, by giving safe haven to an all-star team of global terrorists? Buffoon might be too weak a word to describe Barack Obama’s foreign policy adviser.

The first from David Schenker:

The fact that Mughniyah was killed in Damascus highlights the Asad regime’s increasing difficulties in protecting the terrorists they provide with “safe haven.” In 2004, another guest of the regime, Hamas leader Izzeddin Subhi Sheikh Khalil, was killed by a car bomb in Damascus. The Israelis bombed an Islamic Jihad training camp in 2003, buzzed Asad’s Latakia palace in 2006, and destroyed a presumed North Korean-supplied nuclear facility in 2007. As Mughniyah’s aunt told AFP earlier today, “We were shocked to learn that he was killed in Syria. We thought he was safe there.”

And the second, from Tony Badran, rounding out Schenker:

Zbig Brzezinski was in Damascus today. And, according to SANA, Zbig told journalists that the US and Syria have a shared interest in stability in the region. Now, we all knew that Zbig was a buffoon, but to say this on the day that Imad Mughniyeh was assassinated in Damascus is really a proud moment for the man on whose watch Mughniyeh’s bosses took over Iran.

A shared interest in stability in the region, by giving safe haven to an all-star team of global terrorists? Buffoon might be too weak a word to describe Barack Obama’s foreign policy adviser.

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What Is Wrong With Wisconsin?

Why isn’t Hillary Clinton competing more strenuously in Wisconsin? She camped out in Texas last night and is not setting foot in Wisconsin until Saturday. This seems unwise. I think the decision (made before Tuesday’s election returns, I believe) betrays a lack of appreciation for the degree to which her campaign is in peril. It makes sense to “skip” a poor state if you think it might trip you up on your way to victory, but now Clinton, more than anything else, needs Obama to fall short of expectations. Even a close second in Wisconsin might look pretty good now. It is not a bad place to make a run. She trails in the last poll (albeit before Tuesday night’s results) by less than 5 points. Yes, Obama has college kids galore, lots of anti-Iraq war sentiment and tons of momentum. However, John Coleman, Wisconsin University political science professor and guru on state politics, reminds me: “Wisconsin is not a high income state and manufacturing is still important here. She has been doing better among those who see the economy as the number one issue, and this is a state in which the economic news has been on the downslide lately. There is a populist streak in the state, and she might be able to fine tune her economic message to tap into that.”
She is down on money, excitement and positive media spin, but it won’t get any better after she loses big in Wisconsin. So, doesn’t it make sense to make a run there?
Why isn’t Hillary Clinton competing more strenuously in Wisconsin? She camped out in Texas last night and is not setting foot in Wisconsin until Saturday. This seems unwise. I think the decision (made before Tuesday’s election returns, I believe) betrays a lack of appreciation for the degree to which her campaign is in peril. It makes sense to “skip” a poor state if you think it might trip you up on your way to victory, but now Clinton, more than anything else, needs Obama to fall short of expectations. Even a close second in Wisconsin might look pretty good now. It is not a bad place to make a run. She trails in the last poll (albeit before Tuesday night’s results) by less than 5 points. Yes, Obama has college kids galore, lots of anti-Iraq war sentiment and tons of momentum. However, John Coleman, Wisconsin University political science professor and guru on state politics, reminds me: “Wisconsin is not a high income state and manufacturing is still important here. She has been doing better among those who see the economy as the number one issue, and this is a state in which the economic news has been on the downslide lately. There is a populist streak in the state, and she might be able to fine tune her economic message to tap into that.”
She is down on money, excitement and positive media spin, but it won’t get any better after she loses big in Wisconsin. So, doesn’t it make sense to make a run there?

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Twilight of the Radio Gods?

In case you haven’t heard, conservative talk radio has this wee problem with John McCain. Actually, it’s been hard to hear – or read – about anything else in recent weeks, with Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, et al, subjecting McCain to a level of opprobrium that’s had liberal reporters scrambling to record every word while trying their damndest to feign concern over a much hoped-for GOP crackup.

The relentless pounding of McCain, while certainly popular with some conservatives, has elicited a growing backlash among others, with a number of conservative bloggers expressing disdain for the tactics of Limbaugh and company — some of them saying they can no longer bring themselves to listen to the very voices that for so long had constituted a focal point of their day.

I know exactly what they’re going through. My own personal moratorium on Limbaugh and Hannity (I’d listened only sporadically, and never enthusiastically, to the various other hosts who’ve taken to treating McCain as though he were a Trotskyite trying to crash a conservative ball) began in stages. Old habits and loyalties die hard.

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In case you haven’t heard, conservative talk radio has this wee problem with John McCain. Actually, it’s been hard to hear – or read – about anything else in recent weeks, with Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, et al, subjecting McCain to a level of opprobrium that’s had liberal reporters scrambling to record every word while trying their damndest to feign concern over a much hoped-for GOP crackup.

The relentless pounding of McCain, while certainly popular with some conservatives, has elicited a growing backlash among others, with a number of conservative bloggers expressing disdain for the tactics of Limbaugh and company — some of them saying they can no longer bring themselves to listen to the very voices that for so long had constituted a focal point of their day.

I know exactly what they’re going through. My own personal moratorium on Limbaugh and Hannity (I’d listened only sporadically, and never enthusiastically, to the various other hosts who’ve taken to treating McCain as though he were a Trotskyite trying to crash a conservative ball) began in stages. Old habits and loyalties die hard.

I’d start each day thinking that maybe — especially as it grew ever more apparent that McCain would be the Republican nominee — the attacks on the senator would at long last begin to diminish, in number if not intensity. But within minutes of either host opening his show I’d be disabused of that notion; the sliming would pick up right where it had left off the day before, with little or no regard for nuance or perspective. I’d switch to sports talk for an hour or so before returning to Limbaugh or Hannity, only to once again find myself muttering at the radio and reaching for the dial.

Though talk radio has, with rare exceptions, always been the thinnest of intellectual gruel, the rise of conservative talkers – which took place in the years just before the Internet changed everything about the way we consume news – was a galvanizing event for those of us who always saw through the neutral posturing of the Walter Cronkites, the John Chancellors, the Roger Mudds of that era. At last we had a slice of mass media we could call our own and by which we could help sway policy and elections and stay connected to fellow conservatives across the country.

But talk radio is already something of a dinosaur, a rusted hulk lying on the side of the information superhighway. How could it be otherwise, in an age when we can log on and directly link to thousands of conservative websites and blogs — when we can communicate, unfiltered and instantaneously, with like-minded people not just across the country but around the world?

Sean Hannity can insist all he wants that John McCain is a liberal, but simply by Googling McCain’s lifetime voting record we can see for ourselves that if he’s a liberal, words have no meaning. Rush Limbaugh can loudly champion Mitt Romney as the second coming of Barry Goldwater, but a quick Internet search is enough to confirm that Romney is anything but.

And when the anti-McCain talkers imply that the “conservative base” disdains McCain and will have a hard time accepting him as the Republican nominee, a few minutes online is all it takes to understand that the “base” is a far more fractious thing than the talkers would have us believe.
If anyone needs to worry about a base, it would seem to be the McCain-obsessed radio hosts themselves, who, as the writer Noemie Emery recently observed on The Weekly Standard’s Campaign Standard blog, “are fracturing the base of their listening audience.”

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Clemens Borrows from Obama

The big news on Capitol Hill today is Roger Clemens’ sworn testimony before the House Oversight Committee regarding his alleged steroids use.

Clemens faces an uphill battle if he hopes to restore his credibility in the aftermath of the damning Mitchell Report, in which he was named 82 times. Beyond the testimony of his former trainer, Brian McNamee, former teammate Andy Pettitte has reportedly testified that Clemens admitted to using human growth hormone (HGH) almost ten years ago. To make matters worse for Clemens, Pettitte’s wife has substantiated this claim in a separate affidavit. The Clemens steroids story has thus quickly morphed into Clemens’ word against Pettitte’s, with Pettitte appearing more believable for having admitted to using HGH in 2002 and 2004.

