Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 26, 2008

Ma Wins. Now What?

The New York Times regularly signals changes in the conventional wisdom of our foreign policy elite. Careful reading of its reporting on the election of Ma Ying-jeou as president of Taiwan suggests that the impossiblilities of the policies laid down in the 1970’s are now, gradually, being faced.

To be sure, the Times editorial page joins in the official delight at the overwhelming defeat of the Democratic Progressive Party of the widely vilified President Chen Shuibian, who “spent much of the last eight years baiting Beijing, talking about independence, and seeking international recognition.”

With the departure of Chen, and the election of a president of Chinese ancestry, fluent in English and with a degree from Harvard Law School, the Times sees “a chance for a healthy new start” in Taiwan-China relations. “Mr. Ma has proposed economic opening to China, military confidence building measures, and “a diplomatic framework in which the two sides simply acknowledge each other’s existence.” “The Bush administration” it tells us “is already pressing Beijing to work with Mr. Ma”–this even before he has been inaugurated.

The hopes of both the Times and of Washington are likely to be disappointed. When that happens, they will both face a test.

To begin with, Ma has stated that China must dismantle the thousand-plus missiles with which she currently targets the island. He has also welcomed a visit to his country by the Dalai Lama. That is already enough to enrage Beijing, but only a start.

The truly tricky task, as the newspaper noted two days earlier, will be for Ma “to find a formula that balances Beijing’s position that Taiwan is a breakaway province and Taiwan’s position that it is a sovereign country.”

Finding such a formula will be more than tricky. It will be impossible without the (highly unlikely) amendment of the Chinese constitution, which explicitly claims Taiwan as a province—a fact the Times does not mention.

The result? The “healthy new start” that the Times anticipates will likely lead nowhere. Like every elected president of Taiwan, Ma will have to choose between standing for what his people want and yielding to Beijing. When Ma likely refuses to yield, Beijing will castigate him and call on Washington to do the same—as we always have in the past.

But maybe not this time. The conclusion of the editorial suggests that the blame for failure may now be laid at Beijing’s door.

“China’s authoritarian ways are backfiring in Tibet,” the editorial concludes. “Whatever Beijing’s fantasies about unification, it is not likely to happen soon-and maybe not ever–given Taiwan’s strong commitment to political and economic freedom. China would be better off following Mr. Ma’s lead . . .”

Following Mr. Ma is something that Beijing is unlikely to do. But for Washington, like the Times, to offer steady support to realistic proposals by Taiwan’s democratically-elected government would be a genuinely constructive change.

The New York Times regularly signals changes in the conventional wisdom of our foreign policy elite. Careful reading of its reporting on the election of Ma Ying-jeou as president of Taiwan suggests that the impossiblilities of the policies laid down in the 1970’s are now, gradually, being faced.

To be sure, the Times editorial page joins in the official delight at the overwhelming defeat of the Democratic Progressive Party of the widely vilified President Chen Shuibian, who “spent much of the last eight years baiting Beijing, talking about independence, and seeking international recognition.”

With the departure of Chen, and the election of a president of Chinese ancestry, fluent in English and with a degree from Harvard Law School, the Times sees “a chance for a healthy new start” in Taiwan-China relations. “Mr. Ma has proposed economic opening to China, military confidence building measures, and “a diplomatic framework in which the two sides simply acknowledge each other’s existence.” “The Bush administration” it tells us “is already pressing Beijing to work with Mr. Ma”–this even before he has been inaugurated.

The hopes of both the Times and of Washington are likely to be disappointed. When that happens, they will both face a test.

To begin with, Ma has stated that China must dismantle the thousand-plus missiles with which she currently targets the island. He has also welcomed a visit to his country by the Dalai Lama. That is already enough to enrage Beijing, but only a start.

The truly tricky task, as the newspaper noted two days earlier, will be for Ma “to find a formula that balances Beijing’s position that Taiwan is a breakaway province and Taiwan’s position that it is a sovereign country.”

Finding such a formula will be more than tricky. It will be impossible without the (highly unlikely) amendment of the Chinese constitution, which explicitly claims Taiwan as a province—a fact the Times does not mention.

The result? The “healthy new start” that the Times anticipates will likely lead nowhere. Like every elected president of Taiwan, Ma will have to choose between standing for what his people want and yielding to Beijing. When Ma likely refuses to yield, Beijing will castigate him and call on Washington to do the same—as we always have in the past.

But maybe not this time. The conclusion of the editorial suggests that the blame for failure may now be laid at Beijing’s door.

“China’s authoritarian ways are backfiring in Tibet,” the editorial concludes. “Whatever Beijing’s fantasies about unification, it is not likely to happen soon-and maybe not ever–given Taiwan’s strong commitment to political and economic freedom. China would be better off following Mr. Ma’s lead . . .”

Following Mr. Ma is something that Beijing is unlikely to do. But for Washington, like the Times, to offer steady support to realistic proposals by Taiwan’s democratically-elected government would be a genuinely constructive change.

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Obama Doesn’t Have A “Jewish Problem.” Really.

Barack Obama has no imperfection or shortcoming that can’t be glossed over by liberal pundits. The latest gloss: he has no Jewish problem and all this “guilt by association” is terribly imprecise and unfair.

You see, Obama is not responsible for Reverend Wright or Tony McPeak. But what about Samantha Power, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Robert Malley? Isn’t it reasonable to ask “Why does Barack Obama have so many foreign policy and national security advisers whose statements about Israel and American Jews are problematic? ” Apparently we should not hold him responsible for selecting these individuals, nor attribute any of their views to him. And we shouldn’t be bothered either, I suppose, by his own comment that “nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people.”

The evidence that none of this matters? A Gallup poll showing Obama and Clinton splitting the Jewish vote. Others have pointed out that this does not tell us whether Jewish general election voters, given the choice between John McCain and Obama, will stick with the latter.

While it is correct that Jewish voters have favored Democrats in presidential elections, the GOP share of the Jewish vote has risen steadily. Will American Jews stick by a Democratic candidate who surrounds himself with the type of advisors Obama has, who feels unable to reject his pastor even after vile anti-Semitic remarks become known (and still insists his remarks are no big deal, apparently because the really objectionable ones only number “five or six”), and whose foreign policy embraces the notion of meeting with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? We’ll get a hint with the primary in Pennsylvania, a state with a significant number of Jewish voters (5% in the hotly contested 2006 Senate race).

But everything is fine, perfectly fine, say the liberal media Obamaphiles. (And the Italian vote isn’t a problem, either.)

Barack Obama has no imperfection or shortcoming that can’t be glossed over by liberal pundits. The latest gloss: he has no Jewish problem and all this “guilt by association” is terribly imprecise and unfair.

You see, Obama is not responsible for Reverend Wright or Tony McPeak. But what about Samantha Power, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Robert Malley? Isn’t it reasonable to ask “Why does Barack Obama have so many foreign policy and national security advisers whose statements about Israel and American Jews are problematic? ” Apparently we should not hold him responsible for selecting these individuals, nor attribute any of their views to him. And we shouldn’t be bothered either, I suppose, by his own comment that “nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people.”

The evidence that none of this matters? A Gallup poll showing Obama and Clinton splitting the Jewish vote. Others have pointed out that this does not tell us whether Jewish general election voters, given the choice between John McCain and Obama, will stick with the latter.

While it is correct that Jewish voters have favored Democrats in presidential elections, the GOP share of the Jewish vote has risen steadily. Will American Jews stick by a Democratic candidate who surrounds himself with the type of advisors Obama has, who feels unable to reject his pastor even after vile anti-Semitic remarks become known (and still insists his remarks are no big deal, apparently because the really objectionable ones only number “five or six”), and whose foreign policy embraces the notion of meeting with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? We’ll get a hint with the primary in Pennsylvania, a state with a significant number of Jewish voters (5% in the hotly contested 2006 Senate race).

