Commentary Magazine


Posts For: April 11, 2008

Obama Drips, Drips, Drips

Well, it has finally happened. Barack Obama has done what Democratic candidates for president invariably do — he has revealed the profound sense of unearned  superiority that is the sad and persistent hallmark of contemporary liberalism. Obama’s statement today that small-town folk “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations” may be the most distilled example of this train of thought I’ve ever seen.

Obama’s astonishing sentence offers a syllogistic string of superciliousness: Gun ownership is equated with religious fanaticism, which is said to accompany hatred of the other in the form of opposition to  immigration and support for trade barriers. It drips with an attitude  so important to the spiritual well-being of the American liberal — the paternalistic attitude that says, “Oh, well, people only do thing differently from me because they are ignorant and superstitious and backward” — that it has survived and thrived  despite the suicidal impact it has had on the achievement of liberal political goals and aims.

This sort of liberal caricature was so prevalent in the 1960s and 1970s that it helped convince tens of millions of die-hard Democrats that their own party no longer had their best interests at heart — that it, in fact, viewed them as some kind of enemy, as a reactionary force for evil — and led them to pull the lever first for Richard Nixon in 1972 and then for Ronald Reagan in 1980.

One thing, though. Like the yahoos whose portrait he has drawn with the subtlety of a juvenile delinquent scrawling an obscene image on a high-school-bathroom-stall door, Obama has declared himself an opponent of  free trade. Be afraid. Be very afraid. Because by his own description, his stance on trade makes it likely he’s got a gun and he will train it on you to try and get you to convert to Jeremiah Wright-ism.

Well, it has finally happened. Barack Obama has done what Democratic candidates for president invariably do — he has revealed the profound sense of unearned  superiority that is the sad and persistent hallmark of contemporary liberalism. Obama’s statement today that small-town folk “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations” may be the most distilled example of this train of thought I’ve ever seen.

Obama’s astonishing sentence offers a syllogistic string of superciliousness: Gun ownership is equated with religious fanaticism, which is said to accompany hatred of the other in the form of opposition to  immigration and support for trade barriers. It drips with an attitude  so important to the spiritual well-being of the American liberal — the paternalistic attitude that says, “Oh, well, people only do thing differently from me because they are ignorant and superstitious and backward” — that it has survived and thrived  despite the suicidal impact it has had on the achievement of liberal political goals and aims.

This sort of liberal caricature was so prevalent in the 1960s and 1970s that it helped convince tens of millions of die-hard Democrats that their own party no longer had their best interests at heart — that it, in fact, viewed them as some kind of enemy, as a reactionary force for evil — and led them to pull the lever first for Richard Nixon in 1972 and then for Ronald Reagan in 1980.

One thing, though. Like the yahoos whose portrait he has drawn with the subtlety of a juvenile delinquent scrawling an obscene image on a high-school-bathroom-stall door, Obama has declared himself an opponent of  free trade. Be afraid. Be very afraid. Because by his own description, his stance on trade makes it likely he’s got a gun and he will train it on you to try and get you to convert to Jeremiah Wright-ism.

Read Less

Dionne’s Willful Refusal to Listen to Petraeus and Crocker

In his latest column, E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post writes about the testimonies of General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker and Iraq more broadly. It’s worth examining what Dionne said.

According to Dionne,

The bottom line of the testimony this week from Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker is that even after the surge, what gains have been made in Iraq are, as Petraeus put it, “fragile and reversible.”

In fact this is not the bottom line, nor is it anything like a complete picture of what Petraeus and Crocker said. General Petraeus, in rightly saying that the gains we’ve made in Iraq are “fragile and reversible,” immediately went on to say this:

Still, security in Iraq is better than it was when Ambassador Crocker and I reported to you last September, and it is significantly better than it was 15 months ago when Iraq was on the brink of civil war and the decision was made to deploy additional forces to Iraq.

Here are the words of Ambassador Crocker:

Last September, I said that the cumulative trajectory of political, economic and diplomatic developments in Iraq was upwards, although the slope of that line was not steep. Developments over the last seven months have strengthened my sense of a positive trend. Immense challenges remain and progress is uneven and often frustrating slow, but there is progress. Sustaining that progress will require continuing U.S. resolve and commitment. What has been achieved is substantial, but it is also reversible.

Ambassador Crocker, after discussing the political progress that’s been made in recent months (pension and amnesty laws, de-Baathification, et cetera), also said this:

All of this has been done since September. These laws are not perfect and much depends on their implementation, but they are important steps.

Crocker has also spoken about the positive change in attitude among Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish leaders in Iraq. Read More

In his latest column, E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post writes about the testimonies of General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker and Iraq more broadly. It’s worth examining what Dionne said.

According to Dionne,

The bottom line of the testimony this week from Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker is that even after the surge, what gains have been made in Iraq are, as Petraeus put it, “fragile and reversible.”

In fact this is not the bottom line, nor is it anything like a complete picture of what Petraeus and Crocker said. General Petraeus, in rightly saying that the gains we’ve made in Iraq are “fragile and reversible,” immediately went on to say this:

Still, security in Iraq is better than it was when Ambassador Crocker and I reported to you last September, and it is significantly better than it was 15 months ago when Iraq was on the brink of civil war and the decision was made to deploy additional forces to Iraq.

Here are the words of Ambassador Crocker:

Last September, I said that the cumulative trajectory of political, economic and diplomatic developments in Iraq was upwards, although the slope of that line was not steep. Developments over the last seven months have strengthened my sense of a positive trend. Immense challenges remain and progress is uneven and often frustrating slow, but there is progress. Sustaining that progress will require continuing U.S. resolve and commitment. What has been achieved is substantial, but it is also reversible.

Ambassador Crocker, after discussing the political progress that’s been made in recent months (pension and amnesty laws, de-Baathification, et cetera), also said this:

All of this has been done since September. These laws are not perfect and much depends on their implementation, but they are important steps.

Crocker has also spoken about the positive change in attitude among Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish leaders in Iraq.

