Commentary Magazine


Posts For: April 6, 2008

Cadets in New Jersey “Peace Lab”

A fresh-faced West Point cadet was on Fox News yesterday talking about a three-day-long class trip that helped him break a certain habit of mind. Prior to the field trip, he’d made a connection between terrorism and Islam. But after visiting Jersey City, New Jersey with other attendees of the semester-long “Winning the Peace” course, he saw this for the falsehood it plainly was. Where better than the city that housed the mosque headquarters of “Blind Shiek” Omar Abdel-Rahman’s terrorist organization to be disabused of such a baseless and
counterproductive notion?

Today’s New York Times describes the exquisitely balanced “cultural adventure” as it unfolded over the weekend:

On Thursday, the cadets, dressed sharply in gray uniforms, met members of the Jersey City Police Department and visited an Egyptian Christian church, St. George and St. Shenouda Coptic Orthodox Church on Bergen Avenue. On Friday, they spoke with Jerramiah T. Healy, the mayor of Jersey City, ate lunch with Pakistanis and dinner with Indians. On Saturday, they visited a synagogue, Temple Beth-El, and then, after taking off their shoes, sat in front of the altar at a Hindu temple, Govinda Sanskar Center. And for two days, they were welcomed as overnight guests of the Islamic Center of Jersey City.

Then there’s this culinary cuteness: “They debated the roots of Middle East tensions with a Muslim scholar over omelets and falafel at breakfast, and then stood next to a rabbi as he went over a sacred, handwritten Torah scroll.” Why no kreplach with the rabbi?

The four-year-old “Winning the Peace” course is designed ostensibly to expose future officers to the cultural and religious practices of the people they’ll be encountering overseas. On its face, no one could object. The long war against Islamism requires that our soldiers have a nuanced understanding of traditional Muslim values and Arabic cultural practices. But the truth is, in speaking to any U.S. military officer who’s spent time in Iraq or Afghanistan, you’ll find they know more about how to communicate with and instill trust in Middle Easterners than could be gleaned from a long weekend in New Jersey. Contrary to the Times’ condescending claim that “For many cadets, a number of whom had never been to Jersey City, this year’s trip amounted to a lesson in how big the world really is,” the world that U.S. officers come to understand is a lot bigger than most journalists will ever know.

So, what is this field trip really about? It’s about the U.S. Armed Forces demonstrating their “cultural sensitivity.” It’s about the PC-ing of a war whose true nature is rarely discussed. It’s about quieting the multi-culti chorus. None of which helps the U.S. win wars. Pretending that Islam has nothing to do with Islamic terrorism is a deadly farce.

The Times quotes West Point senior Alex Smith as saying, “[We are from] different cultures, but we’re still the same people.” If that means anything, it’s incorrect. Different cultures create different types of people—who become different types of enemies. And any blurring of that understanding within the military could cost this country dearly. Over the past six years, the U.S. military has demonstrated an unprecedented ability in isolating enemies and minimizing civilian casualties. And they are to be commended for it, as distinguishing between moderate Muslims and Islamists is not only an ethical necessity, but a strategic one as well. However, if a PC-inspired denial of the connection between Islam and terrorism creeps into the military mind, the resulting setbacks could jeopardize the policies and practices that make U.S. operations honorable and effective. Everyone talks of the dangers of “the fog of war.” Let’s not make things more dangerous by making them foggier.

A fresh-faced West Point cadet was on Fox News yesterday talking about a three-day-long class trip that helped him break a certain habit of mind. Prior to the field trip, he’d made a connection between terrorism and Islam. But after visiting Jersey City, New Jersey with other attendees of the semester-long “Winning the Peace” course, he saw this for the falsehood it plainly was. Where better than the city that housed the mosque headquarters of “Blind Shiek” Omar Abdel-Rahman’s terrorist organization to be disabused of such a baseless and
counterproductive notion?