But everything is fine, perfectly fine, say the liberal media Obamaphiles. (And the Italian vote isn’t a problem, either.)

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Our Next Message to Beijing

Today, the Chinese Foreign Ministry expressed “serious concern and strong dissatisfaction” with a mistaken shipment of American military parts to Taiwan. It then urged the United States to report the details to Beijing so as to eliminate “severe consequences.” The Taiwanese had requested replacement battery packs for their American-made helicopters. Instead, they received four nose-cone fuse assemblies used to trigger nuclear weapons.

The sharp Chinese reaction came after yesterday’s Pentagon announcement that the Defense Logistics Agency had made the incorrect shipment to Taiwan in August 2006. The Taiwanese had noticed the mistake and contacted U.S. authorities in early 2007, yet it was only last Thursday before anyone in the Defense Department realized what had actually been sent. Defense Secretary Gates and President Bush were informed on Friday.

“Our policy on Taiwan arms sales has not changed,” said Ryan Henry, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, yesterday. “This specific incident was an error in process only, and is not indicative of our policies, which remain unchanged.”

But should they remain unchanged? Many argue that, if we want to make sure there is no war in the Taiwan Strait, we should help the Taiwanese build a bomb or, better yet, just give them a few weapons in order to create a stable balance of terror with China. Moreover, some believe that the threat to arm Taiwan and Japan would be the most effective way to get Beijing to stop supporting the nuclear weapons programs of North Korea and Iran.

These proposals, despite apparent advantages, do not represent sound policy choices, at least at this moment. For one thing, both would be clear violations of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the global pact that in fact prevents the spread of nukes. Yet if we don’t disarm Kim Jong Il and stop Iran’s “atomic ayatollahs” now, we will undoubtedly see the rapid dispersion of nuclear weapons soon. As Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has noted, about forty nations have the capability to develop the bomb within a decade.

The primary reason that prevents them from doing so is the so-called “nuclear taboo,” which is reinforced by the nonproliferation treaty. Once weapons technology starts to spread to dangerous states, however, other nations will have no choice but to accumulate atomic arsenals to defend themselves. When that happens, the nonproliferation agreement will become a dead letter. Some analysts, like Kenneth Waltz, think the world could be more stable then, but I know it will be worse. Things cannot get better when tyrants, terrorists, and thugs will be able to bring on Armageddon.

So what should we now say to the angry Chinese? Today, we should confirm that the shipment to Taiwan was an error. Tomorrow, the message may be different. If the Chinese continue to prevent us from disarming North Korea and stopping Iran, we should say that our next transfer of warhead mechanisms to the Taiwanese will not be a mistake.

Today, the Chinese Foreign Ministry expressed “serious concern and strong dissatisfaction” with a mistaken shipment of American military parts to Taiwan. It then urged the United States to report the details to Beijing so as to eliminate “severe consequences.” The Taiwanese had requested replacement battery packs for their American-made helicopters. Instead, they received four nose-cone fuse assemblies used to trigger nuclear weapons.

The sharp Chinese reaction came after yesterday’s Pentagon announcement that the Defense Logistics Agency had made the incorrect shipment to Taiwan in August 2006. The Taiwanese had noticed the mistake and contacted U.S. authorities in early 2007, yet it was only last Thursday before anyone in the Defense Department realized what had actually been sent. Defense Secretary Gates and President Bush were informed on Friday.

“Our policy on Taiwan arms sales has not changed,” said Ryan Henry, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, yesterday. “This specific incident was an error in process only, and is not indicative of our policies, which remain unchanged.”

But should they remain unchanged? Many argue that, if we want to make sure there is no war in the Taiwan Strait, we should help the Taiwanese build a bomb or, better yet, just give them a few weapons in order to create a stable balance of terror with China. Moreover, some believe that the threat to arm Taiwan and Japan would be the most effective way to get Beijing to stop supporting the nuclear weapons programs of North Korea and Iran.

These proposals, despite apparent advantages, do not represent sound policy choices, at least at this moment. For one thing, both would be clear violations of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the global pact that in fact prevents the spread of nukes. Yet if we don’t disarm Kim Jong Il and stop Iran’s “atomic ayatollahs” now, we will undoubtedly see the rapid dispersion of nuclear weapons soon. As Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has noted, about forty nations have the capability to develop the bomb within a decade.

The primary reason that prevents them from doing so is the so-called “nuclear taboo,” which is reinforced by the nonproliferation treaty. Once weapons technology starts to spread to dangerous states, however, other nations will have no choice but to accumulate atomic arsenals to defend themselves. When that happens, the nonproliferation agreement will become a dead letter. Some analysts, like Kenneth Waltz, think the world could be more stable then, but I know it will be worse. Things cannot get better when tyrants, terrorists, and thugs will be able to bring on Armageddon.

So what should we now say to the angry Chinese? Today, we should confirm that the shipment to Taiwan was an error. Tomorrow, the message may be different. If the Chinese continue to prevent us from disarming North Korea and stopping Iran, we should say that our next transfer of warhead mechanisms to the Taiwanese will not be a mistake.

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Pakistan’s Glitzy New Government

Pakistani-American women may soon be compelled to embrace humility and subservience in larger and larger numbers. But the women of Pakistan’s new political elite are unfazed. In a curious article—part political analysis, part red carpet dish—the AP’s Lauren Frayer offers a glimpse of what representative government looks like amid the violent changes in Pakistan.

In the last parliament, about a dozen female lawmakers from the religious alliance wore body-shrouding black veils that concealed everything except their eyes.

But as parliament elected its first female speaker Wednesday, just a single lawmaker — one of 74 women in the 342-seat house — covered her face with a light beige wrap. Others wore traditional flowing gowns, some with bare heads and others with their hair only partially covered by loose scarves.

Fehmida Mirza, a medical doctor, is the first woman elected as National Assembly speaker in Pakistan’s 60-year history.

Half a dozen other female lawmakers touched her shoulders as Mirza, wearing a diamond nose ring and an elegant lavender tunic embroidered with silver rosettes and a deep V-neck, rose to take her oath.

“We are writing a new chapter in history,” she said, diamond-studded pearl droplet earrings and a pouf of dark hair springing out from under her sheer veil. She repeatedly touched her forehead in a gesture of thanks to her peers a thick gold bracelet sliding down her arm.

“Benazir’s dream has come true,” said fellow party member Farzana Raja. “We have proven we’re not only chanting slogans for women’s empowerment — we’re taking practical steps,” she said, shoving the designer sunglasses back on her head and letting her headscarf slip off.

“Benazir” is, of course, the late Benazir Bhutto. And while her political dream was indeed heavy on female emancipation and glam, her historical relationship to governance was always accessorized by entitlement and corruption. The question at hand is: to what extent will that part of the Bhutto legacy live on? Ms. Frayer spoke with a number of people who objected to the ostentation of upper-class politicos in a country so wracked with want. A good deal of what she describes (gold-trimmed SUV’s, for instance) is troublingly reminiscent of Saudi decadence. But it is important to note that the new, bejeweled parliament is at least free of Wahhabist sentiments. And all that bling is evidence of an increasingly secular Pakistan. Ms. Frayer spoke to a police officer who summed up the situation:

“Islam doesn’t allow women to unveil themselves, but the atmosphere in Pakistan is changing day by day. You can see it in the fashion here,” he said, requesting anonymity because he was not allowed to speak to the media.

“It’s a bit of a charade, but it’s also a big sign of democracy and hope,” he said.

The forging of a consensually-governed Pakistan can allow for a little charade. As long as they don’t lose sight of the democracy and hope.