So, what was Clemens’ strategy for presenting himself as compelling? Apparently, stealing a line from Barack Obama! Consider Clemens’ statement:

Andy Pettitte is my friend, he was my friend before this and he will be my friend after this. I think he misheard. … I think he misremembers our conversation.

Now, compare this to Obama’s statement in reference to Hillary Clinton during a recent debate. While trying to convince voters that the vitriol of the Democratic primary would not divide the party indefinitely, Obama remarked:

… I was friends with Hillary Clinton before we started this campaign; I will be friends with Hillary Clinton after this campaign is over.

Shortly after making his conciliatory statement, Obama earned a Super Tuesday split with Hillary, and has since taken off with an impressive eight-state winning streak. In the process, he has claimed an unambiguous lead in delegates and front-runner status.

Unfortunately for Clemens, the future doesn’t appear quite as bright. Whereas Obama comes off like a gentleman, Clemens is known to have a nasty streak. Indeed, if he aims to promote his credibility on the basis of his loyalty, Clemens is likely to come up short.

The big news on Capitol Hill today is Roger Clemens’ sworn testimony before the House Oversight Committee regarding his alleged steroids use.

Clemens faces an uphill battle if he hopes to restore his credibility in the aftermath of the damning Mitchell Report, in which he was named 82 times. Beyond the testimony of his former trainer, Brian McNamee, former teammate Andy Pettitte has reportedly testified that Clemens admitted to using human growth hormone (HGH) almost ten years ago. To make matters worse for Clemens, Pettitte’s wife has substantiated this claim in a separate affidavit. The Clemens steroids story has thus quickly morphed into Clemens’ word against Pettitte’s, with Pettitte appearing more believable for having admitted to using HGH in 2002 and 2004.

So, what was Clemens’ strategy for presenting himself as compelling? Apparently, stealing a line from Barack Obama! Consider Clemens’ statement:

Andy Pettitte is my friend, he was my friend before this and he will be my friend after this. I think he misheard. … I think he misremembers our conversation.

Now, compare this to Obama’s statement in reference to Hillary Clinton during a recent debate. While trying to convince voters that the vitriol of the Democratic primary would not divide the party indefinitely, Obama remarked:

… I was friends with Hillary Clinton before we started this campaign; I will be friends with Hillary Clinton after this campaign is over.

Shortly after making his conciliatory statement, Obama earned a Super Tuesday split with Hillary, and has since taken off with an impressive eight-state winning streak. In the process, he has claimed an unambiguous lead in delegates and front-runner status.

Unfortunately for Clemens, the future doesn’t appear quite as bright. Whereas Obama comes off like a gentleman, Clemens is known to have a nasty streak. Indeed, if he aims to promote his credibility on the basis of his loyalty, Clemens is likely to come up short.

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Time (Rhymes with Crime)

In 1977, Time Magazine welcomed the election of Menahem Begin in Israel by offering a helpful guide to pronouncing the new leader’s name with a reference to one of the most hostile literary depictions of Jews: “Begin (rhymes with Fagin)”. Five years later, Time Magazine claimed falsely (according to a New York jury) that Ariel Sharon had effectively encouraged the massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut. Time Magazine has a history, is what I’m saying. And the latest example of Time’s repugnant and ridiculous coverage of Middle Eastern matters comes in a gobsmacking note on the car-bombing death of Imad Mughniyah. After detailing Mughniyah’s 25-year career of slaughter and destruction, and noting that his death was devoutly desired from Israel to Saudi Arabia, Time suggests that perhaps Iran and Syria killed the man who was, without question, their greatest external asset:

In the John Le Carre world of Middle East terrorism and politics, however, it’s impossible to rule out the wildest of conspiracy theories, including that Mughniyah’s friends in Syria or Iran may have found his continued existence to be an inconvenience. Or, they may have believed it was politically useful to demonstrate that they can be relied on to control terrorism in the Middle East — as long as the U.S. doesn’t try to go after the regimes in Damascus or Tehran.

Get it? Iran and Syria might have killed the terror master they created and ran in order to prove they will take care of bad terrorists — but you know, they won’t be willing to be so noble and charitable should the United States do something against them. This is one of the most embarrassing pieces of geopolitical analysis ever published. And in Time’s glorious tradition of doing everything it can to think the best of tyrannical Arab states. Well done, Time (rhymes with crime).

 

In 1977, Time Magazine welcomed the election of Menahem Begin in Israel by offering a helpful guide to pronouncing the new leader’s name with a reference to one of the most hostile literary depictions of Jews: “Begin (rhymes with Fagin)”. Five years later, Time Magazine claimed falsely (according to a New York jury) that Ariel Sharon had effectively encouraged the massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut. Time Magazine has a history, is what I’m saying. And the latest example of Time’s repugnant and ridiculous coverage of Middle Eastern matters comes in a gobsmacking note on the car-bombing death of Imad Mughniyah. After detailing Mughniyah’s 25-year career of slaughter and destruction, and noting that his death was devoutly desired from Israel to Saudi Arabia, Time suggests that perhaps Iran and Syria killed the man who was, without question, their greatest external asset:

In the John Le Carre world of Middle East terrorism and politics, however, it’s impossible to rule out the wildest of conspiracy theories, including that Mughniyah’s friends in Syria or Iran may have found his continued existence to be an inconvenience. Or, they may have believed it was politically useful to demonstrate that they can be relied on to control terrorism in the Middle East — as long as the U.S. doesn’t try to go after the regimes in Damascus or Tehran.

Get it? Iran and Syria might have killed the terror master they created and ran in order to prove they will take care of bad terrorists — but you know, they won’t be willing to be so noble and charitable should the United States do something against them. This is one of the most embarrassing pieces of geopolitical analysis ever published. And in Time’s glorious tradition of doing everything it can to think the best of tyrannical Arab states. Well done, Time (rhymes with crime).

 

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Did Israel Do It?

By a simple process of elimination, it seems implausible that anyone other than Israel was behind the operation that killed Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus last night.

For starters, the Syrian regime can be eliminated. If the bombing had happened anywhere other than Damascus, there might be a slight chance that Syria, as so many people are speculating, knocked off one of its own heroes as part of a secret deal with America. But the bombing happened in the heart of Damascus–”the car bomb exploded . . . in Tantheem Kafer Souseh, an upscale neighborhood of Damascus, close to an Iranian school and a police station,” reports the NYT — and the embarrassment today to the Assad regime and its allies, Hizballah and Iran, could not be greater. Damascus is an extraordinarily well-surveilled city, and the Assad regime is fanatical about internal security. Even if somehow the Syrians did decide that they needed to kill Mughniyeh, doing so in Damascus, or even elsewhere in Syria, would be an unimaginably stupid way to carry it out.

So did a group of Lebanese Christians do it in retaliation for years of Syrian assassinations of March 14 leaders? There is motive — but there isn’t much in the way of means. As Tony Badran told the New York Sun, “To say that any faction in Lebanon is behind this is to greatly misstate reality. They don’t have the operational capacity. They don’t have the intelligence capacity. It is extremely unlikely that anyone in Lebanon has anything to do with this.” Moreover, had Lebanese Christians been able to do it, they would have bombed Damascus three years ago, when Syria started killing people in Beirut.

What about America? This is probably the likeliest scenario other than the Israelis, as Mugniyah’s fingerprints are on a litany of terror operations spanning well over two decades that have killed hundreds of Americans. But it’s also true that America appears to have largely given up the hunt for Mugniyah, and has also downgraded its confrontation with Syria and Iran. It is also not clear that the CIA today is enamored of the spirit of daring necessary to carry off such an operation, or that it even maintains the kind of resources in Syria that would enable it to assassinate someone if the interest arose.