Iraq in 2006 was in a death spiral. That has not only been arrested; it has been reversed. Under the extraordinary leadership of Petraeus and Crocker, we have made more gains than even those of us who were advocates of the surge could have hoped for. And the gains have been on almost every front: security, political, diplomatic, and economic. Those gains, while “fragile and reversible,” are also indisputable.

In their testimonies Petraeus and Crocker painted a nuanced, sophisticated, and accurate picture of the situation in Iraq. It would be nice if the war critics did the same.

Dionne also writes:

The administration and its supporters talk incessantly about winning but offer no strategy for victory, no definition of what it would look like, no concrete steps to get us there, and no real sense of where “there” is.

This sentence is riddled with errors.

The United States in fact does have a strategy for victory, one that is fundamentally different than what came before it. The new strategy, being executed and implemented by Petraeus and Crocker, involved sending around 30,000 more troops to Iraq beginning in early 2007; giving them a different mission (one that aims at securing, living with, and winning over the local population); building on the attitudinal shift among the Iraqi population, including Sunnis, against the brutal and extremist ideology of al Qaeda in Iraq; working closely with the Iraqi government to transition the Sons of Iraq (now numbering more than 90,000) into the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) or other forms of employment; working with ISF to target “special groups” (Shia militia) that are being funded, trained, armed, and directed by Iran’s Quds Force with help from Lebanese Hezbollah; reforming the Iraqi police (which had been taken over by militias); encouraging provincial elections to be held later this year, which will give a greater voice to Sunnis who boycotted earlier elections; negotiating a status of forces agreement; helping design new procurement procedures for Iraq’s oil ministry; increasing the scope of the UN’s engagement in Iraq; and much else.

Earlier this week, then, Petraeus and Crocker laid out, in mind-numbing detail, the concrete steps we’ve taken and still need to take in order to achieve a decent outcome in Iraq. As for Dionne’s charge that there is “no real sense of where ‘there’ is”: that statement is also false. Our goal is a stable, self-governing, and peaceful Iraq, one that operates under the rule of law and is an ally of America in the war against jihadism.

None of this is a mystery; it’s been said, in one version or another, dozens of times. What we don’t know – and what we could not possibly know, given the nature of warfare — is precisely when we’ll be able to withdraw most of our combat troops. That depends, as all wars depend, on the facts on the ground, on unfolding events, on contingencies and variables that are impossible to know with certainty. But to pretend that we have “no strategy for victory, no definition of what it would look like, no concrete steps to get us there, and no real sense of where “there” is” is simply and demonstrably wrong.

Dionne argues this as well:

Supporters of the war say its opponents are locked in the past, stuck on whether or not the war was a good idea in the first place. Whether the war was right or wrong, they say, it’s time to move on and focus on the future. This has it backward. It’s the war’s backers and architects, including the president, who are trapped in the past. They are so invested in the original decision to invade Iraq that they won’t even consider whether the United States would be better off winding down this commitment, relieving our military of the war’s enormous burdens, and redirecting our foreign policy. Instead, they want to push on, hoping that something turns up. They resemble their own parody of liberal do-gooders insisting on continuing flawed and foolish programs no matter how obvious it becomes that their efforts are doing more harm than good.

This “flawed and foolish” program has produced results like these: ethno-sectarian violence decreased by nearly 90 percent and total civilian deaths and coalition deaths decreased by more than 70 percent between June 2007 and March 2008. This is only one metric of progress; there are many others that are matters of public record. But to quote Dionne’s friend Senator Joseph Lieberman, the approach of anti-war critics is to “hear no progress in Iraq, see no progress in Iraq, and most of all, speak of no progress in Iraq.” They are hermetically sealed off from accepting, let alone taking encouragement from, authentic progress. It is a stunning thing to witness.

Dionne’s column gets to a deeper issue. Ambassador Crocker said during his testimony that “almost everything about Iraq is hard.” That is certainly true – and serious mistakes by the Bush Administration in the Phase IV planning has made things far more difficult than they should have been. But the President made necessary adjustments. And no person can seriously dispute that progress has been made, and that if we continue along this path, we have a good chance of achieving a decent outcome in Iraq.

But the critics of the war seemingly don’t care; they have turned hard against it and want to wash our hands of it. On some level they must know that if we followed their counsel the odds are very good that mass death and perhaps genocide would follow; that al Qaeda in Iraq would be revivified; that jihadists would gain a historic victory against America and the West; that Iran would benefit enormously; that the Middle East would become significantly more destabilized; that America’s word would be devalued; and much else. But they are tired and weary of the war and the costs of the war. And so this war now comes down to what many others eventually do: a matter of will. Having put in place the right strategy, will we see it through to success? Jihadists will not lose their will; they are hoping and betting that we will lose ours.

The voices of weariness are understandable; the human and financial costs of this war have been enormous. But those voices are also wrong and Ambassador Crocker is right:

As monumental as the events of the last five years have been in Iraq, Iraqis, Americans, and the world ultimately will judge us far more on the basis of what will happen than what has happened. In the end, how we leave and what we leave behind will be more important than how we came.

President Bush, David Petraeus, Ryan Crocker and others, who have seen good and patriotic people succumb to the weariness, have thankfully refused their counsels of surrender. If one message came through above the others during this past week, it is that Petraeus and Crocker agree with the words of St. Paul: We ought not to become weary in doing good.

Read Less

Krauthammer’s “Holocaust Declaration”

Put me down, first and foremost, as a Charles Krauthammer fan. But his latest column in my opinion is lacking in the unsparing analytic rigor that typically characterizes his work, and it is for this reason that I take a harsher view of the piece than does Gordon. Krauthammer writes that when Iran goes nuclear,

we shall have to rely on deterrence to prevent the mullahs, some of whom are apocalyptic and messianic, from using nuclear weapons. …

How to create deterrence? The way John Kennedy did during the Cuban missile crisis. President Bush should issue the following declaration, adopting Kennedy’s language while changing the names of the miscreants:

It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear attack upon Israel by Iran, or originating in Iran, as an attack by Iran on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon Iran.