Pakistani-American women may soon be compelled to embrace humility and subservience in larger and larger numbers. But the women of Pakistan’s new political elite are unfazed. In a curious article—part political analysis, part red carpet dish—the AP’s Lauren Frayer offers a glimpse of what representative government looks like amid the violent changes in Pakistan.

In the last parliament, about a dozen female lawmakers from the religious alliance wore body-shrouding black veils that concealed everything except their eyes.

But as parliament elected its first female speaker Wednesday, just a single lawmaker — one of 74 women in the 342-seat house — covered her face with a light beige wrap. Others wore traditional flowing gowns, some with bare heads and others with their hair only partially covered by loose scarves.

Fehmida Mirza, a medical doctor, is the first woman elected as National Assembly speaker in Pakistan’s 60-year history.

Half a dozen other female lawmakers touched her shoulders as Mirza, wearing a diamond nose ring and an elegant lavender tunic embroidered with silver rosettes and a deep V-neck, rose to take her oath.

“We are writing a new chapter in history,” she said, diamond-studded pearl droplet earrings and a pouf of dark hair springing out from under her sheer veil. She repeatedly touched her forehead in a gesture of thanks to her peers a thick gold bracelet sliding down her arm.

“Benazir’s dream has come true,” said fellow party member Farzana Raja. “We have proven we’re not only chanting slogans for women’s empowerment — we’re taking practical steps,” she said, shoving the designer sunglasses back on her head and letting her headscarf slip off.

“Benazir” is, of course, the late Benazir Bhutto. And while her political dream was indeed heavy on female emancipation and glam, her historical relationship to governance was always accessorized by entitlement and corruption. The question at hand is: to what extent will that part of the Bhutto legacy live on? Ms. Frayer spoke with a number of people who objected to the ostentation of upper-class politicos in a country so wracked with want. A good deal of what she describes (gold-trimmed SUV’s, for instance) is troublingly reminiscent of Saudi decadence. But it is important to note that the new, bejeweled parliament is at least free of Wahhabist sentiments. And all that bling is evidence of an increasingly secular Pakistan. Ms. Frayer spoke to a police officer who summed up the situation:

“Islam doesn’t allow women to unveil themselves, but the atmosphere in Pakistan is changing day by day. You can see it in the fashion here,” he said, requesting anonymity because he was not allowed to speak to the media.

“It’s a bit of a charade, but it’s also a big sign of democracy and hope,” he said.

The forging of a consensually-governed Pakistan can allow for a little charade. As long as they don’t lose sight of the democracy and hope.

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In Defense of Hillary

Yesterday (as Jennifer noted) Sen. Hillary Clinton spoke for the first time about the association between the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Sen. Barack Obama, saying “getting up and moving” would have been the right response to hearing Wright’s sermons. According to the Washington Post:

Wright “would not have been my pastor,” Clinton said during an interview with the conservative editorial board of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review… “You don’t choose your family, but you choose what church you want to attend,” she said. Obama refused to disavow Wright even as he said he disagreed with some of his sermons…. Clinton, speaking in Pittsburgh, cited her earlier condemnation of radio host Don Imus, after he insulted the Rutgers‘ women’s basketball team, as an example of how Obama should have reacted to his pastor’s words. “You know, I spoke out against Don Imus, saying that hate speech was unacceptable in any setting, and I believe that,” the paper quoted Clinton as saying. “I think you have to speak out against that. You certainly have to do that, if not explicitly, then implicitly by getting up and moving.”

In response Bill Burton, an Obama spokesman, said this:

After originally refusing to play politics with this issue, it’s disappointing to see Hillary Clinton’s campaign sink to this low in a transparent effort to distract attention away from the story she made up about dodging sniper fire in Bosnia. The truth is, Barack Obama has already spoken out against his pastor’s offensive comments and addressed the issue of race in America with a deeply personal and uncommonly honest speech. The American people deserve better than tired political games that do nothing to solve the larger challenges facing this country.

Actually, what Senator Clinton said is perfectly reasonable. You don’t choose your family but you do choose your church–and it’s reasonable to ask why Senator Obama chose to attend Trinity United Church of Christ. It’s even more reasonable to ask why Obama, once he was exposed to the worldview of Reverend Wright, never confronted him over his anti-American views and never left the church. That was the obvious and right thing to do. For Obama not to have done so was, in part, a failure of courage and judgment on his part.

Nor do we know what “fierce” and “controversial” things Wright said from the pulpit that Obama now admits to having heard and with which he strongly disagreed. What did Reverend Wright say, and when did he say it? Those questions are certainly legitimate and answerable.

There is nothing “low” in what Mrs. Clinton said. What is unfolding is a transparent attempt by the Obama campaign, in conjunction with some in the media, to declare the Wright matter off-limits–to argue that (a) Obama’s Philadelphia speech put the matter to rest; (b) Obama is the victim of a smear campaign; (c) he should be left alone so he can lead our desperately important national conversation on race; and (d) those who continue to press the Wright matter are attempting to swiftboat Obama.

These complaints are not logically sustainable. Try as they might, Obama’s defenders in the campaign and the media will not succeed in putting an end to this matter. If it can be done, only Obama himself can do it. And so far, he’s failed. His long, close association with the hate-spewing Jeremiah Wright remains, and rightly so, a stain on Barack Obama.

Yesterday (as Jennifer noted) Sen. Hillary Clinton spoke for the first time about the association between the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Sen. Barack Obama, saying “getting up and moving” would have been the right response to hearing Wright’s sermons. According to the Washington Post:

Wright “would not have been my pastor,” Clinton said during an interview with the conservative editorial board of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review… “You don’t choose your family, but you choose what church you want to attend,” she said. Obama refused to disavow Wright even as he said he disagreed with some of his sermons…. Clinton, speaking in Pittsburgh, cited her earlier condemnation of radio host Don Imus, after he insulted the Rutgers‘ women’s basketball team, as an example of how Obama should have reacted to his pastor’s words. “You know, I spoke out against Don Imus, saying that hate speech was unacceptable in any setting, and I believe that,” the paper quoted Clinton as saying. “I think you have to speak out against that. You certainly have to do that, if not explicitly, then implicitly by getting up and moving.”

In response Bill Burton, an Obama spokesman, said this:

After originally refusing to play politics with this issue, it’s disappointing to see Hillary Clinton’s campaign sink to this low in a transparent effort to distract attention away from the story she made up about dodging sniper fire in Bosnia. The truth is, Barack Obama has already spoken out against his pastor’s offensive comments and addressed the issue of race in America with a deeply personal and uncommonly honest speech. The American people deserve better than tired political games that do nothing to solve the larger challenges facing this country.

Actually, what Senator Clinton said is perfectly reasonable. You don’t choose your family but you do choose your church–and it’s reasonable to ask why Senator Obama chose to attend Trinity United Church of Christ. It’s even more reasonable to ask why Obama, once he was exposed to the worldview of Reverend Wright, never confronted him over his anti-American views and never left the church. That was the obvious and right thing to do. For Obama not to have done so was, in part, a failure of courage and judgment on his part.

Nor do we know what “fierce” and “controversial” things Wright said from the pulpit that Obama now admits to having heard and with which he strongly disagreed. What did Reverend Wright say, and when did he say it? Those questions are certainly legitimate and answerable.

There is nothing “low” in what Mrs. Clinton said. What is unfolding is a transparent attempt by the Obama campaign, in conjunction with some in the media, to declare the Wright matter off-limits–to argue that (a) Obama’s Philadelphia speech put the matter to rest; (b) Obama is the victim of a smear campaign; (c) he should be left alone so he can lead our desperately important national conversation on race; and (d) those who continue to press the Wright matter are attempting to swiftboat Obama.

These complaints are not logically sustainable. Try as they might, Obama’s defenders in the campaign and the media will not succeed in putting an end to this matter. If it can be done, only Obama himself can do it. And so far, he’s failed. His long, close association with the hate-spewing Jeremiah Wright remains, and rightly so, a stain on Barack Obama.