And that leaves Israel, which has many obvious reasons for conducting such an operation combined with the intelligence capabilities necessary for carrying it out. We know from the 2006 war with Hizballah that Israel has reliable networks of operatives within southern Lebanon and Syria which enabled Israel to monitor the medium- and long-range missiles that were supplied to Hizballah, almost all of which Israel was able to destroy in the opening hours of the war.

Ultimately, it almost doesn’t matter who did it, because Israel will remain the presumed culprit. And that is a very good thing.

By a simple process of elimination, it seems implausible that anyone other than Israel was behind the operation that killed Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus last night.

For starters, the Syrian regime can be eliminated. If the bombing had happened anywhere other than Damascus, there might be a slight chance that Syria, as so many people are speculating, knocked off one of its own heroes as part of a secret deal with America. But the bombing happened in the heart of Damascus–”the car bomb exploded . . . in Tantheem Kafer Souseh, an upscale neighborhood of Damascus, close to an Iranian school and a police station,” reports the NYT — and the embarrassment today to the Assad regime and its allies, Hizballah and Iran, could not be greater. Damascus is an extraordinarily well-surveilled city, and the Assad regime is fanatical about internal security. Even if somehow the Syrians did decide that they needed to kill Mughniyeh, doing so in Damascus, or even elsewhere in Syria, would be an unimaginably stupid way to carry it out.

So did a group of Lebanese Christians do it in retaliation for years of Syrian assassinations of March 14 leaders? There is motive — but there isn’t much in the way of means. As Tony Badran told the New York Sun, “To say that any faction in Lebanon is behind this is to greatly misstate reality. They don’t have the operational capacity. They don’t have the intelligence capacity. It is extremely unlikely that anyone in Lebanon has anything to do with this.” Moreover, had Lebanese Christians been able to do it, they would have bombed Damascus three years ago, when Syria started killing people in Beirut.

What about America? This is probably the likeliest scenario other than the Israelis, as Mugniyah’s fingerprints are on a litany of terror operations spanning well over two decades that have killed hundreds of Americans. But it’s also true that America appears to have largely given up the hunt for Mugniyah, and has also downgraded its confrontation with Syria and Iran. It is also not clear that the CIA today is enamored of the spirit of daring necessary to carry off such an operation, or that it even maintains the kind of resources in Syria that would enable it to assassinate someone if the interest arose.

And that leaves Israel, which has many obvious reasons for conducting such an operation combined with the intelligence capabilities necessary for carrying it out. We know from the 2006 war with Hizballah that Israel has reliable networks of operatives within southern Lebanon and Syria which enabled Israel to monitor the medium- and long-range missiles that were supplied to Hizballah, almost all of which Israel was able to destroy in the opening hours of the war.

Ultimately, it almost doesn’t matter who did it, because Israel will remain the presumed culprit. And that is a very good thing.

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The Jew-Eating Rabbit

“Pioneers of Tomorrow,” the same Hamas children’s TV show that brought us Farfur the jihadist mouse, has now introduced Assud the Jew-eating rabbit. Here’s CNSNews:

In the next scene, a giant rabbit, wearing red shorts with suspenders, returns home to the Gaza Strip after Hamas blew up the border wall, allowing him to enter.

The rabbit, named Assud, asks his parents where his brother Nahoul is–and learns that he has become a “martyr.” “Just as Nahoul took Farfur’s place when he was martyred, I will replace Nahoul, Allah willing,” Assud says. “I will bring smiles and joy back to the children of Palestine, and the children of the whole world–the Arab and Islamic world, Allah willing,” Assud pledges.

Torn, as they say, from the headlines. There’s more:

Assud explains that “rabbit” is a term for a coward. “But I, Assud, will get rid of the Jews, Allah willing, and I will eat them up, Allah willing.”

Fans claim that with the death of Farfur, the show jumped the Jew-eating shark.

“Pioneers of Tomorrow,” the same Hamas children’s TV show that brought us Farfur the jihadist mouse, has now introduced Assud the Jew-eating rabbit. Here’s CNSNews:

In the next scene, a giant rabbit, wearing red shorts with suspenders, returns home to the Gaza Strip after Hamas blew up the border wall, allowing him to enter.

The rabbit, named Assud, asks his parents where his brother Nahoul is–and learns that he has become a “martyr.” “Just as Nahoul took Farfur’s place when he was martyred, I will replace Nahoul, Allah willing,” Assud says. “I will bring smiles and joy back to the children of Palestine, and the children of the whole world–the Arab and Islamic world, Allah willing,” Assud pledges.

Torn, as they say, from the headlines. There’s more:

Assud explains that “rabbit” is a term for a coward. “But I, Assud, will get rid of the Jews, Allah willing, and I will eat them up, Allah willing.”

Fans claim that with the death of Farfur, the show jumped the Jew-eating shark.

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Why So Nice?

John McCain in the blogger call today and in a press conference earlier in the week went to great pains to avoid saying Mike Huckabee should get out of the race. He repeatedly said that he “respected” Huckabee. (Meanwhile, McCain’s campaign manager sends around a fundraising e-mail pointing out that McCain only needs 35% of the remaining delegates while Huckabee needs 123%).

This seems to be the right tactic for McCain two reasons. Much of what seems to motivate Huckabee is a chip on the shoulder, a resentment toward the GOP establishment. His constant complaint in debates that he was not getting enough questions and his obvious delight in running against “Wall Street” suggests not just a political mindset, but a tempermental outlook. (He takes great delight in describing his modest beginnings and his ability to best those more wealthy and powerful than he.) Telling him to get lost won’t help matters, but allowing him gracefully to reach the conclusion in his own time might help hasten his departure.

In addition, McCain is trying out a new persona–the gracious frontrunner and healer of the party. Critics consider him too combative with his allies and inclined to hold grudges. He intends to prove them wrong. By offering to listen to former conservative opponents and by refusing to kick sand in the eyes of a faltering rival, he furthers that effort.

All in all, it shows a measure of restraint and political maturity that may surprise his critics.

John McCain in the blogger call today and in a press conference earlier in the week went to great pains to avoid saying Mike Huckabee should get out of the race. He repeatedly said that he “respected” Huckabee. (Meanwhile, McCain’s campaign manager sends around a fundraising e-mail pointing out that McCain only needs 35% of the remaining delegates while Huckabee needs 123%).

This seems to be the right tactic for McCain two reasons. Much of what seems to motivate Huckabee is a chip on the shoulder, a resentment toward the GOP establishment. His constant complaint in debates that he was not getting enough questions and his obvious delight in running against “Wall Street” suggests not just a political mindset, but a tempermental outlook. (He takes great delight in describing his modest beginnings and his ability to best those more wealthy and powerful than he.) Telling him to get lost won’t help matters, but allowing him gracefully to reach the conclusion in his own time might help hasten his departure.

In addition, McCain is trying out a new persona–the gracious frontrunner and healer of the party. Critics consider him too combative with his allies and inclined to hold grudges. He intends to prove them wrong. By offering to listen to former conservative opponents and by refusing to kick sand in the eyes of a faltering rival, he furthers that effort.

All in all, it shows a measure of restraint and political maturity that may surprise his critics.

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Spielberg Withdraws from the Olympics

Yesterday, Steven Spielberg announced that he had severed his role as artistic advisor to this year’s Summer Olympics, which begins in August. “I find that my conscience will not allow me to continue business as usual,” he said in a statement. “At this point, my time and energy must be spent not on Olympic ceremonies, but on doing all I can to help bring an end to the unspeakable crimes against humanity that continue to be committed in Darfur.”

