Commentary Magazine


Posts For: April 3, 2008

Cuddling Kafir Law

In Malaysia Islamic lawyers want to extend an existing ban on cuddling between unwed Muslims to cover flirty infidels, too. Here’s Reuters:

Experts in sharia law, which currently applies only to Malaysia’s majority Muslims, proposed at a seminar that there should be a civil law to deal with non-Muslims found committing the Islamic crime of khalwat, or close proximity, with a Muslim.

This may come as devastating news to Barack Obama, who has pledged to meet with leaders of all Muslim nations and, in his own terminology, “bridge the gap” between Muslims and Westerners. A teleconference may have to suffice, after all.

“The Muslims can be sentenced in sharia courts and the non-Muslim partners can probably be sentenced in the civil courts, to be fair to both parties,” said a senior Malaysian sharia-court judge.

Novel use of the word “fair.”

In Malaysia Islamic lawyers want to extend an existing ban on cuddling between unwed Muslims to cover flirty infidels, too. Here’s Reuters:

Experts in sharia law, which currently applies only to Malaysia’s majority Muslims, proposed at a seminar that there should be a civil law to deal with non-Muslims found committing the Islamic crime of khalwat, or close proximity, with a Muslim.

This may come as devastating news to Barack Obama, who has pledged to meet with leaders of all Muslim nations and, in his own terminology, “bridge the gap” between Muslims and Westerners. A teleconference may have to suffice, after all.

“The Muslims can be sentenced in sharia courts and the non-Muslim partners can probably be sentenced in the civil courts, to be fair to both parties,” said a senior Malaysian sharia-court judge.

Novel use of the word “fair.”

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Abu Ghraib America vs. 9/11 America

Lee Smith has a terrific piece today that asks: If and when Obama talks to our enemies, what will he say to them? Lee thinks the answer, in keeping with the theme of dignity promotion, will be: “We’re sorry.”

What’s unique about Obama, we now recognize, is that the notion of “talking to your enemies” is not just a diplomatic cliché. He will indeed hear out the obscurantist regimes that plot against U.S. citizens, allies, and interests, just as he sat still while his obscurantist preacher fulminated against “white America.” Will he manage to persuade his interlocutors in Tehran and Damascus to modify their behavior in Iraq, Lebanon, the Persian Gulf, Israel, and the Palestinian territories? Of course not . . .

The candidate appeals to many Americans who agree that the United States deserves to be taken down a peg or two, not just because of Iraq, or Guantanamo, or for failing to sign the Kyoto protocols, but because of historical grievances, like slavery — what Senator Obama called this secular republic’s “original sin.” America is too powerful, too arrogant, and needs to be humbled, and Obama is the man to do it, for the sake of the rest of the world.

It has always struck me that in terms of foreign policy, Obama appeals most profoundly to people who view the current age primarily through the lens of Abu Ghraib, in which American arrogance and cruelty has caused a great deal of suffering in the world — suffering that has engendered resentment and grievances that must be addressed at the highest levels of government. Perhaps the subtext of the presidential race, assuming an Obama-McCain matchup, will be the cultural clash of the Abu Ghraib Americans versus the 9/11 Americans.

Lee Smith has a terrific piece today that asks: If and when Obama talks to our enemies, what will he say to them? Lee thinks the answer, in keeping with the theme of dignity promotion, will be: “We’re sorry.”

What’s unique about Obama, we now recognize, is that the notion of “talking to your enemies” is not just a diplomatic cliché. He will indeed hear out the obscurantist regimes that plot against U.S. citizens, allies, and interests, just as he sat still while his obscurantist preacher fulminated against “white America.” Will he manage to persuade his interlocutors in Tehran and Damascus to modify their behavior in Iraq, Lebanon, the Persian Gulf, Israel, and the Palestinian territories? Of course not . . .

The candidate appeals to many Americans who agree that the United States deserves to be taken down a peg or two, not just because of Iraq, or Guantanamo, or for failing to sign the Kyoto protocols, but because of historical grievances, like slavery — what Senator Obama called this secular republic’s “original sin.” America is too powerful, too arrogant, and needs to be humbled, and Obama is the man to do it, for the sake of the rest of the world.

It has always struck me that in terms of foreign policy, Obama appeals most profoundly to people who view the current age primarily through the lens of Abu Ghraib, in which American arrogance and cruelty has caused a great deal of suffering in the world — suffering that has engendered resentment and grievances that must be addressed at the highest levels of government. Perhaps the subtext of the presidential race, assuming an Obama-McCain matchup, will be the cultural clash of the Abu Ghraib Americans versus the 9/11 Americans.

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Matthew Yglesias and a Kinder, Gentler Prejudice

Matthew Yglesias’ hysterical attempt to make John McCain’s biography tour seem creepy:

What I’ll say on behalf of this strategy is that it’s the best way I can think of to try to take advantage of older people’s potential discomfort with the idea of a woman or a black man in the White House that doesn’t involve exploiting racism or sexism in a discreditable way.

So, this exploits racism and sexism in a creditable way? And those odd italics in the quote don’t make much sense. Taking “advantage of older people’s potential discomfort with the idea of a woman or a black man in the White House” hits a bullseye in defining exploitation. Not that McCain is, in my opinion, doing any exploiting: he’s simply showcasing his merits, much as the other candidates have showcased theirs. And if Obama’s allowed to tout (and tout and tout and tout and tout) his biography, why not McCain? Maybe Yglesias is working twice as hard at being tendentious this week because Andrew Sullivan is on vacation.

Matthew Yglesias’ hysterical attempt to make John McCain’s biography tour seem creepy:

What I’ll say on behalf of this strategy is that it’s the best way I can think of to try to take advantage of older people’s potential discomfort with the idea of a woman or a black man in the White House that doesn’t involve exploiting racism or sexism in a discreditable way.