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Don’t Be Starting The Coronation Yet

Hillary Clinton, for the second day in a row, prompts us to think long and hard about Reverend Wright. In a Time interview she says:

Well that’s really up to the press and the public to determine, but I was asked specifically today what I would do if I had been in a similar situation and it was obviously a personal opinion of mine and I said, you know, I would have left because that would not have been something I was comfortable with. But it’s very personal and I think people are kind of thinking about it and are trying to determine what they believe about it.

Given Clinton’s polling fetish, you can bet that she’s sees good reason to keep nudging the story along, despite the conclusion from liberal pundits that everything is fine, perfectly fine, for their favorite son.

And there’s no sign that Clinton sees the handwriting on the wall on the delegate front. She reminds us:

We’re both going to be short, and when you think about the many millions of people who have already voted, we are separated by a relatively small percentage of votes. We’re separated by, you know, a little more than a hundred delegates. I’ve won states that Democrats need to win in the general election in order to win the White House and obviously the strategy on the other side is to try to shut this race down, but I don’t think voters want that.

What’s her ace in the hole? Why, Michigan and Florida of course. If you thought Bush v. Gore became a rallying cry for “voter disenfranchisement,” wait until the street rallies over “delegate stripping” get under way. Clinton declares:

And there’s additional problems of Florida and Michigan, because I still don’t see how the Democrats don’t figure out a way to make sure their votes are counted. And I don’t understand what Senator Obama was afraid of when I agreed and the DNC signed off on a re-vote in Michigan and he said no. So we’re just going to keep this process going through these next contests.

So the Clinton game plan is clear: bank on Wright being a game changer, don’t for a moment show any inclination to pack it in and, if all else fails, raise one heck of a fuss over the “lost” delegates. This thing isn’t close to being over.

Hillary Clinton, for the second day in a row, prompts us to think long and hard about Reverend Wright. In a Time interview she says:

Well that’s really up to the press and the public to determine, but I was asked specifically today what I would do if I had been in a similar situation and it was obviously a personal opinion of mine and I said, you know, I would have left because that would not have been something I was comfortable with. But it’s very personal and I think people are kind of thinking about it and are trying to determine what they believe about it.

Given Clinton’s polling fetish, you can bet that she’s sees good reason to keep nudging the story along, despite the conclusion from liberal pundits that everything is fine, perfectly fine, for their favorite son.

And there’s no sign that Clinton sees the handwriting on the wall on the delegate front. She reminds us:

We’re both going to be short, and when you think about the many millions of people who have already voted, we are separated by a relatively small percentage of votes. We’re separated by, you know, a little more than a hundred delegates. I’ve won states that Democrats need to win in the general election in order to win the White House and obviously the strategy on the other side is to try to shut this race down, but I don’t think voters want that.

What’s her ace in the hole? Why, Michigan and Florida of course. If you thought Bush v. Gore became a rallying cry for “voter disenfranchisement,” wait until the street rallies over “delegate stripping” get under way. Clinton declares:

And there’s additional problems of Florida and Michigan, because I still don’t see how the Democrats don’t figure out a way to make sure their votes are counted. And I don’t understand what Senator Obama was afraid of when I agreed and the DNC signed off on a re-vote in Michigan and he said no. So we’re just going to keep this process going through these next contests.

So the Clinton game plan is clear: bank on Wright being a game changer, don’t for a moment show any inclination to pack it in and, if all else fails, raise one heck of a fuss over the “lost” delegates. This thing isn’t close to being over.

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McCain Never Had It So Good

It was shocking enough when, five days ago, a Franklin & Marshall College poll showed that 19 percent of Hillary’s supporters would vote for John McCain if Barack Obama were to earn the Democratic nomination. Today, a new Gallup poll shows that number to have jumped 9 points to 28 percent. Almost a third! Interestingly, last week’s poll showed that 20 percent of Obama’s supporters would vote for John McCain if Hillary got the Democratic nomination, and today’s poll shows that number to have dropped to 19 percent.

This is further evidence of what most everyone seems to be coming around to: Obama had a catastrophic week. But it’s too early to see the effect of Hillary’s Bosnian adventure. One assumes that next week’s numbers will show that she’s taken some sort of hit. And then? Perhaps Michelle Obama will sound off, or a new Wright sermon will be uncovered, and the scales will tip again. With the delegate math firmly stacking up in Obama’s favor, the Democrats are now locked in a race to determine one thing: who can help John McCain more.

It was shocking enough when, five days ago, a Franklin & Marshall College poll showed that 19 percent of Hillary’s supporters would vote for John McCain if Barack Obama were to earn the Democratic nomination. Today, a new Gallup poll shows that number to have jumped 9 points to 28 percent. Almost a third! Interestingly, last week’s poll showed that 20 percent of Obama’s supporters would vote for John McCain if Hillary got the Democratic nomination, and today’s poll shows that number to have dropped to 19 percent.

This is further evidence of what most everyone seems to be coming around to: Obama had a catastrophic week. But it’s too early to see the effect of Hillary’s Bosnian adventure. One assumes that next week’s numbers will show that she’s taken some sort of hit. And then? Perhaps Michelle Obama will sound off, or a new Wright sermon will be uncovered, and the scales will tip again. With the delegate math firmly stacking up in Obama’s favor, the Democrats are now locked in a race to determine one thing: who can help John McCain more.

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Money for Nothing

The news came last week that the United States would commence the transfer of some $150 million to the Palestinian Authority. This week, the European Commission announced that it, too, was turning on the cash spigot and releasing an astonishing €300 million — about $473 million.

Perhaps someone has a mischievous sense of humor. Today Haaretz reports that the American military officials responsible for monitoring compliance with the Road Map have made it known — you’re sitting down, aren’t you? — that the PA hasn’t really attempted to do anything about Palestinian terrorism:

[T]he Americans are concerned that the PA does not engage in the full spectrum of counterterrorism activities, including arrests, interrogation and trial, as it would if it were trying to eradicate the armed wings of Islamic terrorist organizations. Instead, it makes do with trying to “contain” terror — to prevent specific attacks, and to keep Hamas from growing strong enough to threaten Fatah’s rule in the West Bank.

The PA security services do occasionally arrest members of Islamic organizations, but they do not then follow up with the other steps in the “chain of prevention”: interrogations, arrests of additional operatives, indictments and trials. Trials generally take place only if the PA is under external pressure…And when they do take place, they are generally hasty affairs.

Well, maybe the influx of over half a billion dollars in foreign aid will help the PA finally get its security operation into better shape. I kid, I kid.

The news came last week that the United States would commence the transfer of some $150 million to the Palestinian Authority. This week, the European Commission announced that it, too, was turning on the cash spigot and releasing an astonishing €300 million — about $473 million.

Perhaps someone has a mischievous sense of humor. Today Haaretz reports that the American military officials responsible for monitoring compliance with the Road Map have made it known — you’re sitting down, aren’t you? — that the PA hasn’t really attempted to do anything about Palestinian terrorism:

[T]he Americans are concerned that the PA does not engage in the full spectrum of counterterrorism activities, including arrests, interrogation and trial, as it would if it were trying to eradicate the armed wings of Islamic terrorist organizations. Instead, it makes do with trying to “contain” terror — to prevent specific attacks, and to keep Hamas from growing strong enough to threaten Fatah’s rule in the West Bank.

The PA security services do occasionally arrest members of Islamic organizations, but they do not then follow up with the other steps in the “chain of prevention”: interrogations, arrests of additional operatives, indictments and trials. Trials generally take place only if the PA is under external pressure…And when they do take place, they are generally hasty affairs.

Well, maybe the influx of over half a billion dollars in foreign aid will help the PA finally get its security operation into better shape. I kid, I kid.