China is committing no such crimes in Darfur. It is, however, providing crucial material support to the government in Khartoum as well as diplomatic help, especially in the U.N Security Council. That government, in turn, is sponsoring the Janjaweed militia, which has rightly been accused of genocide. So far, about 200,000 to 400,000 people have died according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Spielberg, by refusing to continue his work on the opening and closing ceremonies, implicitly says that participation in the Olympics is tantamount to supporting the atrocities, including mass murder and rape, taking place in western Sudan.

In the wake of the famed director’s withdrawal, Human Rights Watch has asked others to think about their personal responsibility. “These influential players should be prepared to show the steps they are taking to address the worsening rights climate in China, or they risk being tarnished by a human rights debacle,” said Minky Worden, the group’s media director, yesterday.

Worden raises a fundamental issue: At what point does personal participation imply guilt? Beijing’s response is predictable: “As the Darfur issue is neither an internal issue of China, nor is it caused by China, it is completely unreasonable, irresponsible and unfair for certain organizations and individuals to link the two as one,” the Chinese embassy in Washington said in a statement yesterday. Beijing’s position, however reasonable it seems on its face, is unconvincing simply because the tragedy in Darfur would not be occurring were it not for China.

Today, there is a growing sentiment that China is too damn close to the Janjaweed militia. On Tuesday, 25 individuals, including Nobel peace laureates, called on Chinese President Hu Jintao to take steps to end the slaughter sponsored by Khartoum. Whether Beijing likes it or not, people are starting to make the connections between death in Darfur and the celebrations in Beijing. It is high time we examine our national—and personal—responsibility for China’s acts because we are enabling the Chinese regime through our policies of engagement.

“Repression in China is on the rise, and Olympic sponsors, governments, or world leaders—especially those planning to attend the Games—can’t pretend otherwise,” said Worden. At least Prince Charles is on the side of the angels. He has said that he will not attend the Games. President Bush, however, is going to Beijing in August for the spectacle. Regrettably, he has tried to lessen his personal responsibility by saying that he is doing so only as a sports fan. As Spielberg has just shown us, however, that is not possible in today’s climate. Let me quote Bush to Bush: you’re either with the Chinese autocrats or against them.

And if you’re with me, you insist that your leaders in Washington not associate themselves with ugly events taking place in Darfur by supporting the extravaganza in Beijing.

Yesterday, Steven Spielberg announced that he had severed his role as artistic advisor to this year’s Summer Olympics, which begins in August. “I find that my conscience will not allow me to continue business as usual,” he said in a statement. “At this point, my time and energy must be spent not on Olympic ceremonies, but on doing all I can to help bring an end to the unspeakable crimes against humanity that continue to be committed in Darfur.”

China is committing no such crimes in Darfur. It is, however, providing crucial material support to the government in Khartoum as well as diplomatic help, especially in the U.N Security Council. That government, in turn, is sponsoring the Janjaweed militia, which has rightly been accused of genocide. So far, about 200,000 to 400,000 people have died according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Spielberg, by refusing to continue his work on the opening and closing ceremonies, implicitly says that participation in the Olympics is tantamount to supporting the atrocities, including mass murder and rape, taking place in western Sudan.

In the wake of the famed director’s withdrawal, Human Rights Watch has asked others to think about their personal responsibility. “These influential players should be prepared to show the steps they are taking to address the worsening rights climate in China, or they risk being tarnished by a human rights debacle,” said Minky Worden, the group’s media director, yesterday.

Worden raises a fundamental issue: At what point does personal participation imply guilt? Beijing’s response is predictable: “As the Darfur issue is neither an internal issue of China, nor is it caused by China, it is completely unreasonable, irresponsible and unfair for certain organizations and individuals to link the two as one,” the Chinese embassy in Washington said in a statement yesterday. Beijing’s position, however reasonable it seems on its face, is unconvincing simply because the tragedy in Darfur would not be occurring were it not for China.

Today, there is a growing sentiment that China is too damn close to the Janjaweed militia. On Tuesday, 25 individuals, including Nobel peace laureates, called on Chinese President Hu Jintao to take steps to end the slaughter sponsored by Khartoum. Whether Beijing likes it or not, people are starting to make the connections between death in Darfur and the celebrations in Beijing. It is high time we examine our national—and personal—responsibility for China’s acts because we are enabling the Chinese regime through our policies of engagement.

“Repression in China is on the rise, and Olympic sponsors, governments, or world leaders—especially those planning to attend the Games—can’t pretend otherwise,” said Worden. At least Prince Charles is on the side of the angels. He has said that he will not attend the Games. President Bush, however, is going to Beijing in August for the spectacle. Regrettably, he has tried to lessen his personal responsibility by saying that he is doing so only as a sports fan. As Spielberg has just shown us, however, that is not possible in today’s climate. Let me quote Bush to Bush: you’re either with the Chinese autocrats or against them.

And if you’re with me, you insist that your leaders in Washington not associate themselves with ugly events taking place in Darfur by supporting the extravaganza in Beijing.

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More on Mugniyeh

Just to follow up on Max Boot’s post about the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh, a major Hizballah figure. The Israeli news channels are talking about it as though it is clearly an Israeli operation, even though they are giving the formal nudge-nudge-wink-wink that it might not have been. Ehud Ya’ari, Israel Channel 2′s veteran analyst, calls the takeout “more important than taking out Hassan Nasrallah, on a par with Bin Laden.”

This might not be so off base. According to Ya’ari, Mughniyeh, as number 2 in the most sophisticated terror group on earth, is the one who personally invented the suicide bombing, used first in Lebanon before being adopted by the Palestinians; he turned Hizballah into a serious army; he was in charge of the organization’s ties with Iran and Syria; in charge of all its military operations; and masterminded almost every major attack on Israeli or Jewish targets around the world in the last 25 years. He also was behind the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers which triggered the 2006 Lebanon war. Today Gideon Ezra, a government minister and former senior intelligence figure, called Mughniyeh the “Lebanese Carlos.”

This is what Boaz Ganor, head of the International Institute on Counter-Terrorism, had to say (via the JPost):

It’s hard to imagine a figure more dangerous, more sophisticated or more experienced than arch-terrorist Imad Mughniyeh. Until his assassination on Wednesday, Mughniyeh served as the mastermind behind Hizbullah’s operations, an elusive figure linked to almost every attack executed by the organization since its inception in the early 1980s. In fact, it is impossible to name even one large-scale attack executed by Hizbullah that Mughniyeh was not involved in – from airplane hijackings to embassy bombings to kidnappings and more.

The senior Hizbullah leader was responsible for suicide attacks on the American embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, which lead to the strategic withdrawal of American and foreign forces out of Lebanon. He was also wanted in connection to the 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy and the 1994 attack on the AMIA building in Buenos Aires, attempted attacks in Asia and the Arab world and the kidnappings of dozens of Westerners in Lebanon throughout the 1980s.

Mughniyeh’s importance lies not only in his ability to execute extraordinary attacks against targets around the world – or even in his control of Hizbullah’s operational branch in Lebanon – but more significantly in the close connections he established between Iran, Syria and Hizbullah. Mughniyeh positioned himself as the operational link between these actors. It is in this framework that Mughniyeh also served as al-Qaida’s contact within Hizbullah throughout the 1990s…. Unlike bin Laden, however, Mughniyeh’s influence was not derived from the image he created of himself, but by his actual deeds and capabilities as an initiator, planner, supervisor and executor of attacks on an international scale. In effect, these attacks tremendously strengthened Hizbullah’s capabilities in a variety of spheres, creating the deterrence that the organization was seeking to achieve vis-à-vis foreign states and Israel.