Today’s New York Times describes the exquisitely balanced “cultural adventure” as it unfolded over the weekend:

On Thursday, the cadets, dressed sharply in gray uniforms, met members of the Jersey City Police Department and visited an Egyptian Christian church, St. George and St. Shenouda Coptic Orthodox Church on Bergen Avenue. On Friday, they spoke with Jerramiah T. Healy, the mayor of Jersey City, ate lunch with Pakistanis and dinner with Indians. On Saturday, they visited a synagogue, Temple Beth-El, and then, after taking off their shoes, sat in front of the altar at a Hindu temple, Govinda Sanskar Center. And for two days, they were welcomed as overnight guests of the Islamic Center of Jersey City.

Then there’s this culinary cuteness: “They debated the roots of Middle East tensions with a Muslim scholar over omelets and falafel at breakfast, and then stood next to a rabbi as he went over a sacred, handwritten Torah scroll.” Why no kreplach with the rabbi?

The four-year-old “Winning the Peace” course is designed ostensibly to expose future officers to the cultural and religious practices of the people they’ll be encountering overseas. On its face, no one could object. The long war against Islamism requires that our soldiers have a nuanced understanding of traditional Muslim values and Arabic cultural practices. But the truth is, in speaking to any U.S. military officer who’s spent time in Iraq or Afghanistan, you’ll find they know more about how to communicate with and instill trust in Middle Easterners than could be gleaned from a long weekend in New Jersey. Contrary to the Times’ condescending claim that “For many cadets, a number of whom had never been to Jersey City, this year’s trip amounted to a lesson in how big the world really is,” the world that U.S. officers come to understand is a lot bigger than most journalists will ever know.

So, what is this field trip really about? It’s about the U.S. Armed Forces demonstrating their “cultural sensitivity.” It’s about the PC-ing of a war whose true nature is rarely discussed. It’s about quieting the multi-culti chorus. None of which helps the U.S. win wars. Pretending that Islam has nothing to do with Islamic terrorism is a deadly farce.

The Times quotes West Point senior Alex Smith as saying, “[We are from] different cultures, but we’re still the same people.” If that means anything, it’s incorrect. Different cultures create different types of people—who become different types of enemies. And any blurring of that understanding within the military could cost this country dearly. Over the past six years, the U.S. military has demonstrated an unprecedented ability in isolating enemies and minimizing civilian casualties. And they are to be commended for it, as distinguishing between moderate Muslims and Islamists is not only an ethical necessity, but a strategic one as well. However, if a PC-inspired denial of the connection between Islam and terrorism creeps into the military mind, the resulting setbacks could jeopardize the policies and practices that make U.S. operations honorable and effective. Everyone talks of the dangers of “the fog of war.” Let’s not make things more dangerous by making them foggier.

Read Less

Penn Left An Indelible Mark

Mark Penn is out as Clinton’s top campaign strategist. Not for frittering away her lead, not for running on the “experience” message in a “change” election, not for engendering the hatred of peers, and not for his foul mouth. (His most memorable exchange with Harold Ickes? “F*** You!” “F*** You!” “F*** You!”). No, he was ousted because he was caught representing the government of Colombia in the trade deal Clinton opposes.

Despite his numerous errors, it was not until he became actively disloyal that Clinton could muster the nerve to fire him. Loyalty, James Carville reminds us, is a “cardinal virtue” so it therefore follows that Penn finally committed the only cardinal sin known to the Clintons, disloyalty.

Will this help Clinton? Impossible to say for sure. If she still loses, the gurus will say Penn’s damage was irreparable. If she somehow emerges victorious, there will be dozens of other reasons (including failures on the other side). Needless to say, Penn’s continued presence has been evidence that Clinton’s “experience” does not extend to things managerial and that her “competence” is as fictitious as the Bosnian gunfire. His belated departure only proves that loyalty trumps all, in Hillaryland.