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McCain’s Pivot

Most candidates face a challenge going from a primary (where they have appealed to their base) to the general election (where they must offer more centrist message). John McCain is fortunate in that his primary message is his general election message. No significant policy readjustments appear needed to capture moderates and independents. Indeed, the pressure on McCain has been to go back and become more conservative to satisfy disgruntled elements on the Right–a plea he so far has ignored.

The challenge McCain does face is beefing up his domestic policy positions. Many voters suspect, I think, that McCain lacks interest in domestic matters. The flap with Mitt Romney over whether McCain admitted his lack of economic expertise only re-enforced this concern. On Tuesday, McCain began to address this problem with a detailed speech on the housing crisis. He generally got positive reviews from market-oriented commentators and avoided sacrificing conservative economic principles in the rush to soothe nervous voters/home owners.

This speech cannot be an isolated set piece. In his stump speech and town hall meetings McCain needs to talk fluently and frequently on the economy, free trade, and healthcare. (As to the latter, he actually has a very interesting proposal that addresses affordability and access to health insurance without a government mandate.)

His choice of a VP might also help. While McCain cannot appear to be subcontracting out his economic policy responsiblities, it would be wise to select someone with economic expertise, especially in the regulation of financial institutions or in budget and trade policy.

But make no mistake: McCain must convince voters he is knowledgable and engaged on domestic policy. Having substantially assisted in promoting and defending the surge, he may now be a victim of its success. Voters are turning their attention away from Iraq (which is receding from the front pages, except for the occasional acknowledgment of “grim milestones” like the 4000th casualty last week) and looking for answers on domestic issues.

Most candidates face a challenge going from a primary (where they have appealed to their base) to the general election (where they must offer more centrist message). John McCain is fortunate in that his primary message is his general election message. No significant policy readjustments appear needed to capture moderates and independents. Indeed, the pressure on McCain has been to go back and become more conservative to satisfy disgruntled elements on the Right–a plea he so far has ignored.

The challenge McCain does face is beefing up his domestic policy positions. Many voters suspect, I think, that McCain lacks interest in domestic matters. The flap with Mitt Romney over whether McCain admitted his lack of economic expertise only re-enforced this concern. On Tuesday, McCain began to address this problem with a detailed speech on the housing crisis. He generally got positive reviews from market-oriented commentators and avoided sacrificing conservative economic principles in the rush to soothe nervous voters/home owners.

This speech cannot be an isolated set piece. In his stump speech and town hall meetings McCain needs to talk fluently and frequently on the economy, free trade, and healthcare. (As to the latter, he actually has a very interesting proposal that addresses affordability and access to health insurance without a government mandate.)

His choice of a VP might also help. While McCain cannot appear to be subcontracting out his economic policy responsiblities, it would be wise to select someone with economic expertise, especially in the regulation of financial institutions or in budget and trade policy.

But make no mistake: McCain must convince voters he is knowledgable and engaged on domestic policy. Having substantially assisted in promoting and defending the surge, he may now be a victim of its success. Voters are turning their attention away from Iraq (which is receding from the front pages, except for the occasional acknowledgment of “grim milestones” like the 4000th casualty last week) and looking for answers on domestic issues.

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Our New National Standards, Courtesy of Hillary and Barack

Speaking on behalf of a troubled nation, I would like to thank Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for establishing new standards by which we can all live. For example, from now on if I arrive home two hours later than I said I was going to, and my wife indignantly asks me where I had been, I will simply say that I came under sniper fire. This is sure to be followed by expressions of concern and worry, and a request to inform her of the details, followed by a relaxing shoulder massage and the insistence that I get a good night’s sleep. Only the next morning, I expect, will the fact that the news indicates there was no sniper fire anywhere in the New York region, will a follow-up question be asked. At which time I can say that I misspoke and I am very sorry.

Obama, too, has offered a new approach. From now on, any time I am asked any question about any topic of controversy involving Jews, I will simply say that I can no more disavow the Jew in question any more than I can disavow my grandmother. Meir Kahane? Baruch Goldstein? That rabbi in New Jersey who hired a hit man to kill his wife? How could I disavow them any more than I could disavow my own grandmother? I ask you.

Speaking on behalf of a troubled nation, I would like to thank Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for establishing new standards by which we can all live. For example, from now on if I arrive home two hours later than I said I was going to, and my wife indignantly asks me where I had been, I will simply say that I came under sniper fire. This is sure to be followed by expressions of concern and worry, and a request to inform her of the details, followed by a relaxing shoulder massage and the insistence that I get a good night’s sleep. Only the next morning, I expect, will the fact that the news indicates there was no sniper fire anywhere in the New York region, will a follow-up question be asked. At which time I can say that I misspoke and I am very sorry.

Obama, too, has offered a new approach. From now on, any time I am asked any question about any topic of controversy involving Jews, I will simply say that I can no more disavow the Jew in question any more than I can disavow my grandmother. Meir Kahane? Baruch Goldstein? That rabbi in New Jersey who hired a hit man to kill his wife? How could I disavow them any more than I could disavow my own grandmother? I ask you.

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California (Muslim) Girls

Today the New York Times has an article about the many Muslim Pakistani-Americans in Lodi, California who are schooling their daughters at home. At least in the case of 17-year-old Hajra Bibi, her parents had an excellent reason:

Her family wanted her to clean and cook for her male relatives, and had also worried that other American children would mock both her Muslim religion and her traditional clothes.

Substituting hard labor for teasing isn’t a parental approach you’re likely to find on Dr. Phil. However, there is something distinctly American about this phenomenon. In Pakistan there is very little room left to fantasize about the benefits of Koranic society. Failed government, non-existent security, and dilapidated infrastructure have made such preoccupations significantly less appealing. But in the exurbs of San Francisco, where goods and services abound, Pakistani-Americans are as free as other spacey Californians to go after their eccentric sociopolitical dreams .

But this is not as quaint as, say, a communally worked vineyard. The kind of isolationism these families are instituting is exactly what’s brought about the Islamist problem in England. When these communities cut off their children from larger American society, they raise a generation of domestic extremists at odds with their host country. Which, as far as I can tell, is fine with the parents interviewed by the New York Times. As the article points out, “[T]he intent is also to isolate their adolescent and teenage daughters from the corrupting influences that they see in much of American life.”

This cannot stand. America has had an advantage over places such as England, Denmark, and France in that our Muslim immigrants flow, for the most part, into the larger cultural mainstream, whereas theirs recreate their homelands in microcosm. If our liberal attitudes toward other cultures begin to facilitate the fostering of extremists within our own borders, we’re sunk.

The first thing Lodi’s local councils need to do is get some child-advocacy groups involved and investigate the lives of these American girls who cook, clean, and serve their male relatives in the name of Allah. After that, they might want to look into their kitchen table curriculum. After all, al-Qaeda’s own Adam Gadahn was home-schooled in the suburbs of the Golden state.

Today the New York Times has an article about the many Muslim Pakistani-Americans in Lodi, California who are schooling their daughters at home. At least in the case of 17-year-old Hajra Bibi, her parents had an excellent reason:

Her family wanted her to clean and cook for her male relatives, and had also worried that other American children would mock both her Muslim religion and her traditional clothes.

Substituting hard labor for teasing isn’t a parental approach you’re likely to find on Dr. Phil. However, there is something distinctly American about this phenomenon. In Pakistan there is very little room left to fantasize about the benefits of Koranic society. Failed government, non-existent security, and dilapidated infrastructure have made such preoccupations significantly less appealing. But in the exurbs of San Francisco, where goods and services abound, Pakistani-Americans are as free as other spacey Californians to go after their eccentric sociopolitical dreams .