This should be followed with a simple explanation: “As a beacon of tolerance and as leader of the free world, the United States will not permit a second Holocaust to be perpetrated upon the Jewish people.”

But the italicized declaration above would do very little to guarantee the promise that follows it — that the U.S. “will not permit a second Holocaust.” To state the obvious, a U.S. second strike would not prevent an Iranian first strike — only react to it once it has happened. What are the chances that Iran would attempt to nuke Israel? Well, who knows: the Soviet Union, however rapacious and barbaric, at least tended to act in favor of national self-preservation, whereas the mullahs — it is something they brag about — have no such conception of self-preservation. As Bernard Lewis has said about the regime, “mutually assured destruction is not a deterrent factor, but rather an inducement.” Krauthammer hints at the messianic and apocalyptic nature of the prevailing Iranian ideology, but gives the unpredictable — or suicidally predictable — nature of Iranian behavior very little weight in his analysis.

Two other major objections: it is very well for the United States to place Israel under its nuclear umbrella, but it will also be true that Iran will place its allies under its nuclear umbrella. During the Cold War, mutually-assured destruction did not prevent Soviet adventurism in many corners of the world, and likewise during a U.S.-Iran Cold War, an American second-strike pledge would not prevent a similar adventurism on the part of Iran’s many allies.

In other words, the recent wars we have witnessed would continue, except that Hezbollah and Hamas would be backed by a nuclear patron. What if Iran instructs Hezbollah to send rockets raining down on northern Israel and then threatens nuclear retaliation should Israel respond with a ground war in Lebanon? Will the Holocaust Declaration have any relevance to such a scenario? Of course not. It only becomes relevant after Tel Aviv is in smoldering ruins. Some comfort.

Which leads to the final point. This is the question of whether Iran, upon acquiring a nuclear weapon, would need to actually launch an ICBM at Israel to destroy the country, or whether it could attempt to pick it apart through a relentless campaign of terror wars launched by its “non-state actor” proxies. Please pardon me for quoting something on this subject that I wrote previously:

The Jewish state already has a problem in the number of its citizens who tire of the warfare, terrorism, and Arab hatred that are regular features of life in Israel. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis live abroad, many permanently, because they seek a “normal life,” and many Jews will never immigrate to Israel exactly because of the absence of such a life. All of this is only in the face of Palestinian and Hezbollah terrorists who kill with crude weapons. Now imagine those groups with the support of a nuclear patron. Imagine daily life in Israel conducted under the constant threat — the Iranians would surely take every opportunity to remind Israelis — of nuclear annihilation.

The Iranians are probably smart enough to know that if they’re patient, nothing so dramatic as nuclear war will be necessary. Simply by possessing a nuclear capability and regularly threatening to use it or supply it to its proxies, Iran will accomplish the psychological and economic attrition of Israel. This goal will be achieved without firing a shot — or at least without full-scale war.

Krauthammer’s column is intended as an attempt at envisioning a U.S. security strategy that would protect Israel in an Iranian nuclear era. Its failure to present a plausible scenario for doing so should underscore the importance of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons in the first place.

Put me down, first and foremost, as a Charles Krauthammer fan. But his latest column in my opinion is lacking in the unsparing analytic rigor that typically characterizes his work, and it is for this reason that I take a harsher view of the piece than does Gordon. Krauthammer writes that when Iran goes nuclear,

we shall have to rely on deterrence to prevent the mullahs, some of whom are apocalyptic and messianic, from using nuclear weapons. …

How to create deterrence? The way John Kennedy did during the Cuban missile crisis. President Bush should issue the following declaration, adopting Kennedy’s language while changing the names of the miscreants:

It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear attack upon Israel by Iran, or originating in Iran, as an attack by Iran on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon Iran.

This should be followed with a simple explanation: “As a beacon of tolerance and as leader of the free world, the United States will not permit a second Holocaust to be perpetrated upon the Jewish people.”

But the italicized declaration above would do very little to guarantee the promise that follows it — that the U.S. “will not permit a second Holocaust.” To state the obvious, a U.S. second strike would not prevent an Iranian first strike — only react to it once it has happened. What are the chances that Iran would attempt to nuke Israel? Well, who knows: the Soviet Union, however rapacious and barbaric, at least tended to act in favor of national self-preservation, whereas the mullahs — it is something they brag about — have no such conception of self-preservation. As Bernard Lewis has said about the regime, “mutually assured destruction is not a deterrent factor, but rather an inducement.” Krauthammer hints at the messianic and apocalyptic nature of the prevailing Iranian ideology, but gives the unpredictable — or suicidally predictable — nature of Iranian behavior very little weight in his analysis.

Two other major objections: it is very well for the United States to place Israel under its nuclear umbrella, but it will also be true that Iran will place its allies under its nuclear umbrella. During the Cold War, mutually-assured destruction did not prevent Soviet adventurism in many corners of the world, and likewise during a U.S.-Iran Cold War, an American second-strike pledge would not prevent a similar adventurism on the part of Iran’s many allies.

In other words, the recent wars we have witnessed would continue, except that Hezbollah and Hamas would be backed by a nuclear patron. What if Iran instructs Hezbollah to send rockets raining down on northern Israel and then threatens nuclear retaliation should Israel respond with a ground war in Lebanon? Will the Holocaust Declaration have any relevance to such a scenario? Of course not. It only becomes relevant after Tel Aviv is in smoldering ruins. Some comfort.