So, this exploits racism and sexism in a creditable way? And those odd italics in the quote don’t make much sense. Taking “advantage of older people’s potential discomfort with the idea of a woman or a black man in the White House” hits a bullseye in defining exploitation. Not that McCain is, in my opinion, doing any exploiting: he’s simply showcasing his merits, much as the other candidates have showcased theirs. And if Obama’s allowed to tout (and tout and tout and tout and tout) his biography, why not McCain? Maybe Yglesias is working twice as hard at being tendentious this week because Andrew Sullivan is on vacation.

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Food For Thought For The Left

If nothing else, John McCain’s “Bio Tour” has gotten the MSM fretting over Barack Obama’s “patriotism problem.” Joe Klein correctly notes that this aversion to patriotic sentiment is a “chronic disease among Democrats.” He acknowledges:

Patriotism is, sadly, a crucial challenge for Obama now. His aides believe that the Wright controversy was more about anti-Americanism than it was about race. Michelle Obama’s unfortunate comment that the success of the campaign had made her proud of America “for the first time” in her adult life and the Senator’s own decision to stow his American-flag lapel pin — plus his Islamic-sounding name — have fed a scurrilous undercurrent of doubt about whether he is “American” enough.

Others not known to be enamored of McCain have figured it out:

There’s a deeper, more holistic messaging attempt at work. McCain often likes to say that the country owes him nothing, but McCain owes the country everything. By contrast, McCain advisers believe that Obama’s core message is arrogance: America has problems, and only Obama can fix them; he deserves the presidency. (An irony: the incarnation of JFK – Obama – cast as the foil to Kennedy’s most famous maxim.)

Will Obama recognize this as a problem and “correct” it ? Well, there is the problem of all those past writings and associations that show, at best, an indifference to patriotic fervor. (And it won’t be easy to disguise his comfort level with those who vilify America.)

But the more fundamental issue is that Obama, as Michael Barone noted, can no more embrace full-throated patriotism than he can conceal his “insouciance or even indifference” to the outcome of the Iraq War. That’s just not his thing. Doing so would undercut his message that we should look to him (not to our country’s values, institutions, and fellow citizens) to find cures for what ails us.

If nothing else, John McCain’s “Bio Tour” has gotten the MSM fretting over Barack Obama’s “patriotism problem.” Joe Klein correctly notes that this aversion to patriotic sentiment is a “chronic disease among Democrats.” He acknowledges:

Patriotism is, sadly, a crucial challenge for Obama now. His aides believe that the Wright controversy was more about anti-Americanism than it was about race. Michelle Obama’s unfortunate comment that the success of the campaign had made her proud of America “for the first time” in her adult life and the Senator’s own decision to stow his American-flag lapel pin — plus his Islamic-sounding name — have fed a scurrilous undercurrent of doubt about whether he is “American” enough.

Others not known to be enamored of McCain have figured it out:

There’s a deeper, more holistic messaging attempt at work. McCain often likes to say that the country owes him nothing, but McCain owes the country everything. By contrast, McCain advisers believe that Obama’s core message is arrogance: America has problems, and only Obama can fix them; he deserves the presidency. (An irony: the incarnation of JFK – Obama – cast as the foil to Kennedy’s most famous maxim.)

Will Obama recognize this as a problem and “correct” it ? Well, there is the problem of all those past writings and associations that show, at best, an indifference to patriotic fervor. (And it won’t be easy to disguise his comfort level with those who vilify America.)

But the more fundamental issue is that Obama, as Michael Barone noted, can no more embrace full-throated patriotism than he can conceal his “insouciance or even indifference” to the outcome of the Iraq War. That’s just not his thing. Doing so would undercut his message that we should look to him (not to our country’s values, institutions, and fellow citizens) to find cures for what ails us.

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Blasphemers of the World Unite

Egypt’s Grand Imam Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi threatened “severe” consequences if the Dutch government doesn’t ban Parliamentarian Geert Wilders’ anti-Islamic film Fitna. It makes no difference to Tantawi and other perpetually outraged Islamists that the Netherlands is a sovereign country with its own laws. Ever since Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini condemned Salman Rushdie to death for writing the supposedly offensive Satanic Verses– and sent death squads after him and his publishers around the world–radical Islamists have seen it as their right and duty to enforce their own unilateral anti-blasphemy laws on the human race. (Meanwhile, liberal American Muslim Aziz Poonawalla hosts Fitna on his own Web site even though he, as should be expected, doesn’t like it.)

Read the rest of this web exclusive here, at COMMENTARY Online.

Egypt’s Grand Imam Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi threatened “severe” consequences if the Dutch government doesn’t ban Parliamentarian Geert Wilders’ anti-Islamic film Fitna. It makes no difference to Tantawi and other perpetually outraged Islamists that the Netherlands is a sovereign country with its own laws. Ever since Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini condemned Salman Rushdie to death for writing the supposedly offensive Satanic Verses– and sent death squads after him and his publishers around the world–radical Islamists have seen it as their right and duty to enforce their own unilateral anti-blasphemy laws on the human race. (Meanwhile, liberal American Muslim Aziz Poonawalla hosts Fitna on his own Web site even though he, as should be expected, doesn’t like it.)

Read the rest of this web exclusive here, at COMMENTARY Online.

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Most Inadvertently Hilarious Dust Jacket Copy Ever

The following words appear on the dust jacket of My Guantanamo Diary, to be published in June by PublicAffairs:

WHO EXACTLY HAS AMERICA DETAINED ALL THESE YEARS AT GUANTANAMO? THE WORST OF THE WORST? OR THE WRETCHED OF THE EARTH?