But this is not as quaint as, say, a communally worked vineyard. The kind of isolationism these families are instituting is exactly what’s brought about the Islamist problem in England. When these communities cut off their children from larger American society, they raise a generation of domestic extremists at odds with their host country. Which, as far as I can tell, is fine with the parents interviewed by the New York Times. As the article points out, “[T]he intent is also to isolate their adolescent and teenage daughters from the corrupting influences that they see in much of American life.”

This cannot stand. America has had an advantage over places such as England, Denmark, and France in that our Muslim immigrants flow, for the most part, into the larger cultural mainstream, whereas theirs recreate their homelands in microcosm. If our liberal attitudes toward other cultures begin to facilitate the fostering of extremists within our own borders, we’re sunk.

The first thing Lodi’s local councils need to do is get some child-advocacy groups involved and investigate the lives of these American girls who cook, clean, and serve their male relatives in the name of Allah. After that, they might want to look into their kitchen table curriculum. After all, al-Qaeda’s own Adam Gadahn was home-schooled in the suburbs of the Golden state.

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Freedom Fighter Called “Terrorist” by INS

Karen DeYoung published a story in the Washington Post that ought to embarrass anyone making decisions about who deserves permanent residence in the U.S.

Saman Kareem Ahmad is an Iraqi Kurd who worked as a translator with the Marines in Iraq’s Anbar Province. He was one of the few selected translators who was granted asylum in the U.S. because he and his family were singled out for destruction by insurgents for “collaboration.” He wants to return to Iraq as an American citizen and a Marine, and has already been awarded the Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medal and the War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter and General David Petraeus wrote notes for his file and recommended he be given a Green Card, but the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) declined his application and called him a “terrorist.”

The INS says Ahmad “conducted full-scale armed attacks and helped incite rebellions against Hussein’s regime, most notably during the Iran-Iraq war, Operation Desert Storm, and Operation Iraqi Freedom” while a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

The KDP is one of two mainstream Kurdish political parties in Iraq. Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani is a member of the KDP. The KDP fought alongside the United States military as an ally during Operation Iraqi Freedom. After Operation Desert Storm the KDP fought the Saddam regime after President George H. W. Bush called on Iraqis to do so. During the Iran-Iraq War, the KDP fought the Ba’athists because they were actively resisting genocide in the Kurdish region where Saddam used chemical weapons, artillery, air strikes, and napalm to exterminate them. And he’s a terrorist?

The Kurds in Iraq–unlike the Kurds in Turkey and the ever-popular Palestinians– did not use terrorism as a tactic in their struggle for liberation. They fought honorably against Saddam’s soldiers, not against Arab civilians in south and central Iraq.

The INS revealingly refers to the KDP as an “undesignated” terrorist organization. Which suggests it’s aware that the KDP isn’t a terrorist organization but has unilaterally labeled it as one regardless. The blogger Callimachus thinks it may be because the Patriot Act defines terrorism as “any activity which is unlawful under the laws of the place it was committed.” He correctly points out that Jews in Hitler’s Warsaw Ghetto were “terrorists” according to this brainless definition.

This is an absurd inversion of the already absurd “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” slogan. Usually this sophomoric claim is made by terrorists or by leftists who make excuses for terrorists. This time, the INS is calling an actual freedom fighter a terrorist.

Somebody should tell Vice President Dick Cheney. He met with the KDP’s Barzani himself just a few days ago. “That was a unique and interesting opportunity,” he said, “to go look at what’s happened in a part of Iraq that was obviously freed of Saddam Hussein’s influence when the U.S. went in there and established the Operation Provide Comfort at the end of the Gulf War, and then set up the ‘no fly zones,’ and so forth.” Someone might also want to inform President George W. Bush, who invited Ahmad to the White House in 2007.

It’s worth comparing this case with two others.

Sayyed Rahmatullah Hashemi was a spokesman for the Taliban in Afghanistan, yet he was admitted to Yale University in 2006, though he wasn’t given a green card, as far as I can tell. And just a few days ago, drug-trafficking prostitute and Brazilian national Andreia Schwartz was offered a green card if she would reveal what she knows about former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. But Saman Ahmad faces deportation to a country where actual terrorists threaten to kill him? The law (to say nothing of the INS) truly is “a ass,” as Mr. Bumble once observed.

Karen DeYoung published a story in the Washington Post that ought to embarrass anyone making decisions about who deserves permanent residence in the U.S.

Saman Kareem Ahmad is an Iraqi Kurd who worked as a translator with the Marines in Iraq’s Anbar Province. He was one of the few selected translators who was granted asylum in the U.S. because he and his family were singled out for destruction by insurgents for “collaboration.” He wants to return to Iraq as an American citizen and a Marine, and has already been awarded the Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medal and the War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter and General David Petraeus wrote notes for his file and recommended he be given a Green Card, but the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) declined his application and called him a “terrorist.”

The INS says Ahmad “conducted full-scale armed attacks and helped incite rebellions against Hussein’s regime, most notably during the Iran-Iraq war, Operation Desert Storm, and Operation Iraqi Freedom” while a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

The KDP is one of two mainstream Kurdish political parties in Iraq. Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani is a member of the KDP. The KDP fought alongside the United States military as an ally during Operation Iraqi Freedom. After Operation Desert Storm the KDP fought the Saddam regime after President George H. W. Bush called on Iraqis to do so. During the Iran-Iraq War, the KDP fought the Ba’athists because they were actively resisting genocide in the Kurdish region where Saddam used chemical weapons, artillery, air strikes, and napalm to exterminate them. And he’s a terrorist?

The Kurds in Iraq–unlike the Kurds in Turkey and the ever-popular Palestinians– did not use terrorism as a tactic in their struggle for liberation. They fought honorably against Saddam’s soldiers, not against Arab civilians in south and central Iraq.

The INS revealingly refers to the KDP as an “undesignated” terrorist organization. Which suggests it’s aware that the KDP isn’t a terrorist organization but has unilaterally labeled it as one regardless. The blogger Callimachus thinks it may be because the Patriot Act defines terrorism as “any activity which is unlawful under the laws of the place it was committed.” He correctly points out that Jews in Hitler’s Warsaw Ghetto were “terrorists” according to this brainless definition.

This is an absurd inversion of the already absurd “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” slogan. Usually this sophomoric claim is made by terrorists or by leftists who make excuses for terrorists. This time, the INS is calling an actual freedom fighter a terrorist.

Somebody should tell Vice President Dick Cheney. He met with the KDP’s Barzani himself just a few days ago. “That was a unique and interesting opportunity,” he said, “to go look at what’s happened in a part of Iraq that was obviously freed of Saddam Hussein’s influence when the U.S. went in there and established the Operation Provide Comfort at the end of the Gulf War, and then set up the ‘no fly zones,’ and so forth.” Someone might also want to inform President George W. Bush, who invited Ahmad to the White House in 2007.

It’s worth comparing this case with two others.

Sayyed Rahmatullah Hashemi was a spokesman for the Taliban in Afghanistan, yet he was admitted to Yale University in 2006, though he wasn’t given a green card, as far as I can tell. And just a few days ago, drug-trafficking prostitute and Brazilian national Andreia Schwartz was offered a green card if she would reveal what she knows about former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. But Saman Ahmad faces deportation to a country where actual terrorists threaten to kill him? The law (to say nothing of the INS) truly is “a ass,” as Mr. Bumble once observed.

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How Many CIA Agents Does It Take To Produce a Telephone Directory?

One of the most important functions carried out by U.S. intelligence is analysis of the vast quantities of data collected by the sixteen agencies of the intelligence community (IC). To do this job, the IC needs a lot of analysts. Who and where are they?

That has long proved to be a remarkably difficult question for senior officials to answer.

Ten years ago, one such official came up with the seemingly simple idea of creating a database that would record the names, locations, and specialties of all the analysts working in the IC.  The computers were duly programmed, but the data were never entered. What went wrong?