Which leads to the final point. This is the question of whether Iran, upon acquiring a nuclear weapon, would need to actually launch an ICBM at Israel to destroy the country, or whether it could attempt to pick it apart through a relentless campaign of terror wars launched by its “non-state actor” proxies. Please pardon me for quoting something on this subject that I wrote previously:

The Jewish state already has a problem in the number of its citizens who tire of the warfare, terrorism, and Arab hatred that are regular features of life in Israel. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis live abroad, many permanently, because they seek a “normal life,” and many Jews will never immigrate to Israel exactly because of the absence of such a life. All of this is only in the face of Palestinian and Hezbollah terrorists who kill with crude weapons. Now imagine those groups with the support of a nuclear patron. Imagine daily life in Israel conducted under the constant threat — the Iranians would surely take every opportunity to remind Israelis — of nuclear annihilation.

The Iranians are probably smart enough to know that if they’re patient, nothing so dramatic as nuclear war will be necessary. Simply by possessing a nuclear capability and regularly threatening to use it or supply it to its proxies, Iran will accomplish the psychological and economic attrition of Israel. This goal will be achieved without firing a shot — or at least without full-scale war.

Krauthammer’s column is intended as an attempt at envisioning a U.S. security strategy that would protect Israel in an Iranian nuclear era. Its failure to present a plausible scenario for doing so should underscore the importance of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons in the first place.

Read Less

Why Not Just Call Them Rubes?

How did Barack Obama describe the good people of rural Pennsylvania and other similar spots? This is what he had to say:

“And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

This raises several questions. First, is the Clinton campaign minimally competent so as to be able to make this into the quote for the next 10 days in Pennsylvania and convince voters there and elsewhere Obama is a sneering snob? Second, if that is these people’s reason for adopting an uninformed view on trade what is his explanation for embracing protectionism? Third, just how many religious voters and NRA members could there be in Pennsylvania, Indiana, North Carolina, Kentucky and West Virginia?

John McCain’s camp did not miss a beat. Communications Director Steve Schmidt declared it a “remarkable statement and extremely revealing.” He continued:

“It shows an elitism and condescension towards hardworking Americans that is nothing short of breathtaking.It is hard to imagine someone running for president who is more out of touch with average Americans.”

And sure enough the Clinton camp stirs, decrying the Man of Hope not finding hope in Pennsylvania. Rising from her political grave she declares: “Pennsylvanians don’t need a president who looks down on them, they need a president who stands up for them, who fights for them, who works hard for your futures, your jobs, your families.”

The Great Leader of the people, I think, doesn’t think much of the people.

How did Barack Obama describe the good people of rural Pennsylvania and other similar spots? This is what he had to say:

“And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

This raises several questions. First, is the Clinton campaign minimally competent so as to be able to make this into the quote for the next 10 days in Pennsylvania and convince voters there and elsewhere Obama is a sneering snob? Second, if that is these people’s reason for adopting an uninformed view on trade what is his explanation for embracing protectionism? Third, just how many religious voters and NRA members could there be in Pennsylvania, Indiana, North Carolina, Kentucky and West Virginia?

John McCain’s camp did not miss a beat. Communications Director Steve Schmidt declared it a “remarkable statement and extremely revealing.” He continued:

“It shows an elitism and condescension towards hardworking Americans that is nothing short of breathtaking.It is hard to imagine someone running for president who is more out of touch with average Americans.”

And sure enough the Clinton camp stirs, decrying the Man of Hope not finding hope in Pennsylvania. Rising from her political grave she declares: “Pennsylvanians don’t need a president who looks down on them, they need a president who stands up for them, who fights for them, who works hard for your futures, your jobs, your families.”

The Great Leader of the people, I think, doesn’t think much of the people.

Read Less

Why Incentives?

While the international community is busy hammering out a new and more attractive package of incentives for Iran, the Times of London reports on the exposure of an clandestine Iranian missile facility:

Analysis of the photographs taken by the Digital Globe QuickBird satellite four days after the launch has revealed a number of intriguing features that indicate to experts that it is the same site where Iran is focusing its efforts on developing a ballistic missile with a range of about 6,000km (4,000 miles).

This is the latest in a series of revelations about Iran’s military programs which Iran is trying to conceal from the world. In particular, as emerged from the latest IAEA report circulated last February, Iran has detailed designs of uranium metal hemispheres, re-entry vehicles and other components which would likely be needed to build a nuclear warhead and secure it on a missile like the ones Iran is developing at the site now exposed. Among other things, the IAEA report described

parameters and development work related to the Shahab 3 missile, in particular technical aspects of a re-entry vehicle, and made available to Iran for examination a computer image provided by other Member States showing a schematic layout of the contents of the inner cone of a re-entry vehicle. This layout has been assessed by the Agency as quite likely to be able to accommodate a nuclear device.

Now, consider the Iranian case to date: Iran has just announced the installation of 6,000 new centrifuges – apparently of a more advanced design than the P-1 and P-2 centrifuges already operating at the Natanz nuclear site; Iran is alleged to have ballistic missiles that can accommodate a nuclear warhead; Iran is now developing ballistic missiles with a 4,000 mile range that could easily reach any European capital; Iran admits having a design for uranium hemispheres; Iran was already offered a long list of incentives in June 2006 and took two months to carefully phrase its response – “NO!”. So, why are the nations of the world trying to increase the incentive package for Iran exactly?

Technical hurdles are the only things that stand between Iran and the bomb. If an Iranian bomb is so terrifying a prospect – as both US president George W. Bush and French President, Nicholar Sarkozy have repeatedly acknowledged – is it not time for a bit more pressure to be brought to bear, rather than more incentives?

While the international community is busy hammering out a new and more attractive package of incentives for Iran, the Times of London reports on the exposure of an clandestine Iranian missile facility:

Analysis of the photographs taken by the Digital Globe QuickBird satellite four days after the launch has revealed a number of intriguing features that indicate to experts that it is the same site where Iran is focusing its efforts on developing a ballistic missile with a range of about 6,000km (4,000 miles).