Mahvish Rukhsana Khan is an American lawyer, born to immigrant Afghan parents in Michigan. Outraged that her country was illegally imprisoning people at Guantanamo, she volunteered to translate for these prisoners. She spoke their language, understood their customs, and brought them Starbucks chai, the closest available drink to the kind of tea they would drink at home. And they quickly befriended her, offering fatherly advice as well as a uniquely personal insight into their plight, and that of their families thousands of miles away.

For Khan, the experience was a validation of her Afghan heritage–as well as her American freedoms…

Two questions. 1) Where the hell did she get Starbucks chai in Cuba? 2) Is this a joke?

The following words appear on the dust jacket of My Guantanamo Diary, to be published in June by PublicAffairs:

WHO EXACTLY HAS AMERICA DETAINED ALL THESE YEARS AT GUANTANAMO? THE WORST OF THE WORST? OR THE WRETCHED OF THE EARTH?

Mahvish Rukhsana Khan is an American lawyer, born to immigrant Afghan parents in Michigan. Outraged that her country was illegally imprisoning people at Guantanamo, she volunteered to translate for these prisoners. She spoke their language, understood their customs, and brought them Starbucks chai, the closest available drink to the kind of tea they would drink at home. And they quickly befriended her, offering fatherly advice as well as a uniquely personal insight into their plight, and that of their families thousands of miles away.

For Khan, the experience was a validation of her Afghan heritage–as well as her American freedoms…

Two questions. 1) Where the hell did she get Starbucks chai in Cuba? 2) Is this a joke?

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Ask Ayman

Taking a page from our own rich tradition of advice columnists, Ayman al-Zawahri recently decided to answer the questions that Al Qaeda supporters most desperately wished to ask. Why haven’t we seen a picture or video of Sheikh Osama in years? The lion of jihad is alive and well, says Ayman. But he seemed happier talking about the ethical nuances of infidel-killing. Someone asked:

Excuse me, Mr. Zawahri, but who is it who is killing with Your Excellency’s blessing the innocents in Baghdad, Morocco and Algeria?

A very good question. And a surprisingly forthright answer:

We haven’t killed the innocents, not in Baghdad nor in Morocco, nor in Algeria, nor anywhere else,” he said…”If there is any innocent who was killed in the Mujahideen’s operations, then it was either an unintentional error or out of necessity.

In other words: We will be as savage as we want. Please shut up about it already because it is a necessity, as defined by us. As jihadist propaganda goes, this is shabby stuff. Osama always did it better. Where did he go, anyway?

Taking a page from our own rich tradition of advice columnists, Ayman al-Zawahri recently decided to answer the questions that Al Qaeda supporters most desperately wished to ask. Why haven’t we seen a picture or video of Sheikh Osama in years? The lion of jihad is alive and well, says Ayman. But he seemed happier talking about the ethical nuances of infidel-killing. Someone asked:

Excuse me, Mr. Zawahri, but who is it who is killing with Your Excellency’s blessing the innocents in Baghdad, Morocco and Algeria?

A very good question. And a surprisingly forthright answer:

We haven’t killed the innocents, not in Baghdad nor in Morocco, nor in Algeria, nor anywhere else,” he said…”If there is any innocent who was killed in the Mujahideen’s operations, then it was either an unintentional error or out of necessity.

In other words: We will be as savage as we want. Please shut up about it already because it is a necessity, as defined by us. As jihadist propaganda goes, this is shabby stuff. Osama always did it better. Where did he go, anyway?

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“We’ve Worked Very Well with China”

Yesterday, the Associated Press reported that Chinese officials gave the International Atomic Energy Agency “intelligence” on the Iranian nuclear program. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack refused to confirm the story but had praise for Beijing: “We’ve worked very well with China on the issue of Iran.”

We have? China has done almost everything it could have to block American efforts to stop Iran. First, Beijing–along with co-conspirator Russia–prolonged discussion within the IAEA Board of Governors and then objected to referral of the matter to the Security Council. When the United States finally managed to get Iran’s case to New York, China and Russia refused to consider sanctions. As a result, the July 2006 Security Council resolution contained no enforcement measures. And when it came time to respond to Tehran’s intransigence, the pair diluted proposal after proposal as they worked their way through the Council. The sanctions that emerged from this process-contained in three sets of resolutions-are essentially meaningless.

China’s “assistance” has not only been diplomatic. The Iranians, many suspect, are in possession of the blueprints of one of the first Chinese nuclear warheads. In 2003, reports surfaced that the IAEA had identified China as one of the sources for enrichment equipment in Tehran’s suspected nuclear weapons program. In 2004, China sent Iran beryllium, which is used to trigger nukes. In 2004 and 2005, both Chinese dissidents and those inside the American intelligence community reported that China had sold either centrifuges or centrifuge parts to Iran. And Chinese nuclear-weapons specialists were working in Iran at least as late as the end of 2003. Tehran has also obtained substantial help from Pakistan and North Korea–both of whom have obtained Chinese technical assistance for their nuclear weapons programs. (Many consider them Beijing’s proxies for proliferating dangerous technologies.) Try to square all this with the following, again from McCormack: “[China doesn’t] want Iran to be able to obtain a nuclear weapon.”

“A Chinese decision to provide information for a probe into Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program could be a sign of growing international unease about the Islamic republic’s denials that it never tried to make nuclear weapons,” writes the AP’s George Jahn. Maybe Beijing realizes that IAEA or American sleuths either have or are about to obtain the information that China just turned over. Perhaps the Chinese are providing disinformation to throw everyone off the track. And it’s possible that China has finally come to the conclusion that Tehran’s weaponization of the atom is not in its interests. Whatever the case, this is no time to let the Chinese off the hook.

Yesterday, the Associated Press reported that Chinese officials gave the International Atomic Energy Agency “intelligence” on the Iranian nuclear program. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack refused to confirm the story but had praise for Beijing: “We’ve worked very well with China on the issue of Iran.”