Today, Hizbullah is a mini-state so strong that the Lebanese army is unable to do anything about it; it is a terror cancer giving Iran and Syria a major base on Israel’s northern border and in the heart of an otherwise potentially reasonable Lebanon. This has all happened in the last twenty years, and the man who did it is now dead.

Just to follow up on Max Boot’s post about the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh, a major Hizballah figure. The Israeli news channels are talking about it as though it is clearly an Israeli operation, even though they are giving the formal nudge-nudge-wink-wink that it might not have been. Ehud Ya’ari, Israel Channel 2′s veteran analyst, calls the takeout “more important than taking out Hassan Nasrallah, on a par with Bin Laden.”

This might not be so off base. According to Ya’ari, Mughniyeh, as number 2 in the most sophisticated terror group on earth, is the one who personally invented the suicide bombing, used first in Lebanon before being adopted by the Palestinians; he turned Hizballah into a serious army; he was in charge of the organization’s ties with Iran and Syria; in charge of all its military operations; and masterminded almost every major attack on Israeli or Jewish targets around the world in the last 25 years. He also was behind the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers which triggered the 2006 Lebanon war. Today Gideon Ezra, a government minister and former senior intelligence figure, called Mughniyeh the “Lebanese Carlos.”

This is what Boaz Ganor, head of the International Institute on Counter-Terrorism, had to say (via the JPost):

It’s hard to imagine a figure more dangerous, more sophisticated or more experienced than arch-terrorist Imad Mughniyeh. Until his assassination on Wednesday, Mughniyeh served as the mastermind behind Hizbullah’s operations, an elusive figure linked to almost every attack executed by the organization since its inception in the early 1980s. In fact, it is impossible to name even one large-scale attack executed by Hizbullah that Mughniyeh was not involved in – from airplane hijackings to embassy bombings to kidnappings and more.

The senior Hizbullah leader was responsible for suicide attacks on the American embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, which lead to the strategic withdrawal of American and foreign forces out of Lebanon. He was also wanted in connection to the 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy and the 1994 attack on the AMIA building in Buenos Aires, attempted attacks in Asia and the Arab world and the kidnappings of dozens of Westerners in Lebanon throughout the 1980s.

Mughniyeh’s importance lies not only in his ability to execute extraordinary attacks against targets around the world – or even in his control of Hizbullah’s operational branch in Lebanon – but more significantly in the close connections he established between Iran, Syria and Hizbullah. Mughniyeh positioned himself as the operational link between these actors. It is in this framework that Mughniyeh also served as al-Qaida’s contact within Hizbullah throughout the 1990s…. Unlike bin Laden, however, Mughniyeh’s influence was not derived from the image he created of himself, but by his actual deeds and capabilities as an initiator, planner, supervisor and executor of attacks on an international scale. In effect, these attacks tremendously strengthened Hizbullah’s capabilities in a variety of spheres, creating the deterrence that the organization was seeking to achieve vis-à-vis foreign states and Israel.

Today, Hizbullah is a mini-state so strong that the Lebanese army is unable to do anything about it; it is a terror cancer giving Iran and Syria a major base on Israel’s northern border and in the heart of an otherwise potentially reasonable Lebanon. This has all happened in the last twenty years, and the man who did it is now dead.

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The Psych Hospital-al Qaeda Connection

On February 1, al Qaeda sent two mentally impaired women into a crowded Baghdad pet market to be remote-detonated. The acting administrator of the al-Rashad Psychiatric Hospital of Baghdad is suspected of supplying the women to the terrorist organization that never runs out of new lows. Iraqi and coalition forces have detained the man and searched the facility. Pictures below:

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Iraqi National Police and Coalition forces search the al-Rashid mental hospital (Bagdhad, 2/10/08)
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Iraqi National Police and Coalition forces search the al-Rashid mental hospital (Bagdhad, 2/10/08)

On February 1, al Qaeda sent two mentally impaired women into a crowded Baghdad pet market to be remote-detonated. The acting administrator of the al-Rashad Psychiatric Hospital of Baghdad is suspected of supplying the women to the terrorist organization that never runs out of new lows. Iraqi and coalition forces have detained the man and searched the facility. Pictures below:

hospital-image-1-final.jpg

Iraqi National Police and Coalition forces search the al-Rashid mental hospital (Bagdhad, 2/10/08)
hospital-image-2-final.jpg

Iraqi National Police and Coalition forces search the al-Rashid mental hospital (Bagdhad, 2/10/08)

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McCain Blogger Call

John McCain just completed another blogger conference call. He began by saying he was pleased with the results last night (and pointed out that despite bad weather in Northern Virginia the final tabulation showed he won the state by 9 points and won among conservatives, although not “very conservative” voters). He stressed, as he did repeatedly during the call, that he respected Governor Huckabee and was not going to pressure him out the race. He also reported that he had completed a positive meeting with the GOP House conference and the leadership had endorsed him following the meeting. He emphasized (and repeated during the call) that he understood the importance of uniting the party and is “confident that we will.” He reiterated that he would make the differences between him and his eventual opponent on taxes, government regulation, healthcare and especially on Iraq clear. (He mentioned the recent actions by the Iraqi Parliament and said that the same people who said the surge would not work also said that the Iraqi’s could not make progress in governing themselves and that they were “wrong on both counts, on both counts.” He tried out perhaps a new catch phrase, explaining he will be happy to “draw differences on principles, philosophy and specifics and not platitudes.”

I asked him about Barack Obama’s votes on Iraq and on FISA and his endorsement by MoveOn.org and what that said about his readiness to be commander in chief. He declined to say that Obama lacked the judgment to be president but said Obama was wrong on toop withdrawal, the ability of the Iraqi government to function and on the surge, saying “we’ll all be responsible for our record.” (He also reminded everyone that the same MoveOn.org which endorsed Obama had run the “General Betray- us” ad.) On FISA, he said that the telecom companies “of course” would expect immunity for assisting the government in the war on terror.

Other highlights: 1) He has not begun the VP selection process but did praise Senator Tom Coburn and Governor Mark Sanford (without acknowledging they are on a short list) as two excellent conservatives; 2) In the strongest terms I have heard he endorsed the legal system in place for the 6 Guantanamo terrorists and declared that nothing in the Geneva Convention or our experience with the World War II war crime trials suggested these people were entitled to the same legal protections as U.S. citizens; and 3) repeated his determination to eliminate earmarks, although offered to work with members of Congress on how to phase them out.

Overall, this was one of his more impressive calls. His tone was calm and confident, his rhetoric in taking on the Democrats more forceful than it has been. You can slowly sense that he is doing his level best to transition from maverick to nominee and party leader.

John McCain just completed another blogger conference call. He began by saying he was pleased with the results last night (and pointed out that despite bad weather in Northern Virginia the final tabulation showed he won the state by 9 points and won among conservatives, although not “very conservative” voters). He stressed, as he did repeatedly during the call, that he respected Governor Huckabee and was not going to pressure him out the race. He also reported that he had completed a positive meeting with the GOP House conference and the leadership had endorsed him following the meeting. He emphasized (and repeated during the call) that he understood the importance of uniting the party and is “confident that we will.” He reiterated that he would make the differences between him and his eventual opponent on taxes, government regulation, healthcare and especially on Iraq clear. (He mentioned the recent actions by the Iraqi Parliament and said that the same people who said the surge would not work also said that the Iraqi’s could not make progress in governing themselves and that they were “wrong on both counts, on both counts.” He tried out perhaps a new catch phrase, explaining he will be happy to “draw differences on principles, philosophy and specifics and not platitudes.”

I asked him about Barack Obama’s votes on Iraq and on FISA and his endorsement by MoveOn.org and what that said about his readiness to be commander in chief. He declined to say that Obama lacked the judgment to be president but said Obama was wrong on toop withdrawal, the ability of the Iraqi government to function and on the surge, saying “we’ll all be responsible for our record.” (He also reminded everyone that the same MoveOn.org which endorsed Obama had run the “General Betray- us” ad.) On FISA, he said that the telecom companies “of course” would expect immunity for assisting the government in the war on terror.