This is the latest in a series of revelations about Iran’s military programs which Iran is trying to conceal from the world. In particular, as emerged from the latest IAEA report circulated last February, Iran has detailed designs of uranium metal hemispheres, re-entry vehicles and other components which would likely be needed to build a nuclear warhead and secure it on a missile like the ones Iran is developing at the site now exposed. Among other things, the IAEA report described

parameters and development work related to the Shahab 3 missile, in particular technical aspects of a re-entry vehicle, and made available to Iran for examination a computer image provided by other Member States showing a schematic layout of the contents of the inner cone of a re-entry vehicle. This layout has been assessed by the Agency as quite likely to be able to accommodate a nuclear device.

Now, consider the Iranian case to date: Iran has just announced the installation of 6,000 new centrifuges – apparently of a more advanced design than the P-1 and P-2 centrifuges already operating at the Natanz nuclear site; Iran is alleged to have ballistic missiles that can accommodate a nuclear warhead; Iran is now developing ballistic missiles with a 4,000 mile range that could easily reach any European capital; Iran admits having a design for uranium hemispheres; Iran was already offered a long list of incentives in June 2006 and took two months to carefully phrase its response – “NO!”. So, why are the nations of the world trying to increase the incentive package for Iran exactly?

Technical hurdles are the only things that stand between Iran and the bomb. If an Iranian bomb is so terrifying a prospect – as both US president George W. Bush and French President, Nicholar Sarkozy have repeatedly acknowledged – is it not time for a bit more pressure to be brought to bear, rather than more incentives?

Read Less

Jimmy and Barack and Khaled and Mahmoud

Barack Obama declined today to comment on Jimmy Carter’s upcoming love-in with Khaled Meshal in Damascus, and in doing so reiterated his view that Hamas

is not a state and until Hamas clearly recognizes Israel, renounces terrorism and abides by, or believes that the Palestinians should abide by previous agreements … I don’t think conversations with them would be fruitful.

The fact that Hamas is not technically a state — although it is the de facto government of the Gaza Strip — is an incredibly thin reed on which to hang his position. Obama proudly declares his desire to meet with Iranian leaders, who, just like Meshal, do not recognize Israel, revel in terrorism, and do not believe that Palestinians should abide by previous agreements. Ahmadinejad signs Meshal’s paychecks, and as far as the broad strokes of terrorism, Israel, and Iran’s ambitions in the Middle East are concerned, the two men are one and the same.

So why exactly does Obama think that discussions with Ahmadinejad “would be fruitful” when discussions with Meshal will not be? The two men are both heads of terror regimes, and both have the capacity to influence the level of violence in the region. In freezing out Hamas, Obama is betraying his own principles; today, when asked about Carter, he should have publicly lauded the man’s fidelity to Obama’s foreign policy.

Barack Obama declined today to comment on Jimmy Carter’s upcoming love-in with Khaled Meshal in Damascus, and in doing so reiterated his view that Hamas

is not a state and until Hamas clearly recognizes Israel, renounces terrorism and abides by, or believes that the Palestinians should abide by previous agreements … I don’t think conversations with them would be fruitful.

The fact that Hamas is not technically a state — although it is the de facto government of the Gaza Strip — is an incredibly thin reed on which to hang his position. Obama proudly declares his desire to meet with Iranian leaders, who, just like Meshal, do not recognize Israel, revel in terrorism, and do not believe that Palestinians should abide by previous agreements. Ahmadinejad signs Meshal’s paychecks, and as far as the broad strokes of terrorism, Israel, and Iran’s ambitions in the Middle East are concerned, the two men are one and the same.

So why exactly does Obama think that discussions with Ahmadinejad “would be fruitful” when discussions with Meshal will not be? The two men are both heads of terror regimes, and both have the capacity to influence the level of violence in the region. In freezing out Hamas, Obama is betraying his own principles; today, when asked about Carter, he should have publicly lauded the man’s fidelity to Obama’s foreign policy.

Read Less

Two Positions and Two Tall Tales in One Stop For Hillary

At a campaign stop in Philadelphia today, Hillary Clinton proposed an anti-crime package that would put 100,000 more cops on the streets of the U.S.

It’s a good thing, too: Another part of her package calls for letting imprisoned crack users back out on the streets to mix it up with the extra cops. According to the Los Angeles Times, this is all part of a plan to reduce recidivism and achieve fair treatment for blacks and whites under the law. Crack users “are disproportionately black,” and “the law punishes them more harshly than powder cocaine users, who are predominantly white.”

What’s wrong with stiffer penalties all around? Wouldn’t that take care of the imbalance and encourage less recidivism, at least in theory? The problem is, though, it wouldn’t help Hillary achieve her real goal—which is, as always, taking every position so that everyone approves. She wants more cops walking the beat to show she’s tough on crime, but she wants to reduce crack-related sentences to show she’s sympathetic to certain segments of the criminal population. This isn’t about anti-recidivism. It’s about a return to the big house. Another Clinton wants to be president and is employing Clintonian triangulation to get there.

Once again, the self-congratulatory fibs are on display as well:

Claiming that her husband’s administration “reduced crime to historic lows” in the 1990s, Clinton argued that “we have to get back to doing what we know works.”

[…]

“President Bush could have built on the successes of the 1990s,” she said, but instead he “slowly but surely chipped away at all of the building blocks.”

According to the Disaster Center, while the national crime rate did indeed plummet during Bill Clinton’s two terms, there were certainly no “historic lows.” In 1993, when Bill Clinton took office, the crime rate per 100,000 American inhabitants was 5,484.4. In 2001, when he left, it was 4,162.6. But the table also shows that before 1971, the rate was routinely lower than Bill Clinton’s best numbers. So, no historic lows–just a routine, Clintonian one. Furthermore, the crime rate has continued to drop every year of the George W. Bush administration, at least until 2006 when the data stops: the rate for that year is 3808. (And though the above crime breakdown doesn’t reflect the prosecution of high crimes, I’m pretty sure the impeachment rate has plummeted under Bush, as well.)

At a campaign stop in Philadelphia today, Hillary Clinton proposed an anti-crime package that would put 100,000 more cops on the streets of the U.S.