We have? China has done almost everything it could have to block American efforts to stop Iran. First, Beijing–along with co-conspirator Russia–prolonged discussion within the IAEA Board of Governors and then objected to referral of the matter to the Security Council. When the United States finally managed to get Iran’s case to New York, China and Russia refused to consider sanctions. As a result, the July 2006 Security Council resolution contained no enforcement measures. And when it came time to respond to Tehran’s intransigence, the pair diluted proposal after proposal as they worked their way through the Council. The sanctions that emerged from this process-contained in three sets of resolutions-are essentially meaningless.

China’s “assistance” has not only been diplomatic. The Iranians, many suspect, are in possession of the blueprints of one of the first Chinese nuclear warheads. In 2003, reports surfaced that the IAEA had identified China as one of the sources for enrichment equipment in Tehran’s suspected nuclear weapons program. In 2004, China sent Iran beryllium, which is used to trigger nukes. In 2004 and 2005, both Chinese dissidents and those inside the American intelligence community reported that China had sold either centrifuges or centrifuge parts to Iran. And Chinese nuclear-weapons specialists were working in Iran at least as late as the end of 2003. Tehran has also obtained substantial help from Pakistan and North Korea–both of whom have obtained Chinese technical assistance for their nuclear weapons programs. (Many consider them Beijing’s proxies for proliferating dangerous technologies.) Try to square all this with the following, again from McCormack: “[China doesn’t] want Iran to be able to obtain a nuclear weapon.”

“A Chinese decision to provide information for a probe into Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program could be a sign of growing international unease about the Islamic republic’s denials that it never tried to make nuclear weapons,” writes the AP’s George Jahn. Maybe Beijing realizes that IAEA or American sleuths either have or are about to obtain the information that China just turned over. Perhaps the Chinese are providing disinformation to throw everyone off the track. And it’s possible that China has finally come to the conclusion that Tehran’s weaponization of the atom is not in its interests. Whatever the case, this is no time to let the Chinese off the hook.

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This Won’t Help

For those who don’t think that Barack Obama’s current advisers have problematic views about Israel, I’m sure Jimmy Carter will raise no issue. Wait, though: he’s not an advisor, you say–just a supporter. True enough. But will he be a featured speaker at the convention? And will Obama be asked about Carter’s contention that Israel practices apartheid?

Better yet, someone might ask Carter why he supports Obama: it might be their shared infatuation with dictators or their commitment to take an even-handed approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. So much in common! Perhaps Carter will consider a VP slot.

For those who don’t think that Barack Obama’s current advisers have problematic views about Israel, I’m sure Jimmy Carter will raise no issue. Wait, though: he’s not an advisor, you say–just a supporter. True enough. But will he be a featured speaker at the convention? And will Obama be asked about Carter’s contention that Israel practices apartheid?

Better yet, someone might ask Carter why he supports Obama: it might be their shared infatuation with dictators or their commitment to take an even-handed approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. So much in common! Perhaps Carter will consider a VP slot.

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Where’s the Nuance?

The Washington Post editorial board has a modest conclusion about the fighting in Basra:

What the end of the fighting demonstrated is that Mr. Maliki’s government and army are not yet strong enough to decisively impose themselves by force in areas controlled by the Mahdi Army or other militias, at least not without the full support of U.S. ground forces. The fact that such support remains available to the government no doubt contributed to Mr. Sadr’s embrace of a cease-fire. By the same token, American withdrawal could precipitate a far bloodier conflict that, if won by the Mahdi Army, would be a major reversal for U.S. interests in the Middle East. At best, the battle of Basra will persuade the Shiite parties to fight for control over the city in upcoming provincial elections, rather than in the streets. But the fact that an Iraqi government commonly described as impotent and inert now is willing and able to fight Shiite militias is a step in the right direction.

This rather restrained view seems to align with available facts. You can quibble with it, but it is a responsible attempt to assess the facts, draw conclusions and elucidate lessons which might shape future action.

But there is none–absolutely none–of this analysis to be found among the Democratic presidential contenders or members of Congress. Facts at this point are irrelevant as they pursue a determined course of retreat.

It was not too long ago that the Bush administration was attacked for being out of touch with reality and elevating ideology over facts. Democrats were irate (with some justification) that the Bush administration failed for so long to adjust our strategy to fit the deteriorating political and military situation in Iraq.

Now, the presidential contenders simply ignore the news altogether. Neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama seems interested in discussing recent developments. Neither has explained why their plan for immediate withdrawal would further our objectives. Instead, we get from Obama the vague suggestion for a “strike force” (which sounds like something from a B-movie plot: “General, send in the strike force!”) without mentioning the ground support such a force would require, or outlining its location and objectives. And I thought Democrats were opposed to unspecified military actions with ill-conceived missions.

The Washington Post editorial board has a modest conclusion about the fighting in Basra:

What the end of the fighting demonstrated is that Mr. Maliki’s government and army are not yet strong enough to decisively impose themselves by force in areas controlled by the Mahdi Army or other militias, at least not without the full support of U.S. ground forces. The fact that such support remains available to the government no doubt contributed to Mr. Sadr’s embrace of a cease-fire. By the same token, American withdrawal could precipitate a far bloodier conflict that, if won by the Mahdi Army, would be a major reversal for U.S. interests in the Middle East. At best, the battle of Basra will persuade the Shiite parties to fight for control over the city in upcoming provincial elections, rather than in the streets. But the fact that an Iraqi government commonly described as impotent and inert now is willing and able to fight Shiite militias is a step in the right direction.

This rather restrained view seems to align with available facts. You can quibble with it, but it is a responsible attempt to assess the facts, draw conclusions and elucidate lessons which might shape future action.

But there is none–absolutely none–of this analysis to be found among the Democratic presidential contenders or members of Congress. Facts at this point are irrelevant as they pursue a determined course of retreat.