Other highlights: 1) He has not begun the VP selection process but did praise Senator Tom Coburn and Governor Mark Sanford (without acknowledging they are on a short list) as two excellent conservatives; 2) In the strongest terms I have heard he endorsed the legal system in place for the 6 Guantanamo terrorists and declared that nothing in the Geneva Convention or our experience with the World War II war crime trials suggested these people were entitled to the same legal protections as U.S. citizens; and 3) repeated his determination to eliminate earmarks, although offered to work with members of Congress on how to phase them out.

Overall, this was one of his more impressive calls. His tone was calm and confident, his rhetoric in taking on the Democrats more forceful than it has been. You can slowly sense that he is doing his level best to transition from maverick to nominee and party leader.

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Jacoby and the Path to Citizenship

He doesn’t get the attention that he deserves because he doesn’t work for one of the big Washington or New York publications, but Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe is one of America’s best conservative columnists. Therefore it is significant that in his column today he endorses an idea I’ve been pushing for a while: letting volunteers without Green Cards or American citizenship sign up to serve in our armed forces.

We already have procedures in place to expedite the citizenship process for permanent residents in uniform. But Jacoby argues that

the ability to earn American citizenship through military service needn’t be limited to legal immigrants. Among the millions of illegal immigrants living in the United States are an estimated 750,000 young men and women of military age, many of whom would welcome the opportunity to become US citizens in return for serving in the armed forces.

Expanding the recruitment pool to include them would make it easier for the military to build up its ranks without having to lower its standards. And what better way for illegal immigrants to come “out of the shadows” and assimilate fully into American life than by wearing their adopted country’s uniform in wartime?

Going further, he endorses an idea that Mike O’Hanlon and I have put forward of “opening military service not just to immigrants already here but to would-be immigrants elsewhere.”

This is an idea that raises predictable hackles from nativists, but as we’ve seen in this campaign season, the anti-immigrant lobby, while vocal and well-organized, hardly speaks for a majority of Republicans, much less a majority of Americans–or else John McCain, their bête noire, would never have won the Republican nomination.

Secretary of Defense Bob Gates has it within his power with the stroke of a pen to waive the Green Card requirement for enlistment. He should do it now. Otherwise the army in particular will have a hard time attracting all the high-quality volunteers that it needs, not only to fill today’s force but also the larger force we need to build for the future.

He doesn’t get the attention that he deserves because he doesn’t work for one of the big Washington or New York publications, but Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe is one of America’s best conservative columnists. Therefore it is significant that in his column today he endorses an idea I’ve been pushing for a while: letting volunteers without Green Cards or American citizenship sign up to serve in our armed forces.

We already have procedures in place to expedite the citizenship process for permanent residents in uniform. But Jacoby argues that

the ability to earn American citizenship through military service needn’t be limited to legal immigrants. Among the millions of illegal immigrants living in the United States are an estimated 750,000 young men and women of military age, many of whom would welcome the opportunity to become US citizens in return for serving in the armed forces.

Expanding the recruitment pool to include them would make it easier for the military to build up its ranks without having to lower its standards. And what better way for illegal immigrants to come “out of the shadows” and assimilate fully into American life than by wearing their adopted country’s uniform in wartime?

Going further, he endorses an idea that Mike O’Hanlon and I have put forward of “opening military service not just to immigrants already here but to would-be immigrants elsewhere.”

This is an idea that raises predictable hackles from nativists, but as we’ve seen in this campaign season, the anti-immigrant lobby, while vocal and well-organized, hardly speaks for a majority of Republicans, much less a majority of Americans–or else John McCain, their bête noire, would never have won the Republican nomination.

Secretary of Defense Bob Gates has it within his power with the stroke of a pen to waive the Green Card requirement for enlistment. He should do it now. Otherwise the army in particular will have a hard time attracting all the high-quality volunteers that it needs, not only to fill today’s force but also the larger force we need to build for the future.

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Iraqi Reconciliation Made Official

Iraq’s Parliament has passed three laws vital to Iraqi reconciliation—almost simultaneously with this Nancy Pelosi pronouncement on Iraq: “The gains have not produced the desired effect, which is the reconciliation of Iraq. This is a failure. This is a failure.”

The three laws are a law clarifying provincial powers, an amnesty for jailed Iraqis, and the 2008 budget. Not only does this prove Nancy Pelosi (and Hillary and Obama) wrong on the charge of no political progress, but this Iraqi Parliament’s success should serve as a model to Speaker Pelosi and the rest of the all-time-low-rated Democratic Congress. Here’s the New York Times:

Leaders of the blocs — Shiite, Sunni and Kurd — realized that while no one of the laws could pass on its own, together, they offered something for each political constituency. So factions would swallow the measures they liked less in order to get the one they wanted.

One would think the news would put lumps in the throats of Obama’s hope and unity crowd. After all, this is the real world analog to his bottomless rhetoric. But this crucial fulfillment of hope doesn’t fit the Democrats’ failed war platform.

As Adnan Dulaimi, the head of the National Accordance Front said, “The Iraqi Parliament has approved the three laws, and this is the greatest achievement possible for the Iraqi people.” And the Democrats’ worst nightmare.

Iraq’s Parliament has passed three laws vital to Iraqi reconciliation—almost simultaneously with this Nancy Pelosi pronouncement on Iraq: “The gains have not produced the desired effect, which is the reconciliation of Iraq. This is a failure. This is a failure.”

The three laws are a law clarifying provincial powers, an amnesty for jailed Iraqis, and the 2008 budget. Not only does this prove Nancy Pelosi (and Hillary and Obama) wrong on the charge of no political progress, but this Iraqi Parliament’s success should serve as a model to Speaker Pelosi and the rest of the all-time-low-rated Democratic Congress. Here’s the New York Times:

Leaders of the blocs — Shiite, Sunni and Kurd — realized that while no one of the laws could pass on its own, together, they offered something for each political constituency. So factions would swallow the measures they liked less in order to get the one they wanted.

One would think the news would put lumps in the throats of Obama’s hope and unity crowd. After all, this is the real world analog to his bottomless rhetoric. But this crucial fulfillment of hope doesn’t fit the Democrats’ failed war platform.

As Adnan Dulaimi, the head of the National Accordance Front said, “The Iraqi Parliament has approved the three laws, and this is the greatest achievement possible for the Iraqi people.” And the Democrats’ worst nightmare.

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Olmert’s Misguided Optimism

Credit Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert with one thing: he’s probably the only world leader more publicly optimistic about Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects than George W. Bush. Yesterday, Olmert announced that Israel would begin negotiating final borders with the Palestinians, the ongoing crisis in Gaza notwithstanding. “On this issue there is a set of previous understandings and international backing,” Olmert said, raising expectations in the Israeli press for an “easy” solution.

Of course, Olmert is delusional—Israeli-Palestinian consensus on border issues is light years away. Just ask the Arabic press, which completely ignored Olmert’s negotiations announcement. Instead, the Palestine News Agency, al-Jazeera, and al-Quds placed Israel’s decision to construct new housing units in East Jerusalem among its top headlines, while al-Hayat al-Jadida bemoaned “the Judaization of Jerusalem.” Meanwhile, al-Ayyam’s coverage of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s visit to Washington emphasized his call for an end to Israeli settlement activity—an appropriate focus, given Fayyad’s newly avowed pessimism towards the peace process.

The source of this widening gap between Israeli and Palestinian leaders’ outlooks appears to be Olmert’s fixation on Bush’s April 2004 letter to then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, which Olmert cited in his call for border negotiations. In this letter, Bush acknowledged that, “it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.” At the time, Israelis interpreted this as recognizing settlement blocs along the Green Line as a diplomatic reward for the forthcoming Gaza disengagement, thus removing the mutual exclusivity of land-for-peace with settlement expansion.