It’s a good thing, too: Another part of her package calls for letting imprisoned crack users back out on the streets to mix it up with the extra cops. According to the Los Angeles Times, this is all part of a plan to reduce recidivism and achieve fair treatment for blacks and whites under the law. Crack users “are disproportionately black,” and “the law punishes them more harshly than powder cocaine users, who are predominantly white.”

What’s wrong with stiffer penalties all around? Wouldn’t that take care of the imbalance and encourage less recidivism, at least in theory? The problem is, though, it wouldn’t help Hillary achieve her real goal—which is, as always, taking every position so that everyone approves. She wants more cops walking the beat to show she’s tough on crime, but she wants to reduce crack-related sentences to show she’s sympathetic to certain segments of the criminal population. This isn’t about anti-recidivism. It’s about a return to the big house. Another Clinton wants to be president and is employing Clintonian triangulation to get there.

Once again, the self-congratulatory fibs are on display as well:

Claiming that her husband’s administration “reduced crime to historic lows” in the 1990s, Clinton argued that “we have to get back to doing what we know works.”

[…]

“President Bush could have built on the successes of the 1990s,” she said, but instead he “slowly but surely chipped away at all of the building blocks.”

According to the Disaster Center, while the national crime rate did indeed plummet during Bill Clinton’s two terms, there were certainly no “historic lows.” In 1993, when Bill Clinton took office, the crime rate per 100,000 American inhabitants was 5,484.4. In 2001, when he left, it was 4,162.6. But the table also shows that before 1971, the rate was routinely lower than Bill Clinton’s best numbers. So, no historic lows–just a routine, Clintonian one. Furthermore, the crime rate has continued to drop every year of the George W. Bush administration, at least until 2006 when the data stops: the rate for that year is 3808. (And though the above crime breakdown doesn’t reflect the prosecution of high crimes, I’m pretty sure the impeachment rate has plummeted under Bush, as well.)

Read Less

“The Holocaust Declaration”

“It is time to admit the truth,” Charles Krauthammer writes this morning. “The Bush administration’s attempt to halt Iran’s nuclear program has failed. Utterly.” It’s hard to disagree: almost no one thinks President Bush is going to muster the coalition necessary to stop Tehran or go to war to do so.

Krauthammer’s solution? He calls upon the President to make the “Holocaust Declaration,” a statement that the United States will consider any nuclear attack on Israel by, or originating in, Iran as an attack on the United States “requiring a full retaliatory response.” He correctly notes that we are “the last refuge and hope of an ancient people openly threatened with the final Final Solution.”

Will deterrence work in the 21st century? Despite tough talk and a few particularly regrettable acts of aggression, Moscow, after the missile crisis in Cuba, generally acted like a status quo power. Iran, unfortunately, is not. Krauthammer acknowledges that the prospect of complete destruction may not deter some of the wilder elements in Tehran. Moreover, the Iranians might actually think they can get away with incinerating Israel by arranging to have either Hamas or Hezbollah detonate a nuke there.

Perhaps the most important objection to Krauthammer’s declaration is that it is an implicit acknowledgment that his premise is correct: that the mullahs have already beaten America. Any public adoption of a deterrence strategy would certainly signal to the Iranians that they can continue their weapons program, thereby making it even harder to rally the international community to take effective action against the mullahs. I do not share the optimism expressed by the New York Times this morning that there is plenty of time left—Iran could get the bomb by the end of next year—but I believe that, one way or another, we can still stop Tehran.

The United States has a moral obligation to protect her friends and to protect democracies. Israel makes it on both counts. One day, we may have to make Krauthammer’s commitment explicit with a Holocaust Declaration. At this moment, however, the Bush administration still has an obligation to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons by any means necessary. Deterrence is only the last resort.

“It is time to admit the truth,” Charles Krauthammer writes this morning. “The Bush administration’s attempt to halt Iran’s nuclear program has failed. Utterly.” It’s hard to disagree: almost no one thinks President Bush is going to muster the coalition necessary to stop Tehran or go to war to do so.

Krauthammer’s solution? He calls upon the President to make the “Holocaust Declaration,” a statement that the United States will consider any nuclear attack on Israel by, or originating in, Iran as an attack on the United States “requiring a full retaliatory response.” He correctly notes that we are “the last refuge and hope of an ancient people openly threatened with the final Final Solution.”

Will deterrence work in the 21st century? Despite tough talk and a few particularly regrettable acts of aggression, Moscow, after the missile crisis in Cuba, generally acted like a status quo power. Iran, unfortunately, is not. Krauthammer acknowledges that the prospect of complete destruction may not deter some of the wilder elements in Tehran. Moreover, the Iranians might actually think they can get away with incinerating Israel by arranging to have either Hamas or Hezbollah detonate a nuke there.

Perhaps the most important objection to Krauthammer’s declaration is that it is an implicit acknowledgment that his premise is correct: that the mullahs have already beaten America. Any public adoption of a deterrence strategy would certainly signal to the Iranians that they can continue their weapons program, thereby making it even harder to rally the international community to take effective action against the mullahs. I do not share the optimism expressed by the New York Times this morning that there is plenty of time left—Iran could get the bomb by the end of next year—but I believe that, one way or another, we can still stop Tehran.

The United States has a moral obligation to protect her friends and to protect democracies. Israel makes it on both counts. One day, we may have to make Krauthammer’s commitment explicit with a Holocaust Declaration. At this moment, however, the Bush administration still has an obligation to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons by any means necessary. Deterrence is only the last resort.

Read Less

Obama on Carter

Others have remarked on the prospect of Jimmy Carter meeting with Hamas and Barack Obama’s disinclination to criticize him for it. (We should be gratified, I suppose, that Obama has finally found an enemy dedicated to Israel’s destruction with whom he would not meet.)

There may be multiple political motives to explain why Obama has not spoken out against Carter. Newt Gingrich points out that Obama’s worldview is eerily reminiscent of Carter’s. But we should remember from the Wright affair: Obama doesn’t do condemnations.