Mark Penn is out as Clinton’s top campaign strategist. Not for frittering away her lead, not for running on the “experience” message in a “change” election, not for engendering the hatred of peers, and not for his foul mouth. (His most memorable exchange with Harold Ickes? “F*** You!” “F*** You!” “F*** You!”). No, he was ousted because he was caught representing the government of Colombia in the trade deal Clinton opposes.

Despite his numerous errors, it was not until he became actively disloyal that Clinton could muster the nerve to fire him. Loyalty, James Carville reminds us, is a “cardinal virtue” so it therefore follows that Penn finally committed the only cardinal sin known to the Clintons, disloyalty.

Will this help Clinton? Impossible to say for sure. If she still loses, the gurus will say Penn’s damage was irreparable. If she somehow emerges victorious, there will be dozens of other reasons (including failures on the other side). Needless to say, Penn’s continued presence has been evidence that Clinton’s “experience” does not extend to things managerial and that her “competence” is as fictitious as the Bosnian gunfire. His belated departure only proves that loyalty trumps all, in Hillaryland.

Read Less

What If He’s Not All That New?

Barack Obama makes two claims, aside from his post-racial appeal, which form the basis of his “change” message. The first is that he is will bring political unity and rescue “good ideas” which he claims “die” under mysterious circumstances in Washington. The second is that he will be a new type of politician, less divisive and more willing to rise above the endemic personal attacks which turn off so many voters. So far, it doesn’t appear there is much to either of Obama’s claims.

His repeated mantra that good ideas are savaged by special interests in Washington, of course, belies the real differences separating the parties. Republicans don’t have to be the prisoners of special interests to conclude that raising taxes is bad policy. Obama and the Democrats don’t have to be prisoners of their special interests to conclude the opposite. Moreover, by refusing to concede that he is even “liberal” despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, he leaves open the real question as to how a far-Left President would bridge very substantial policy differences with the Congress and the public. At least Bill Clinton had an approach (“the third way“) by which he attempted to lessen partisan differences.

Even more central to Obama’s appeal is the notion that, bluntly, he’s better than all the politicians who came before. He won’t deceive, he won’t lie, he won’t belittle his opponents, and he won’t stoop to strong arm tactics. I think it is only because his Democratic opponent is practically the archetype of a “partisan politician” (and because the media largely allows Obama to get away with it) that he has been able to disguise his utter failure, even at this early stage in his campaign and career, to live up to this billing.

It’s not “new politics” to strong-arm Michigan Democrats into dropping a plan for a re-vote (and to offer a cynical “compromise” to split the delegates 50-50). That’s good old-fashioned Chicago muscle. It’s not “new politics” to, day after day, repeat the lie, as he did again on Friday and through his hapless surrogate John Kerry today, that John McCain wants “to continue this war in Iraq for maybe 100 years.” (When Frank Rich calls that refrain “flat-out wrong,” maybe it’s time to try something else.) And it’s not “new politics” to fence for a day and refuse to condemn his warm-up act for labeling McCain a “warmonger.” (Recall that McCain did precisely this when the shoe was on the other foot.)

None of this is hugely out of bounds for partisan politics. But it just isn’t new. If that’s what he offers, how will electing him amount to “turning the page”?

Again, Clinton is in the worst position possible to make this argument. But at some point in the general election McCain will make the argument that he (who lauds Barry Goldwater and Mo Udall’s bipartisanship and shuts down the use of racial epithets in his own party) is the less conventional politician of the two. Or maybe, without the hubris of laying claim to have discovered bipartisanship, he already is making that argument

Barack Obama makes two claims, aside from his post-racial appeal, which form the basis of his “change” message. The first is that he is will bring political unity and rescue “good ideas” which he claims “die” under mysterious circumstances in Washington. The second is that he will be a new type of politician, less divisive and more willing to rise above the endemic personal attacks which turn off so many voters. So far, it doesn’t appear there is much to either of Obama’s claims.