In fact, the letter recognized no such thing. Rather, it simply allowed for the possibility that future Israeli-Palestinian negotiations would opt for “mutually agreed changes” to the Green Line in establishing final borders, and promised to endorse these changes if they were formulated by the two sides. Moreover, the letter made repeated reference to the Road Map, the first phase of which explicitly calls on Israel to freeze settlement activity.

Of course, settlement activity is not the primary reason for the absence of Israeli-Palestinian peace. Indeed, considering the full-scale guerilla war that will likely hit Gaza in the near future, the settlements are small beans. Still, the Prime Minister’s inability to recognize the distance that exists between him and his Palestinian counterparts on borders—which is roughly the distance between the Green Line and the eastern edge of Har Homa—is confounding. If Olmert hopes to bridge that distance, he would be well advised to match his stated goals with policy, finally acknowledging the extent to which continued settlement building is inconsistent with peace efforts.

Credit Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert with one thing: he’s probably the only world leader more publicly optimistic about Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects than George W. Bush. Yesterday, Olmert announced that Israel would begin negotiating final borders with the Palestinians, the ongoing crisis in Gaza notwithstanding. “On this issue there is a set of previous understandings and international backing,” Olmert said, raising expectations in the Israeli press for an “easy” solution.

Of course, Olmert is delusional—Israeli-Palestinian consensus on border issues is light years away. Just ask the Arabic press, which completely ignored Olmert’s negotiations announcement. Instead, the Palestine News Agency, al-Jazeera, and al-Quds placed Israel’s decision to construct new housing units in East Jerusalem among its top headlines, while al-Hayat al-Jadida bemoaned “the Judaization of Jerusalem.” Meanwhile, al-Ayyam’s coverage of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s visit to Washington emphasized his call for an end to Israeli settlement activity—an appropriate focus, given Fayyad’s newly avowed pessimism towards the peace process.

The source of this widening gap between Israeli and Palestinian leaders’ outlooks appears to be Olmert’s fixation on Bush’s April 2004 letter to then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, which Olmert cited in his call for border negotiations. In this letter, Bush acknowledged that, “it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.” At the time, Israelis interpreted this as recognizing settlement blocs along the Green Line as a diplomatic reward for the forthcoming Gaza disengagement, thus removing the mutual exclusivity of land-for-peace with settlement expansion.

In fact, the letter recognized no such thing. Rather, it simply allowed for the possibility that future Israeli-Palestinian negotiations would opt for “mutually agreed changes” to the Green Line in establishing final borders, and promised to endorse these changes if they were formulated by the two sides. Moreover, the letter made repeated reference to the Road Map, the first phase of which explicitly calls on Israel to freeze settlement activity.

Of course, settlement activity is not the primary reason for the absence of Israeli-Palestinian peace. Indeed, considering the full-scale guerilla war that will likely hit Gaza in the near future, the settlements are small beans. Still, the Prime Minister’s inability to recognize the distance that exists between him and his Palestinian counterparts on borders—which is roughly the distance between the Green Line and the eastern edge of Har Homa—is confounding. If Olmert hopes to bridge that distance, he would be well advised to match his stated goals with policy, finally acknowledging the extent to which continued settlement building is inconsistent with peace efforts.

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Are Nuclear Weapons Boring?

In the cold war, they were certainly not. U.S. nuclear forces were almost continually on a state of high alert, with land- and submarine-based missile crews always preparing for imminent action and B-52 pilots readying to take off at a moment’s notice. The men and women involved in maintaining U.S. nuclear weapons were a uniquely important force, with a high sense of purpose and élan. They understood that their mission was strategic deterrence and that success at maintaining a state of readiness would help ensure that their terribly destructive weapons would never be used in anger.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, U.S. nuclear forces, including the units responsible for care of the weapons, have been reduced in size, there have been no modernization programs, and responsibility for nuclear forces has been dispersed throughout the Pentagon; there is no one command with overall authority over the weapons.

These factors helped to underpin the “Broken Arrow” episode of August 30, 2007, in which the Air Force essentially lost control of a handful of nuclear-armed cruise missiles, with a B-52 flying them across the country under the mistaken belief that the warheads were disarmed or carried conventional explosives.

The immediate cause of the incident was a breakdown of procedures at the Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota. But a study by the Defense Science Board suggests that even if tight procedures are put back in place, the safe care and maintenance of these fearsome weapons is going to be a difficult long-term challenge. Since the end of the cold war, it reports,

there has been a marked decline in the level and intensity of focus on the nuclear enterprise and the nuclear  mission. The decline in focus took place gradually as changes were made to policies, procedures, and processes. Now, when comparing the current level of focus to that of 1990, the aggregate change is dramatic. The Task Force and several of the senior DoD people interviewed believe that the decline in focus has been more pronounced than realized and too extreme to be acceptable. The decline is characterized by embedding nuclear mission forces in non-nuclear organizations, markedly reduced levels of leadership whose daily focus is the nuclear enterprise, and a general devaluation of the nuclear mission and those who perform the mission.

This is frightening stuff. And doubly frightening because there is no quick fix. The Defense Science Board has offered a whole series of recommendations designed to change the culture of U.S. nuclear forces and restore to them a sense of mission. But the inescapable truth is that with the end of the cold war, the primary task of U.S. nuclear forces is no longer deterrence but keeping accidents from happening within our own arsenal. This is an essential mission, but it is not a glorious one, and it will remain difficult to attract the most talented men and women in our armed forces into this branch of service. 

The problem is triply frightening because if U.S. nuclear forces are suffering from such difficulties, what is going on elsewhere in the world, in Russia, say, or in Pakistan?

In light of all this, I have a question for readers. Which of the following problems is most worrying?

1. Global warming.

2. The Bush administration’s alleged violations of FISA. 

3. Loose nuclear weapons.

 

In the cold war, they were certainly not. U.S. nuclear forces were almost continually on a state of high alert, with land- and submarine-based missile crews always preparing for imminent action and B-52 pilots readying to take off at a moment’s notice. The men and women involved in maintaining U.S. nuclear weapons were a uniquely important force, with a high sense of purpose and élan. They understood that their mission was strategic deterrence and that success at maintaining a state of readiness would help ensure that their terribly destructive weapons would never be used in anger.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, U.S. nuclear forces, including the units responsible for care of the weapons, have been reduced in size, there have been no modernization programs, and responsibility for nuclear forces has been dispersed throughout the Pentagon; there is no one command with overall authority over the weapons.

These factors helped to underpin the “Broken Arrow” episode of August 30, 2007, in which the Air Force essentially lost control of a handful of nuclear-armed cruise missiles, with a B-52 flying them across the country under the mistaken belief that the warheads were disarmed or carried conventional explosives.

The immediate cause of the incident was a breakdown of procedures at the Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota. But a study by the Defense Science Board suggests that even if tight procedures are put back in place, the safe care and maintenance of these fearsome weapons is going to be a difficult long-term challenge. Since the end of the cold war, it reports,

there has been a marked decline in the level and intensity of focus on the nuclear enterprise and the nuclear  mission. The decline in focus took place gradually as changes were made to policies, procedures, and processes. Now, when comparing the current level of focus to that of 1990, the aggregate change is dramatic. The Task Force and several of the senior DoD people interviewed believe that the decline in focus has been more pronounced than realized and too extreme to be acceptable. The decline is characterized by embedding nuclear mission forces in non-nuclear organizations, markedly reduced levels of leadership whose daily focus is the nuclear enterprise, and a general devaluation of the nuclear mission and those who perform the mission.