Once again with Carter we get a “Who am I to condemn Mr. X?” response from Obama. He doesn’t condemn Wright or his own loudmouth surrogates. He certainly won’t damn Carter.

Given this track record, one wonders how Obama’s meeting with, say, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would go: “Who am I to condemn Holocaust deniers?” Will we hear that Ahmadinejad is “brilliant” and “deserving of our respect,” but that he’s caught in a “time warp”? Obama’s political world is populated by the misunderstood and the estranged, the time-trapped but well-meaning, and enemies waiting only for a bit of “dignity promotion” before they become our fast friends. Honest. So do not hold your breath for any condemnations or denunciations from the Obama administration, should we get that far. It’s just not his thing.

Others have remarked on the prospect of Jimmy Carter meeting with Hamas and Barack Obama’s disinclination to criticize him for it. (We should be gratified, I suppose, that Obama has finally found an enemy dedicated to Israel’s destruction with whom he would not meet.)

There may be multiple political motives to explain why Obama has not spoken out against Carter. Newt Gingrich points out that Obama’s worldview is eerily reminiscent of Carter’s. But we should remember from the Wright affair: Obama doesn’t do condemnations.

Once again with Carter we get a “Who am I to condemn Mr. X?” response from Obama. He doesn’t condemn Wright or his own loudmouth surrogates. He certainly won’t damn Carter.

Given this track record, one wonders how Obama’s meeting with, say, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would go: “Who am I to condemn Holocaust deniers?” Will we hear that Ahmadinejad is “brilliant” and “deserving of our respect,” but that he’s caught in a “time warp”? Obama’s political world is populated by the misunderstood and the estranged, the time-trapped but well-meaning, and enemies waiting only for a bit of “dignity promotion” before they become our fast friends. Honest. So do not hold your breath for any condemnations or denunciations from the Obama administration, should we get that far. It’s just not his thing.

Read Less

The Only Sin

The only mortal sin in politics is hypocrisy. Conservatives, especially social conservatives, have been easy targets for their sexual peccadilloes (which the media contrast with their public advocacy of family values): think Ted Haggard or Larry Craig.  Liberals tend to get hoisted on financial hypocrisy (although Eliot Spitzer and James McGreevey are exception). To wit: John Edwards’s $400 haircuts, hedge fund employment, and high-paying speeches on poverty.

Barack Obama is coming close to that latter line. He identifies himself as the “throw the lobbyists out” champion and “money corrupts politics” truth-teller. But wait! His “parallel public financing system” is populated by 79 “bundlers,” you say? Can’t be. Plus the media has finally woken up to the fact that Obama’s “I don’t take corporate money” is a ruse for the rubes and that millions of dollars from supposedly nefarious sources (drug and oil companies and banks) are underwriting the Obama-mania road show. (Feeling the heat, Obama is now dialing back on his suggestion that he has definitively decided to opt out of the real public campaign finance system.)

There is, of course, a bit of Captain Renault-style incredulity in the reporting. But it was Obama who elevated himself to mythical levels of political purity. That his image would eventually collide with reality was only a matter of time. The question now is whether it survives intact.

The only mortal sin in politics is hypocrisy. Conservatives, especially social conservatives, have been easy targets for their sexual peccadilloes (which the media contrast with their public advocacy of family values): think Ted Haggard or Larry Craig.  Liberals tend to get hoisted on financial hypocrisy (although Eliot Spitzer and James McGreevey are exception). To wit: John Edwards’s $400 haircuts, hedge fund employment, and high-paying speeches on poverty.

Barack Obama is coming close to that latter line. He identifies himself as the “throw the lobbyists out” champion and “money corrupts politics” truth-teller. But wait! His “parallel public financing system” is populated by 79 “bundlers,” you say? Can’t be. Plus the media has finally woken up to the fact that Obama’s “I don’t take corporate money” is a ruse for the rubes and that millions of dollars from supposedly nefarious sources (drug and oil companies and banks) are underwriting the Obama-mania road show. (Feeling the heat, Obama is now dialing back on his suggestion that he has definitively decided to opt out of the real public campaign finance system.)

There is, of course, a bit of Captain Renault-style incredulity in the reporting. But it was Obama who elevated himself to mythical levels of political purity. That his image would eventually collide with reality was only a matter of time. The question now is whether it survives intact.

Read Less

Buchanan’s Iran Pretzel

Today in World Net Daily, Pat Buchanan ties himself into a knot about the prospects of a war with Iran. He begins, “The neocons may yet get their war on Iran,” and then runs through the signs of impending military action:

Iran, Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee, has “fueled the recent violence in a particularly damaging way through its lethal support of the special groups.”

These “special groups” are “funded, trained, armed and directed by Iran’s Quds Force with help from Lebanese Hezbollah. It was these groups that launched Iranian rockets and mortar rounds at Iraq’s seat of government (the Green Zone) … causing loss of innocent life and fear in the capital.”

Is the Iranian government aware of this – and behind it?

“President Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders” promised to end their “support for the special groups,” said the general, but the “nefarious activities of the Quds force have continued.”

Are Iranians then murdering Americans, asked Joe Lieberman:

“Is it fair to say that the Iranian-backed special groups in Iraq are responsible for the murder of hundreds of American soldiers and thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians?”

“It certainly is. . . . That is correct,” said Petraeus.

The following day, Petraeus told the House Armed Services Committee, “Unchecked, the ‘special groups’ pose the greatest long-term threat to the viability of a democratic Iraq.”
Translation: The United States is now fighting the proxies of Iran for the future of Iraq.

I don’t know about you, but I think this is a convincing case that Iran has already started a war with the U.S. Next, Buchanan takes some shots at the Iraq War and declares “Iran has nothing to gain by war.” He concludes:

No, it is not Iran that wants a war with the United States. It is the United States that has reasons to want a short, sharp war with Iran.

So, in Buchanan’s vision, the ill-conceived Iraq War has enabled the Iranians to engage in an undeclared war with the U.S. But the Iranians also, somehow, don’t want war with us. He may be right about the increasing likelihood of U.S. military action against Iran: the case against it has never looked so topsy-turvy.