His repeated mantra that good ideas are savaged by special interests in Washington, of course, belies the real differences separating the parties. Republicans don’t have to be the prisoners of special interests to conclude that raising taxes is bad policy. Obama and the Democrats don’t have to be prisoners of their special interests to conclude the opposite. Moreover, by refusing to concede that he is even “liberal” despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, he leaves open the real question as to how a far-Left President would bridge very substantial policy differences with the Congress and the public. At least Bill Clinton had an approach (“the third way“) by which he attempted to lessen partisan differences.

Even more central to Obama’s appeal is the notion that, bluntly, he’s better than all the politicians who came before. He won’t deceive, he won’t lie, he won’t belittle his opponents, and he won’t stoop to strong arm tactics. I think it is only because his Democratic opponent is practically the archetype of a “partisan politician” (and because the media largely allows Obama to get away with it) that he has been able to disguise his utter failure, even at this early stage in his campaign and career, to live up to this billing.

It’s not “new politics” to strong-arm Michigan Democrats into dropping a plan for a re-vote (and to offer a cynical “compromise” to split the delegates 50-50). That’s good old-fashioned Chicago muscle. It’s not “new politics” to, day after day, repeat the lie, as he did again on Friday and through his hapless surrogate John Kerry today, that John McCain wants “to continue this war in Iraq for maybe 100 years.” (When Frank Rich calls that refrain “flat-out wrong,” maybe it’s time to try something else.) And it’s not “new politics” to fence for a day and refuse to condemn his warm-up act for labeling McCain a “warmonger.” (Recall that McCain did precisely this when the shoe was on the other foot.)

None of this is hugely out of bounds for partisan politics. But it just isn’t new. If that’s what he offers, how will electing him amount to “turning the page”?

Again, Clinton is in the worst position possible to make this argument. But at some point in the general election McCain will make the argument that he (who lauds Barry Goldwater and Mo Udall’s bipartisanship and shuts down the use of racial epithets in his own party) is the less conventional politician of the two. Or maybe, without the hubris of laying claim to have discovered bipartisanship, he already is making that argument

Read Less

Re: Re: Why We Shouldn’t Boycott the 2008 Games

In my last post I quoted former Israeli silver medalist Yael Arad, who made an impassioned plea against athletes boycotting the Beijing Olympics. One of the commenters, CONTENTIONS blogger Arthur Waldron, offered a dissenting view (as did Gordon Chang), cited a recently-revealed photograph from the 1936 Berlin Olympics of British athletes with their arms out saluting Hitler. This, he argues, shows how the Olympics serve to legitimize the rule of their host country, which is far worse than any good which can come out of it. It’s truly an amazing picture:

hazony-photo.jpg
(Photo credit: The Daily Mail.)

“Think about it hard before you make up your mind about what we do,” Waldron writes. I, for one, am still convinced by Arad’s argument against the boycott. But jeez. What this picture proves is that the Olympics really can become a source for legitimizing bad regimes. But does it have to? These were, after all, the British, who sought appeasement with Nazi Germany well after 1936. The American response was to strip-bomb their tracks with Jesse Owens’ speed, as a prelude to the real war.

In my last post I quoted former Israeli silver medalist Yael Arad, who made an impassioned plea against athletes boycotting the Beijing Olympics. One of the commenters, CONTENTIONS blogger Arthur Waldron, offered a dissenting view (as did Gordon Chang), cited a recently-revealed photograph from the 1936 Berlin Olympics of British athletes with their arms out saluting Hitler. This, he argues, shows how the Olympics serve to legitimize the rule of their host country, which is far worse than any good which can come out of it. It’s truly an amazing picture:

hazony-photo.jpg
(Photo credit: The Daily Mail.)

“Think about it hard before you make up your mind about what we do,” Waldron writes. I, for one, am still convinced by Arad’s argument against the boycott. But jeez. What this picture proves is that the Olympics really can become a source for legitimizing bad regimes. But does it have to? These were, after all, the British, who sought appeasement with Nazi Germany well after 1936. The American response was to strip-bomb their tracks with Jesse Owens’ speed, as a prelude to the real war.