This is frightening stuff. And doubly frightening because there is no quick fix. The Defense Science Board has offered a whole series of recommendations designed to change the culture of U.S. nuclear forces and restore to them a sense of mission. But the inescapable truth is that with the end of the cold war, the primary task of U.S. nuclear forces is no longer deterrence but keeping accidents from happening within our own arsenal. This is an essential mission, but it is not a glorious one, and it will remain difficult to attract the most talented men and women in our armed forces into this branch of service. 

The problem is triply frightening because if U.S. nuclear forces are suffering from such difficulties, what is going on elsewhere in the world, in Russia, say, or in Pakistan?

In light of all this, I have a question for readers. Which of the following problems is most worrying?

1. Global warming.

2. The Bush administration’s alleged violations of FISA. 

3. Loose nuclear weapons.

 

Read Less

Good Riddance: Imad Mugniyeh

Great news from Syria. Imad Mughniyeh, one of the world’s worst terrorists, has been killed by a car bomb in Damascus. He is all but forgotten now, but Mughniyeh, a leader of Hezbollah, was the original Osama bin Laden—a terrorist kingpin who was responsible for hundreds of deaths, primarily Americans and Israelis. He had a $25 million American bounty on his head, the same size as the reward for bin Laden. It’s not hard to see why. This AP story sums up his reign of terror:

Mughniyeh, who had been in hiding for years, was among the fugitives indicted in the United States for the 1985 hijacking of a TWA airliner in which a U.S. Navy diver was killed. He was also suspected of masterminding attacks on the U.S. Embassy and the Marine base in Lebanon that killed more than 260 Americans in the 1980s when he was then the Iranian-backed Hezbollah’s security chief.

Mughniyeh, 45, was also the reputed leader of a group that held Westerners hostage in Lebanon, among them journalist Terry Anderson, a former Associated Press chief Middle East correspondent who was held captive for six years.

Mughniyeh is also believed by Israel to have been involved in planning the 1992 bombing of Israel’s embassy in Argentina in which 29 people were killed and the blast at a Buenos Aires Jewish center two years later that killed 95.

Hezbollah predictably blamed Israel for his death. That’s quite possible, although it’s also possible that he was killed by Syria’s intelligence services (for whom car bombings are a favorite assassination technique) or by a competing faction of Islamist thugs.

I would like to think there is even a chance he was killed by American operatives from the CIA or Special Operations Command. But while possible that seems unlikely; car bombs aren’t a typical American touch, and our commandos are not known for operating in Syria—although they should be.

Frankly it’s a disgrace that our forces didn’t manage to kill Mugniyeh long ago, a problem that can be attributed largely to the excessive caution that numerous American administrations, from Reagan on, have displayed in fighting terrorists. Robert Baer’s book See No Evil provides some details.

Even if it occurred far too late, the civilized world should rejoice at the demise of this monster. But keep in mind that Hezbollah has plenty of other killers just as vicious and cruel waiting in the wings.

Great news from Syria. Imad Mughniyeh, one of the world’s worst terrorists, has been killed by a car bomb in Damascus. He is all but forgotten now, but Mughniyeh, a leader of Hezbollah, was the original Osama bin Laden—a terrorist kingpin who was responsible for hundreds of deaths, primarily Americans and Israelis. He had a $25 million American bounty on his head, the same size as the reward for bin Laden. It’s not hard to see why. This AP story sums up his reign of terror:

Mughniyeh, who had been in hiding for years, was among the fugitives indicted in the United States for the 1985 hijacking of a TWA airliner in which a U.S. Navy diver was killed. He was also suspected of masterminding attacks on the U.S. Embassy and the Marine base in Lebanon that killed more than 260 Americans in the 1980s when he was then the Iranian-backed Hezbollah’s security chief.

Mughniyeh, 45, was also the reputed leader of a group that held Westerners hostage in Lebanon, among them journalist Terry Anderson, a former Associated Press chief Middle East correspondent who was held captive for six years.

Mughniyeh is also believed by Israel to have been involved in planning the 1992 bombing of Israel’s embassy in Argentina in which 29 people were killed and the blast at a Buenos Aires Jewish center two years later that killed 95.

Hezbollah predictably blamed Israel for his death. That’s quite possible, although it’s also possible that he was killed by Syria’s intelligence services (for whom car bombings are a favorite assassination technique) or by a competing faction of Islamist thugs.

I would like to think there is even a chance he was killed by American operatives from the CIA or Special Operations Command. But while possible that seems unlikely; car bombs aren’t a typical American touch, and our commandos are not known for operating in Syria—although they should be.

Frankly it’s a disgrace that our forces didn’t manage to kill Mugniyeh long ago, a problem that can be attributed largely to the excessive caution that numerous American administrations, from Reagan on, have displayed in fighting terrorists. Robert Baer’s book See No Evil provides some details.

Even if it occurred far too late, the civilized world should rejoice at the demise of this monster. But keep in mind that Hezbollah has plenty of other killers just as vicious and cruel waiting in the wings.

Read Less

Garbage In, Garbage Out

Much of the TV punditry last night was based on exit polling from Virginia showing that it was a one-point race. Those exit polls (as were the ones in California, Arizona, Delaware and a number of other states this primary season) were wrong, really wrong. John McCain in fact won by 11 points and reached the 50% threshold. However, not only did TV commentators continue to refer to the race as “close” but they used those very same numbers as proof positive that McCain has an ongoing problem with evangelicals and conservatives. Perhaps he does, but faulty polls are not the starting part to make the case.

In fact, when you look at actual returns, McCain did remarkably well in key areas throughout the state — Norfolk and Newport News (military communities), northern suburbia (Loudon, Fairfax) and, as Karl Rove pointed out, the 7th Congressional District (Eric Cantor) in the middle of the state, which will be critical in the general election. All in all it was an impressive showing. (Beyond that, the conservative and evangelical “problem” seems illusory since Barack Obama, not Mike Huckabee, will be on the ballot in all likelihood and increasingly high percentages of all Republicans indicate they are satisfied with McCain as the nominee.)

One thing that the TV pundits got right: Huckabee has essentially been eliminated. While the McCain camp is apparently not too pleased by his continued presence in the race, so long as McCain racks up healthy wins, ignores the exit polls (and the wrongheaded commentary which flows from it) and begins, as he did last night, to formulate a general-election message, there seems to be little harm done in waiting several more weeks for Huckabee formally to leave the race.

Much of the TV punditry last night was based on exit polling from Virginia showing that it was a one-point race. Those exit polls (as were the ones in California, Arizona, Delaware and a number of other states this primary season) were wrong, really wrong. John McCain in fact won by 11 points and reached the 50% threshold. However, not only did TV commentators continue to refer to the race as “close” but they used those very same numbers as proof positive that McCain has an ongoing problem with evangelicals and conservatives. Perhaps he does, but faulty polls are not the starting part to make the case.

In fact, when you look at actual returns, McCain did remarkably well in key areas throughout the state — Norfolk and Newport News (military communities), northern suburbia (Loudon, Fairfax) and, as Karl Rove pointed out, the 7th Congressional District (Eric Cantor) in the middle of the state, which will be critical in the general election. All in all it was an impressive showing. (Beyond that, the conservative and evangelical “problem” seems illusory since Barack Obama, not Mike Huckabee, will be on the ballot in all likelihood and increasingly high percentages of all Republicans indicate they are satisfied with McCain as the nominee.)

One thing that the TV pundits got right: Huckabee has essentially been eliminated. While the McCain camp is apparently not too pleased by his continued presence in the race, so long as McCain racks up healthy wins, ignores the exit polls (and the wrongheaded commentary which flows from it) and begins, as he did last night, to formulate a general-election message, there seems to be little harm done in waiting several more weeks for Huckabee formally to leave the race.

Read Less




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