It was not too long ago that the Bush administration was attacked for being out of touch with reality and elevating ideology over facts. Democrats were irate (with some justification) that the Bush administration failed for so long to adjust our strategy to fit the deteriorating political and military situation in Iraq.

Now, the presidential contenders simply ignore the news altogether. Neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama seems interested in discussing recent developments. Neither has explained why their plan for immediate withdrawal would further our objectives. Instead, we get from Obama the vague suggestion for a “strike force” (which sounds like something from a B-movie plot: “General, send in the strike force!”) without mentioning the ground support such a force would require, or outlining its location and objectives. And I thought Democrats were opposed to unspecified military actions with ill-conceived missions.

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Bush, NATO, and “Losing Face”

In spite of Vladimir Putin’s wishes, George W. Bush has succeeded in getting NATO’s endorsement for his plan to erect a missile shield in Europe. Quite a remarkable feat for a man who’s led his country into a succession of criminal military disasters. After all, hasn’t Bush done incalculable damage to America’s image abroad?

Not according to NATO. The organization’s leaders will be releasing a statement recognizing “the substantial contribution to the protection of allies . . . to be provided by the U.S.-led system,” according to senior American officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the statement’s release. Shocking praise for a nation which has lost so much face internationally.

Putin, sadly, did succeed in getting enough member states to block Georgia’s and Ukraine’s paths toward NATO membership. Bush had this to say:

NATO’s door must remain open to other nations in Europe that share our love for liberty and demonstrate a commitment to reform and seek to strengthen their ties with the trans-Atlantic community . . . We must give other nations seeking membership a full and fair hearing.

Strange words for a unilateralist cowboy bent on bulldozing his way across the globe.

For years, pundits and politicians have been bemoaning America’s loss of global credibility under the leadership of George W. Bush. Who hasn’t heard about all the “rebuilding” of trust that awaits America in the near future. Hillary Clinton’s website proclaims:

The next president’s most urgent task will be to restore America’s standing in the world to promote our interests, ensure our security, and advance our values.

Is it really the restoration of America’s image that should be on Hillary’s mind?

Her website statement goes on:

America is stronger when we lead the world through alliances and build our foreign policy on a strong foundation of bipartisan consensus.

Kind of like what Bush just did in Bucharest.

And of course, as Senator Patrick Leahy said in his endorsement of Barack Obama, “We need a president who can reintroduce America to the world. . . .” But there’s apparently stronger pro-American sentiment to be found in the most skeptical corners of NATO’s Belgium headquarters than in the pulpit of Barack Obama’s Chicago church.

Bush’s greatest foreign policy misjudgment was not one of exclusion and force, but rather inclusion and trust: He thought, a few years back, that the U.S. had a partner in Putin. The damage of that misjudgment, it’s heartening to see, can be somewhat mitigated by America’s standing as a leader among free nations.

In spite of Vladimir Putin’s wishes, George W. Bush has succeeded in getting NATO’s endorsement for his plan to erect a missile shield in Europe. Quite a remarkable feat for a man who’s led his country into a succession of criminal military disasters. After all, hasn’t Bush done incalculable damage to America’s image abroad?

Not according to NATO. The organization’s leaders will be releasing a statement recognizing “the substantial contribution to the protection of allies . . . to be provided by the U.S.-led system,” according to senior American officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the statement’s release. Shocking praise for a nation which has lost so much face internationally.

Putin, sadly, did succeed in getting enough member states to block Georgia’s and Ukraine’s paths toward NATO membership. Bush had this to say:

NATO’s door must remain open to other nations in Europe that share our love for liberty and demonstrate a commitment to reform and seek to strengthen their ties with the trans-Atlantic community . . . We must give other nations seeking membership a full and fair hearing.

Strange words for a unilateralist cowboy bent on bulldozing his way across the globe.

For years, pundits and politicians have been bemoaning America’s loss of global credibility under the leadership of George W. Bush. Who hasn’t heard about all the “rebuilding” of trust that awaits America in the near future. Hillary Clinton’s website proclaims:

The next president’s most urgent task will be to restore America’s standing in the world to promote our interests, ensure our security, and advance our values.

Is it really the restoration of America’s image that should be on Hillary’s mind?

Her website statement goes on:

America is stronger when we lead the world through alliances and build our foreign policy on a strong foundation of bipartisan consensus.

Kind of like what Bush just did in Bucharest.

And of course, as Senator Patrick Leahy said in his endorsement of Barack Obama, “We need a president who can reintroduce America to the world. . . .” But there’s apparently stronger pro-American sentiment to be found in the most skeptical corners of NATO’s Belgium headquarters than in the pulpit of Barack Obama’s Chicago church.

Bush’s greatest foreign policy misjudgment was not one of exclusion and force, but rather inclusion and trust: He thought, a few years back, that the U.S. had a partner in Putin. The damage of that misjudgment, it’s heartening to see, can be somewhat mitigated by America’s standing as a leader among free nations.

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Who Is He Talking About?

John McCain gave a speech at Annapolis on Wednesday centered on service and patriotism. (A web ad contains much of the same text.) I can’t help thinking it was a sharp criticism of a common contemporary attitude (and one assumed by Michelle Obama), an attitude of self-indulgent indifference to America’s achievements:

[C]ynicism about our country, government, social and religious institutions seems not a reaction to occasions when they have been let down by these institutions, but because the ease which wealth and opportunity have given their lives led them to the mistaken conclusion that America, and the liberties its system of government is intended to protect, just aren’t important to the quality of their lives . . .