Read Less

Post-Racial No More

Gail Collins writes an entire column bemoaning that the Democratic primary race is “now all about white men.” Obama tries to bond with these voters over bowling, but his “37” brings howls of derision and fretting from liberal columnists. But why should they be surprised? For many presidential elections Democrats have bombed with white males. According to exit polling, John Kerry got only 38% of white males in 2004. In the four elections before that, the Democratic presidential candidate got between 36 and 38% of the white male vote.

Does this mean Obama and the Democrats need not be concerned? After all, if Democrats consistently have lost white male voters, but still won elections, they could do so again. Perhaps what the liberal media and establishment Democrats are hesitant to say is that Obama’s appeal to all white voters, not just men, seems to be evaporating. Indeed, some are downright unhinged. Matthew Yglesias went so far as to bizarrely postulate that John McCain’s Bio Tour was a racist appeal to whites. He wrote 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.

Only a liberal blogger could argue with impunity that patriotism appeals just to whites.

But Democrats concerned about electability should be worried if Obama turns out not to be the “post- racial candidate” his supporters have lauded him as. Even before his association with Reverend Wright was reported, Obama’s appeal to whites and Hispanics was collapsing.
Hillary Clinton gained impressive wins in Ohio and Texas in large part because the multi-racial coalition which Obama seemed to have constructed began to crumble. In Ohio Obama lost 27-70% among white Democrats, while carrying Black voters 88-12%. In Texas he lost among white Democrats 37-62% and by an even larger margin (30-69%) among Hispanic Democrats.

It’s easy for liberal pundits to attack the “angry white male” voters whom Democrats continually fail to attract. But the fact remains that if Obama is not post-racial in his appeal, he can’t win the presidency. It is not just support from white men, but whites of both genders and Hispanics as well that Obama will need. If he can’t win key swing states like Ohio, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Florida (which require him to appeal to whites and Hispanics in large numbers) then the presidency will be out of his reach.

That, much more than bowling scores, should keep Obama supporters up at night.

Gail Collins writes an entire column bemoaning that the Democratic primary race is “now all about white men.” Obama tries to bond with these voters over bowling, but his “37” brings howls of derision and fretting from liberal columnists. But why should they be surprised? For many presidential elections Democrats have bombed with white males. According to exit polling, John Kerry got only 38% of white males in 2004. In the four elections before that, the Democratic presidential candidate got between 36 and 38% of the white male vote.

Does this mean Obama and the Democrats need not be concerned? After all, if Democrats consistently have lost white male voters, but still won elections, they could do so again. Perhaps what the liberal media and establishment Democrats are hesitant to say is that Obama’s appeal to all white voters, not just men, seems to be evaporating. Indeed, some are downright unhinged. Matthew Yglesias went so far as to bizarrely postulate that John McCain’s Bio Tour was a racist appeal to whites. He wrote 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.

Only a liberal blogger could argue with impunity that patriotism appeals just to whites.

But Democrats concerned about electability should be worried if Obama turns out not to be the “post- racial candidate” his supporters have lauded him as. Even before his association with Reverend Wright was reported, Obama’s appeal to whites and Hispanics was collapsing.
Hillary Clinton gained impressive wins in Ohio and Texas in large part because the multi-racial coalition which Obama seemed to have constructed began to crumble. In Ohio Obama lost 27-70% among white Democrats, while carrying Black voters 88-12%. In Texas he lost among white Democrats 37-62% and by an even larger margin (30-69%) among Hispanic Democrats.

It’s easy for liberal pundits to attack the “angry white male” voters whom Democrats continually fail to attract. But the fact remains that if Obama is not post-racial in his appeal, he can’t win the presidency. It is not just support from white men, but whites of both genders and Hispanics as well that Obama will need. If he can’t win key swing states like Ohio, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Florida (which require him to appeal to whites and Hispanics in large numbers) then the presidency will be out of his reach.

That, much more than bowling scores, should keep Obama supporters up at night.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.