Thomas Fingar, the director of national intelligence for analysis, and the chairman of the National Intelligence Council, has offered a fascinating explanation in a recent talk at the Council on Foreign Relations. The database, he explained, had been

billed as a “This is where we’ll go if we need to build a task force. We needed a Serbo-Croat speaker to send out to East Armpit.” And people didn’t put that data in. Others — managers —  saw it as a free-agent list. “If I advertise what talent I’ve got, somebody . . . will try and steal it.”

The lesson here is that, try as one might to persuade people working in large organizations to cooperate for the common good, nitty-gritty career incentives will always and forever trump everything else.

Now, in the aftermath of 9/11 and other intelligence fiascos, the intelligence community is once again trying to create a telephone book. Fingar, who is running the initiative, has put out the word that being in the telephone directory is important: “If you’re not in it, it means one of two things: You don’t know anything, or your boss thinks you don’t know anything.” On top of that, a more draconian signal was sent out: “If you’re not in Fingar’s database, you’re not in a funded position.”

The results have been nothing short of astonishing. Reports Fingar:

I suddenly discovered I had 1,200 more analysts than I knew I had, even by estimating. But we can now reproduce phone book, e-mail directories. If you need to find an expert on economics in the Andean region, you can find out where they are, how to contact them. And people are using it.

Hearty congratulations are due the intelligence community. After ten years, it now has a telephone book. But where in the world is Osama bin Laden?

One of the most important functions carried out by U.S. intelligence is analysis of the vast quantities of data collected by the sixteen agencies of the intelligence community (IC). To do this job, the IC needs a lot of analysts. Who and where are they?

That has long proved to be a remarkably difficult question for senior officials to answer.

Ten years ago, one such official came up with the seemingly simple idea of creating a database that would record the names, locations, and specialties of all the analysts working in the IC.  The computers were duly programmed, but the data were never entered. What went wrong?

Thomas Fingar, the director of national intelligence for analysis, and the chairman of the National Intelligence Council, has offered a fascinating explanation in a recent talk at the Council on Foreign Relations. The database, he explained, had been

billed as a “This is where we’ll go if we need to build a task force. We needed a Serbo-Croat speaker to send out to East Armpit.” And people didn’t put that data in. Others — managers —  saw it as a free-agent list. “If I advertise what talent I’ve got, somebody . . . will try and steal it.”

The lesson here is that, try as one might to persuade people working in large organizations to cooperate for the common good, nitty-gritty career incentives will always and forever trump everything else.

Now, in the aftermath of 9/11 and other intelligence fiascos, the intelligence community is once again trying to create a telephone book. Fingar, who is running the initiative, has put out the word that being in the telephone directory is important: “If you’re not in it, it means one of two things: You don’t know anything, or your boss thinks you don’t know anything.” On top of that, a more draconian signal was sent out: “If you’re not in Fingar’s database, you’re not in a funded position.”

The results have been nothing short of astonishing. Reports Fingar:

I suddenly discovered I had 1,200 more analysts than I knew I had, even by estimating. But we can now reproduce phone book, e-mail directories. If you need to find an expert on economics in the Andean region, you can find out where they are, how to contact them. And people are using it.

Hearty congratulations are due the intelligence community. After ten years, it now has a telephone book. But where in the world is Osama bin Laden?

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More on Hillary’s Fabrication

I wanted to add my thoughts on Hillary Clinton’s fabricated story about landing under sniper fire in Bosnia in 1996. It is a damaging, and probably deeply damaging, blow to an increasingly weak and desperate candidate. It will now become fodder for late night talk show hosts. It also builds on other false claims she has made, from her role in the Northern Ireland peace talks to S-CHIP legislation. And the sniper fire tale reinforces an existing impression about the Clintons: they cannot be counted on to tell the truth in matters small or large, about them or about others, about policy or about their personal conduct. It’s worth noting, I suppose, that Senator Clinton acknowledged the story was false only after indisputable video evidence (in this case from CBS News) emerged. Like her husband and the blue dress, the Clintons only concede their untruthfulness when they’ve been caught – on camera or via DNA – in their untruths.

I have thought for a long while now that Clinton Fatigue Syndrome was real, even among Democrats, and it would emerge as the campaign unfolded. It has, in many different ways – triggered by angry and false comments by Bill Clinton to this story to much else. It brings rushing back many of the bad memories from the 1990s and reminds people how the Clintons operate, both in campaigns and while in office. There is, at core, a corruption of character.

Monday night Joe Klein was on CNN downplaying the significance of Mrs. Clinton’s tall tale:

It’s a war story, and — and she exaggerated it. And it doesn’t speak well of her. And it’s very un-Hillary like. But could I just, for the sake of the fact that we’re in silly season now, and everybody — all these candidates are totally exhausted, just plead for charity, not only for her, but for the Obama supporters… I mean, these are not the important issues in the election. The important issues are two wars, an economic crisis, and — and the need for energy independence…. The question is whether you blow up these little exaggerations that everybody makes, including candidates, to the point where it obscures the real issues in the campaign. I’m willing to give her a break on this one, even though, as I said, it’s very much unlike her, and it’s clearly her telling a war story.

It’s not clear that this “exaggeration” is un-Hillary like. In fact, as I alluded to above, there are other examples. And of course she was a key figure in the Clinton White House which, as Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post wrote at the time, followed a “pattern of knowing and reckless disregard for the truth.” It strikes me that Klein was more on target when he wrote a 1994 cover story for Newsweek, “The Politics of Promiscuity,” in which he said this:

With the Clintons, the story always is subject to further revision. The misstatements are always incremental. The “misunderstandings” are always innocent – casual, irregular: promiscuous. Trust is squandered in dribs and drabs. Does this sort of behavior also infect the president’s public life, his formulation of policy? Clearly, it does.

Hillary Clinton will almost surely lose the Democratic nomination for president; the question is how much damage she will do to herself, and to Obama and her party, in the process. I suspect the answer is a fair amount.

I wanted to add my thoughts on Hillary Clinton’s fabricated story about landing under sniper fire in Bosnia in 1996. It is a damaging, and probably deeply damaging, blow to an increasingly weak and desperate candidate. It will now become fodder for late night talk show hosts. It also builds on other false claims she has made, from her role in the Northern Ireland peace talks to S-CHIP legislation. And the sniper fire tale reinforces an existing impression about the Clintons: they cannot be counted on to tell the truth in matters small or large, about them or about others, about policy or about their personal conduct. It’s worth noting, I suppose, that Senator Clinton acknowledged the story was false only after indisputable video evidence (in this case from CBS News) emerged. Like her husband and the blue dress, the Clintons only concede their untruthfulness when they’ve been caught – on camera or via DNA – in their untruths.

I have thought for a long while now that Clinton Fatigue Syndrome was real, even among Democrats, and it would emerge as the campaign unfolded. It has, in many different ways – triggered by angry and false comments by Bill Clinton to this story to much else. It brings rushing back many of the bad memories from the 1990s and reminds people how the Clintons operate, both in campaigns and while in office. There is, at core, a corruption of character.

Monday night Joe Klein was on CNN downplaying the significance of Mrs. Clinton’s tall tale:

It’s a war story, and — and she exaggerated it. And it doesn’t speak well of her. And it’s very un-Hillary like. But could I just, for the sake of the fact that we’re in silly season now, and everybody — all these candidates are totally exhausted, just plead for charity, not only for her, but for the Obama supporters… I mean, these are not the important issues in the election. The important issues are two wars, an economic crisis, and — and the need for energy independence…. The question is whether you blow up these little exaggerations that everybody makes, including candidates, to the point where it obscures the real issues in the campaign. I’m willing to give her a break on this one, even though, as I said, it’s very much unlike her, and it’s clearly her telling a war story.