All lives are a struggle against selfishness. All my life I’ve stood a little apart from institutions that I had willingly joined. It just felt natural to me. But if my life had shared no common purpose, it would not have amounted to much more than eccentric. There is no honor or happiness in just being strong enough to be left alone. As one of my potential opponents often observes, I’ve spent fifty years in the service of this country and its ideals. I have made many mistakes, and I have my share of regrets. But I’ve never lived a day, in good times or bad, that I wasn’t grateful for the privilege. That’s the benefit of service to a country that is an idea and a cause, a righteous idea and cause. America and her ideals helped spare me the worst consequences of the deficiencies in my character. And I cannot forget it.When I was a young man, I thought glory was the highest attainment, and all glory was self-glory. My parents had tried to teach me otherwise, as did the Naval Academy. But I didn’t understand the lesson until later in life, when I confronted challenges I never expected to face.

McCain’s speech points beyond individual heroism, beyond what he calls “self-glory.” It’s hard not to see this as being aimed, at least in part, at Barack Obama. Obama, who has cast himself as a great bridger of divides, a unifier, has crafted a campaign which is all about him. He’s elevated himself and his cause to near messianic proportions and indicted an entire political system. So he risks appearing not just arrogant, but ungrateful and ignorant about his country’s strengths and accomplishments. For those who have not drunk the Kool-Aid in the Left blogosphere, this is slowly becoming clear:

should Obama be the nominee, we’re going to see a GOP assault very similar to what hit Gore and Kerry — Obama thinks he’s better than you ordinary Joes, and he thinks patriotism is for rubes . . .

John McCain gave a speech at Annapolis on Wednesday centered on service and patriotism. (A web ad contains much of the same text.) I can’t help thinking it was a sharp criticism of a common contemporary attitude (and one assumed by Michelle Obama), an attitude of self-indulgent indifference to America’s achievements:

[C]ynicism about our country, government, social and religious institutions seems not a reaction to occasions when they have been let down by these institutions, but because the ease which wealth and opportunity have given their lives led them to the mistaken conclusion that America, and the liberties its system of government is intended to protect, just aren’t important to the quality of their lives . . .

All lives are a struggle against selfishness. All my life I’ve stood a little apart from institutions that I had willingly joined. It just felt natural to me. But if my life had shared no common purpose, it would not have amounted to much more than eccentric. There is no honor or happiness in just being strong enough to be left alone. As one of my potential opponents often observes, I’ve spent fifty years in the service of this country and its ideals. I have made many mistakes, and I have my share of regrets. But I’ve never lived a day, in good times or bad, that I wasn’t grateful for the privilege. That’s the benefit of service to a country that is an idea and a cause, a righteous idea and cause. America and her ideals helped spare me the worst consequences of the deficiencies in my character. And I cannot forget it.When I was a young man, I thought glory was the highest attainment, and all glory was self-glory. My parents had tried to teach me otherwise, as did the Naval Academy. But I didn’t understand the lesson until later in life, when I confronted challenges I never expected to face.

McCain’s speech points beyond individual heroism, beyond what he calls “self-glory.” It’s hard not to see this as being aimed, at least in part, at Barack Obama. Obama, who has cast himself as a great bridger of divides, a unifier, has crafted a campaign which is all about him. He’s elevated himself and his cause to near messianic proportions and indicted an entire political system. So he risks appearing not just arrogant, but ungrateful and ignorant about his country’s strengths and accomplishments. For those who have not drunk the Kool-Aid in the Left blogosphere, this is slowly becoming clear:

should Obama be the nominee, we’re going to see a GOP assault very similar to what hit Gore and Kerry — Obama thinks he’s better than you ordinary Joes, and he thinks patriotism is for rubes . . .

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Chinese Espionage Techniques

The FBI has stepped up counterintelligence investigations of Chinese espionage in the U.S., reports the Washington Post this morning.

The paper reprises several recent cases, including, that of Chi Mak, convicted of stealing sensitive naval technology plans from a U.S defense contractor; Dongfan Chung, a Boeing engineer arrested in February, accused of funneling classified space shuttle and rocket documents to Chinese officials; Noshir Gowadia, indicted last fall for providing cruise-missile data to Chinese officials; and Gregg W. Bergersen, a Pentagon official who pleaded guilty this week to charges that he gave classified information on U.S. weapons sales to China.

What does this flurry of cases mean? A couple of non-mutually exclusive possibilities suggest themselves. One is that the Chinese are stepping up their collection efforts in the U.S. Another is that the FBI, in stepping up its counterintelligence and its work is bearing fruit. A third — a combination of the first and second — is that Chinese intelligence is not ten-feet tall.

That last possibility is suggested by some of the amateurish spycraft displayed by the Chinese in the Bergersen case. In one sense, the operation was fairly sophisticated. Bergersen was induced to take part in a false-flag operation, that is, an operation in which he believed he was selling secrets to a U.S. ally, Taiwan, when in fact the “businessman” he was dealing with, Tai Shen Kuo, was actually a spy from the mainland.

But there was also some remarkably sloppy behavior by the Chinese in this case. An elementary task of spying is maintaining covert communications. Kuo was eager to do so and he acquired PGP Desktop Home 9.5 for Windows, a commercially available program for encrypting emails. That was smart. It was not smart, on the other hand, to discuss this encryption software on an open phone line with his taskmaster in China. The FBI was listening in on the call.

The affidavit in support of the criminal complaint against Bergersen contains many other arresting details. One high point occurs when Bergersen returns from a trip to Bulgaria and his wife finds a wad of espionage cash in his wallet. Bergersen told her it was gambling winnings. Her reaction: she insisted on taking half of it “as her share.” Bergersen related this to Kuo who offered to make up the amount that he had lost to his spouse. This generous offer was declined.

The FBI has stepped up counterintelligence investigations of Chinese espionage in the U.S., reports the Washington Post this morning.

The paper reprises several recent cases, including, that of Chi Mak, convicted of stealing sensitive naval technology plans from a U.S defense contractor; Dongfan Chung, a Boeing engineer arrested in February, accused of funneling classified space shuttle and rocket documents to Chinese officials; Noshir Gowadia, indicted last fall for providing cruise-missile data to Chinese officials; and Gregg W. Bergersen, a Pentagon official who pleaded guilty this week to charges that he gave classified information on U.S. weapons sales to China.

What does this flurry of cases mean? A couple of non-mutually exclusive possibilities suggest themselves. One is that the Chinese are stepping up their collection efforts in the U.S. Another is that the FBI, in stepping up its counterintelligence and its work is bearing fruit. A third — a combination of the first and second — is that Chinese intelligence is not ten-feet tall.

That last possibility is suggested by some of the amateurish spycraft displayed by the Chinese in the Bergersen case. In one sense, the operation was fairly sophisticated. Bergersen was induced to take part in a false-flag operation, that is, an operation in which he believed he was selling secrets to a U.S. ally, Taiwan, when in fact the “businessman” he was dealing with, Tai Shen Kuo, was actually a spy from the mainland.

But there was also some remarkably sloppy behavior by the Chinese in this case. An elementary task of spying is maintaining covert communications. Kuo was eager to do so and he acquired PGP Desktop Home 9.5 for Windows, a commercially available program for encrypting emails. That was smart. It was not smart, on the other hand, to discuss this encryption software on an open phone line with his taskmaster in China. The FBI was listening in on the call.

The affidavit in support of the criminal complaint against Bergersen contains many other arresting details. One high point occurs when Bergersen returns from a trip to Bulgaria and his wife finds a wad of espionage cash in his wallet. Bergersen told her it was gambling winnings. Her reaction: she insisted on taking half of it “as her share.” Bergersen related this to Kuo who offered to make up the amount that he had lost to his spouse. This generous offer was declined.

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Silly Season for McCain

There are several stories today about John McCain’s possible vice-presidential picks. This is absurd for many reasons. Here are a few:

1) It is a 95 percent certainty that McCain will not announce his pick until, at the earliest, a few days before the convention. There is no upside whatever to an early announcement. If it provokes excitement, the excitement will dissipate, leaving the campaign with nothing. If there are any problems, it will be the only subject of discussion surrounding McCain for weeks and weeks and weeks, with the worrisome subtext — Look, here is McCain’s first major decision, and it isn’t going well.

2) There is literally no way of knowing whether most of the people on the supposed short list —  Sanford, Pawlenty, Ridge, Crist, Rob Portman, John Kasich — can actually pass muster. The cardinal rule of the VP pick is — First, do no harm. The vetting process for a VP candidate is brutal. Any personal problem — any — might prove disqualifying. Too many speeding tickets? Too much money spent at the track? A friendship with someone who was later indicted? Marital troubles? A wife with too many speeding tickets? A son caught on a YouTube video sucking on a bong? A daughter who got drunk during Spring Break and is in the background of a YouTube dirty dancing?

Once one of these short-listers becomes acquainted with the horribly intrusive nature of the vetting process, he might just drop out. I know one case of someone who was practically offered the slot many cycles ago who realized an unhappy period in a close relative’s life would surely come to light and therefore turned it down.

The only really vetted people are the ones who have run for president — Romney and Huckabee particularly (though I’m not sure I would entirely count out either Sam Brownback or Duncan Hunter, though they did badly in the primaries). But here we bump up against McCain’s own character. He is a very personal politician. He likes people he likes, and has contempt for people he doesn’t. He really seems not to like Romney, and though Romney would be the most conventional choice, McCain is unlikely to make a choice entirely based on convention and prudence when he has to pick someone with whom he is going to work closely for months and maybe years.

I’ve been joking that McCain might feel differently if Romney were to pony up $75 million for the general-election run. But this too raises the problem with a Romney candidacy — wouldn’t there be intense speculation of precisely this kind of quid pro quo, that McCain effectively sold the VP slot to Romney because of his great wealth?

In the end, the process to pick the Veep will take months, not weeks. There’s a reason people don’t name their pick early. McCain won’t do it either.

There are several stories today about John McCain’s possible vice-presidential picks. This is absurd for many reasons. Here are a few:

1) It is a 95 percent certainty that McCain will not announce his pick until, at the earliest, a few days before the convention. There is no upside whatever to an early announcement. If it provokes excitement, the excitement will dissipate, leaving the campaign with nothing. If there are any problems, it will be the only subject of discussion surrounding McCain for weeks and weeks and weeks, with the worrisome subtext — Look, here is McCain’s first major decision, and it isn’t going well.

2) There is literally no way of knowing whether most of the people on the supposed short list —  Sanford, Pawlenty, Ridge, Crist, Rob Portman, John Kasich — can actually pass muster. The cardinal rule of the VP pick is — First, do no harm. The vetting process for a VP candidate is brutal. Any personal problem — any — might prove disqualifying. Too many speeding tickets? Too much money spent at the track? A friendship with someone who was later indicted? Marital troubles? A wife with too many speeding tickets? A son caught on a YouTube video sucking on a bong? A daughter who got drunk during Spring Break and is in the background of a YouTube dirty dancing?

Once one of these short-listers becomes acquainted with the horribly intrusive nature of the vetting process, he might just drop out. I know one case of someone who was practically offered the slot many cycles ago who realized an unhappy period in a close relative’s life would surely come to light and therefore turned it down.

The only really vetted people are the ones who have run for president — Romney and Huckabee particularly (though I’m not sure I would entirely count out either Sam Brownback or Duncan Hunter, though they did badly in the primaries). But here we bump up against McCain’s own character. He is a very personal politician. He likes people he likes, and has contempt for people he doesn’t. He really seems not to like Romney, and though Romney would be the most conventional choice, McCain is unlikely to make a choice entirely based on convention and prudence when he has to pick someone with whom he is going to work closely for months and maybe years.