It’s not clear that this “exaggeration” is un-Hillary like. In fact, as I alluded to above, there are other examples. And of course she was a key figure in the Clinton White House which, as Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post wrote at the time, followed a “pattern of knowing and reckless disregard for the truth.” It strikes me that Klein was more on target when he wrote a 1994 cover story for Newsweek, “The Politics of Promiscuity,” in which he said this:

With the Clintons, the story always is subject to further revision. The misstatements are always incremental. The “misunderstandings” are always innocent – casual, irregular: promiscuous. Trust is squandered in dribs and drabs. Does this sort of behavior also infect the president’s public life, his formulation of policy? Clearly, it does.

Hillary Clinton will almost surely lose the Democratic nomination for president; the question is how much damage she will do to herself, and to Obama and her party, in the process. I suspect the answer is a fair amount.

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Obama’s Hollow Doctrine

Spencer Ackerman has a long piece in the American Prospect which purports to be a serious exposition of Barack Obama’s foreign policy and of his choice of foreign policy advisers. Obama is said to have big, transformative ideas: He “is offering the most sweeping liberal foreign-policy critique we’ve heard from a serious presidential contender in decades.”

I got excited reading this — the kind of expectant feeling one gets upon sitting down to read something that proposes to be new and interesting. Ackerman writes that he “spoke at length with Obama’s foreign-policy brain trust” in order to take the measure of the “new global strategy” that President Obama will implement.

So what does this new strategy entail? Well, it will be

a doctrine that first ends the politics of fear and then moves beyond a hollow, sloganeering “democracy promotion” agenda in favor of “dignity promotion,” to fix the conditions of misery that breed anti-Americanism and prevent liberty, justice, and prosperity from taking root.

So our foreign policy will be guided by “dignity promotion.” Ackerman quotes Samantha Power to flesh out the idea:

Dignity is a way to unite a lot of different strands [of foreign-policy thinking],” she says. “If you start with that, it explains why it’s not enough to spend $3 billion on refugee camps in Darfur, because the way those people are living is not the way they want to live. It’s not a human way to live. It’s graceless — an affront to your sense of dignity.

Power continues, arguing that U.S. policy should be “about meeting people where they’re at. Their fears of going hungry, or of the thug on the street. That’s the swamp that needs draining. If we’re to compete with extremism, we have to be able to provide these things that we’re not [providing].”

This is ludicrous. Islamist ideology itself is in many ways a type of “dignity promotion,” insofar as it is concerned with the recovery of Islam’s world-historical grandeur and the obliteration of western power, which is viewed as a source of humiliation and tyranny. Unfortunately for Obama and his brain trust, Islamism inspires a form of political and cultural dignity that runs far deeper than any sentiments created through enlarged American budgets for food distribution.

How does Barack Obama propose to offer Muslims the sense of dignity that they clearly derive from their participation in resistance movements whose most basic ambition is the rejection of the West? Is this really the sweeping foreign policy that Obama offers — an attempt to smother ideological radicalism with western materialism? This isn’t transformative policy; it is a banal example of defining a problem away.

You can continue reading the piece in search of specifics, but you won’t find any. It ends with a clichéd flourish:

Why not demand the destruction of al-Qaeda? Why not pursue the enlightened global leadership promised by liberal internationalism? Why not abandon fear? What is it we have to fear, exactly?

“He goes back to Roosevelt,” Power says. “Freedom from fear and freedom from want. What if we actually offered that? What if we delivered that in the developing world? That would be a transformative agenda for us.”

What does “liberal internationalism” mean in Ackerman’s imagination? What does “enlightened global leadership” entail? Does that mean we let Iran get the bomb, or not? Who knows. Now what was Ackerman saying at the beginning of his piece about hollow sloganeering?

Spencer Ackerman has a long piece in the American Prospect which purports to be a serious exposition of Barack Obama’s foreign policy and of his choice of foreign policy advisers. Obama is said to have big, transformative ideas: He “is offering the most sweeping liberal foreign-policy critique we’ve heard from a serious presidential contender in decades.”

I got excited reading this — the kind of expectant feeling one gets upon sitting down to read something that proposes to be new and interesting. Ackerman writes that he “spoke at length with Obama’s foreign-policy brain trust” in order to take the measure of the “new global strategy” that President Obama will implement.

So what does this new strategy entail? Well, it will be

a doctrine that first ends the politics of fear and then moves beyond a hollow, sloganeering “democracy promotion” agenda in favor of “dignity promotion,” to fix the conditions of misery that breed anti-Americanism and prevent liberty, justice, and prosperity from taking root.

So our foreign policy will be guided by “dignity promotion.” Ackerman quotes Samantha Power to flesh out the idea:

Dignity is a way to unite a lot of different strands [of foreign-policy thinking],” she says. “If you start with that, it explains why it’s not enough to spend $3 billion on refugee camps in Darfur, because the way those people are living is not the way they want to live. It’s not a human way to live. It’s graceless — an affront to your sense of dignity.

Power continues, arguing that U.S. policy should be “about meeting people where they’re at. Their fears of going hungry, or of the thug on the street. That’s the swamp that needs draining. If we’re to compete with extremism, we have to be able to provide these things that we’re not [providing].”

This is ludicrous. Islamist ideology itself is in many ways a type of “dignity promotion,” insofar as it is concerned with the recovery of Islam’s world-historical grandeur and the obliteration of western power, which is viewed as a source of humiliation and tyranny. Unfortunately for Obama and his brain trust, Islamism inspires a form of political and cultural dignity that runs far deeper than any sentiments created through enlarged American budgets for food distribution.

How does Barack Obama propose to offer Muslims the sense of dignity that they clearly derive from their participation in resistance movements whose most basic ambition is the rejection of the West? Is this really the sweeping foreign policy that Obama offers — an attempt to smother ideological radicalism with western materialism? This isn’t transformative policy; it is a banal example of defining a problem away.

You can continue reading the piece in search of specifics, but you won’t find any. It ends with a clichéd flourish:

Why not demand the destruction of al-Qaeda? Why not pursue the enlightened global leadership promised by liberal internationalism? Why not abandon fear? What is it we have to fear, exactly?

“He goes back to Roosevelt,” Power says. “Freedom from fear and freedom from want. What if we actually offered that? What if we delivered that in the developing world? That would be a transformative agenda for us.”

What does “liberal internationalism” mean in Ackerman’s imagination? What does “enlightened global leadership” entail? Does that mean we let Iran get the bomb, or not? Who knows. Now what was Ackerman saying at the beginning of his piece about hollow sloganeering?

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The Politics of Tax Returns

Barack Obama’s tax returns have been released. It turns out he hasn’t given a lot to charity (though he’s not as stingy as Al Gore and and doesn’t itemize his underwear) and that the Obamas’ income doesn’t quite mesh with their tales of financial woe.

That said, the main purpose of the release is to put pressure on Hillary Clinton to release her tax returns, which she has promised to do before the Pennsylvania primary. Now, barring some glaring evidence of hypocrisy ( John Edwards’ employment by a hedge fund while he vilified them comes to mind), I doubt this sort of thing changes many voters’ minds. Unless there is some deep, dark reason why the Clintons have delayed and delayed in releasing their returns.

Barack Obama’s tax returns have been released. It turns out he hasn’t given a lot to charity (though he’s not as stingy as Al Gore and and doesn’t itemize his underwear) and that the Obamas’ income doesn’t quite mesh with their tales of financial woe.

That said, the main purpose of the release is to put pressure on Hillary Clinton to release her tax returns, which she has promised to do before the Pennsylvania primary. Now, barring some glaring evidence of hypocrisy ( John Edwards’ employment by a hedge fund while he vilified them comes to mind), I doubt this sort of thing changes many voters’ minds. Unless there is some deep, dark reason why the Clintons have delayed and delayed in releasing their returns.

Read Less




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