I’ve been joking that McCain might feel differently if Romney were to pony up $75 million for the general-election run. But this too raises the problem with a Romney candidacy — wouldn’t there be intense speculation of precisely this kind of quid pro quo, that McCain effectively sold the VP slot to Romney because of his great wealth?

In the end, the process to pick the Veep will take months, not weeks. There’s a reason people don’t name their pick early. McCain won’t do it either.

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The Times Gets It

It turns out that the New York Times gets it after all: Steven Erlanger admits Hamas is a “bit of a problem” to talk to because its rhetoric is not exactly “polite.” But the question remains: Will London’s Guardian and its Hamas apologist Seumas Milne ever get it?

Some have argued that Steven Erlanger’s Times piece comes on the tails of his move from the unsafe West Bank (of the Jordan river) to the safer Left Bank (of Paris’ river, the Seine). One should be cautious to attribute motives–and Erlanger’s piece was as belated as it was welcome. Let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the good. Especially because when one compares the New York Times to the other Anglo-Saxon progressive daily of choice, the Guardian, what one discovers is that those who paper over Hamas’ rhetoric do not always do so because their office is in Gaza.

Truth is, apart from brief holiday trips to rub shoulders with Mideast revolutionaries and the occasional bout of nostalgia for Communism, Milne has been romanticizing Hamas, Hezbollah and just about every other anti-Western, anti-Zionist, fundamentalist organization from his comfortable Fleet Street office. It has less to do with personal safety, and more to do with genuine enthusiasm for these organizations and what they represent.

The seduction of unreason, as Richard Wolin called it in a recent, seminal book on the roots of Western anti-Westernism, is prevalent among a certain section of the Left not because it is expedient. They actually believe in it:

When combined with an anti-humanist-inspired Western self-hatred, ethical relativism engendered an uncritical Third Worldism, an orientation that climaxed in [Michel] Foucault’s enthusiastic endorsement of Iran’s Islamic Revolution.

That fascination with the enemies of Western values–not just the selective silence that may save a reporter’s life during a dangerous assignment–is what drives many Western commentators to downplay Hamas’ rhetoric, if not utterly glorify it in the name of the “struggle” against America and Israel.

It turns out that the New York Times gets it after all: Steven Erlanger admits Hamas is a “bit of a problem” to talk to because its rhetoric is not exactly “polite.” But the question remains: Will London’s Guardian and its Hamas apologist Seumas Milne ever get it?

Some have argued that Steven Erlanger’s Times piece comes on the tails of his move from the unsafe West Bank (of the Jordan river) to the safer Left Bank (of Paris’ river, the Seine). One should be cautious to attribute motives–and Erlanger’s piece was as belated as it was welcome. Let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the good. Especially because when one compares the New York Times to the other Anglo-Saxon progressive daily of choice, the Guardian, what one discovers is that those who paper over Hamas’ rhetoric do not always do so because their office is in Gaza.

Truth is, apart from brief holiday trips to rub shoulders with Mideast revolutionaries and the occasional bout of nostalgia for Communism, Milne has been romanticizing Hamas, Hezbollah and just about every other anti-Western, anti-Zionist, fundamentalist organization from his comfortable Fleet Street office. It has less to do with personal safety, and more to do with genuine enthusiasm for these organizations and what they represent.

The seduction of unreason, as Richard Wolin called it in a recent, seminal book on the roots of Western anti-Westernism, is prevalent among a certain section of the Left not because it is expedient. They actually believe in it:

When combined with an anti-humanist-inspired Western self-hatred, ethical relativism engendered an uncritical Third Worldism, an orientation that climaxed in [Michel] Foucault’s enthusiastic endorsement of Iran’s Islamic Revolution.

That fascination with the enemies of Western values–not just the selective silence that may save a reporter’s life during a dangerous assignment–is what drives many Western commentators to downplay Hamas’ rhetoric, if not utterly glorify it in the name of the “struggle” against America and Israel.

Read Less

Unplug The Phone Already

Hillary Clinton’s latest “3 a.m.” ad is dopey. What economic crisis hits at 3 a.m, demanding immediate resolution? (The ad makes it sound as if Hillary hasn’t paying been attention and has let the economy collapse, the very indictment Democrats have leveled at the Bush administration.) And doesn’t she still have to beat Barack Obama before worrying about John McCain? I frankly don’t get the whole effort, which risks becoming a Saturday Night Live parody.

However, John McCain’s rapid response team was rapid indeed and came back promptly with a funny one-liner (“With ads like that, it’s more likely the call at 3 am is ‘Senator, you just lost another superdelegate.'”) and an ad of their own. This just underscores how predictable and tired the Clinton campaign has become. The sure sign that a campaign is running out of gas is when your opponents’ responses are better than your ads. It seems painfully obvious the Clinton team has run out of material. Perhaps she could tell that one about running through sniper fire at the Treasury Department.

Hillary Clinton’s latest “3 a.m.” ad is dopey. What economic crisis hits at 3 a.m, demanding immediate resolution? (The ad makes it sound as if Hillary hasn’t paying been attention and has let the economy collapse, the very indictment Democrats have leveled at the Bush administration.) And doesn’t she still have to beat Barack Obama before worrying about John McCain? I frankly don’t get the whole effort, which risks becoming a Saturday Night Live parody.

However, John McCain’s rapid response team was rapid indeed and came back promptly with a funny one-liner (“With ads like that, it’s more likely the call at 3 am is ‘Senator, you just lost another superdelegate.'”) and an ad of their own. This just underscores how predictable and tired the Clinton campaign has become. The sure sign that a campaign is running out of gas is when your opponents’ responses are better than your ads. It seems painfully obvious the Clinton team has run out of material. Perhaps she could tell that one about running through sniper fire at the Treasury Department.

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