Today in World Net Daily, Pat Buchanan ties himself into a knot about the prospects of a war with Iran. He begins, “The neocons may yet get their war on Iran,” and then runs through the signs of impending military action:

Iran, Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee, has “fueled the recent violence in a particularly damaging way through its lethal support of the special groups.”

These “special groups” are “funded, trained, armed and directed by Iran’s Quds Force with help from Lebanese Hezbollah. It was these groups that launched Iranian rockets and mortar rounds at Iraq’s seat of government (the Green Zone) … causing loss of innocent life and fear in the capital.”

Is the Iranian government aware of this – and behind it?

“President Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders” promised to end their “support for the special groups,” said the general, but the “nefarious activities of the Quds force have continued.”

Are Iranians then murdering Americans, asked Joe Lieberman:

“Is it fair to say that the Iranian-backed special groups in Iraq are responsible for the murder of hundreds of American soldiers and thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians?”

“It certainly is. . . . That is correct,” said Petraeus.

The following day, Petraeus told the House Armed Services Committee, “Unchecked, the ‘special groups’ pose the greatest long-term threat to the viability of a democratic Iraq.”
Translation: The United States is now fighting the proxies of Iran for the future of Iraq.

I don’t know about you, but I think this is a convincing case that Iran has already started a war with the U.S. Next, Buchanan takes some shots at the Iraq War and declares “Iran has nothing to gain by war.” He concludes:

No, it is not Iran that wants a war with the United States. It is the United States that has reasons to want a short, sharp war with Iran.

So, in Buchanan’s vision, the ill-conceived Iraq War has enabled the Iranians to engage in an undeclared war with the U.S. But the Iranians also, somehow, don’t want war with us. He may be right about the increasing likelihood of U.S. military action against Iran: the case against it has never looked so topsy-turvy.

Read Less

At It Again

Bill Clinton, in his latest gaffe-athon, dredges up the worst story of the campaign for his wife (Snipergate), sprinkles in his own lies, and gives the media a meaty story for a slow news Friday. Does he want his wife to lose? Maybe he’s a hopeless, pathological fabulist. Or maybe he just doesn’t understand how hard it is to get away with easily fact-checked lies in a 24/7 news environment. (And he obviously wasn’t in on the recent Vast Right Wing Conspiracy to help Hillary.)

Bill Clinton, in his latest gaffe-athon, dredges up the worst story of the campaign for his wife (Snipergate), sprinkles in his own lies, and gives the media a meaty story for a slow news Friday. Does he want his wife to lose? Maybe he’s a hopeless, pathological fabulist. Or maybe he just doesn’t understand how hard it is to get away with easily fact-checked lies in a 24/7 news environment. (And he obviously wasn’t in on the recent Vast Right Wing Conspiracy to help Hillary.)

Read Less

Why No Museum to Honor Soldiers?

Ralph Peters raises an excellent point in the New York Post today: Why is there a new museum in Washington to honor journalists (called the Newseum) but not one to honor the armed forces? There is, of course, some focus on military history at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum and the National Museum of American History. But there is nothing in Washington like London’s Imperial War Museum or Canberra’s Australian War Memorial—both enthralling institutions that I have been lucky enough to wander through in the past year or so. They provide a perspective that neither documentaries nor history books can offer by allowing visitors to see the actual equipment used by combatants and even to experience reenactments of actual battles.

The closest that Washington has is the new National Museum of the Marine Corps. But it’s located at Quantico, Virginia, and while it is a first-rate piece of work (as good in its own way as the Imperial War Museum), it is devoted to only one of the military services. It is well past time for there to be an American Military Museum—or better still (because less politically correct) an American War Museum—in our nation’s capital.

Ralph Peters raises an excellent point in the New York Post today: Why is there a new museum in Washington to honor journalists (called the Newseum) but not one to honor the armed forces? There is, of course, some focus on military history at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum and the National Museum of American History. But there is nothing in Washington like London’s Imperial War Museum or Canberra’s Australian War Memorial—both enthralling institutions that I have been lucky enough to wander through in the past year or so. They provide a perspective that neither documentaries nor history books can offer by allowing visitors to see the actual equipment used by combatants and even to experience reenactments of actual battles.

The closest that Washington has is the new National Museum of the Marine Corps. But it’s located at Quantico, Virginia, and while it is a first-rate piece of work (as good in its own way as the Imperial War Museum), it is devoted to only one of the military services. It is well past time for there to be an American Military Museum—or better still (because less politically correct) an American War Museum—in our nation’s capital.

Read Less

Nuke Teheran?

Charles Krauthammer lays out the case today for a U.S. nuclear guarantee to Israel. “It’s time to admit the truth,” he writes. “The Bush administration’s attempt to halt Iran’s nuclear program has failed.” He proposes instead that George Bush should take a leaf from the Cuban missile crisis and issue a ringing declaration that:

“It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear attack upon Israel by Iran, or originating in Iran, as an attack by Iran on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon Iran.”

This should be followed with a simple explanation: “As a beacon of tolerance and as leader of the free world, the United States will not permit a second Holocaust to be perpetrated upon the Jewish people.”

Such an approach has its undeniable appeal, but would it suffice to assure Israel’s security needs, or even survival, in the face of a nuclear-armed Iran?

In some scenarios, perhaps. It certainly might give the Iranians pause before launching a nuclear-missile fusillade against Tel Aviv directly from their soil. But there are many far more ambiguous forms in which an Iranian nuclear weapon might be employed, and not only against Israel, but against other countries in the region. The provision of a nuclear weapon to a terrorist surrogate group under Iranian control is one. Coercive nuclear threats are another.

Would the United States really follow through on its word and destroy Tehran if, say, Hizballah smuggled a nuclear device into Haifa and detonated it? Somehow, I doubt it. And we are not even contemplating here the possibility that it might be Barack Obama who has to answer the phone at 3AM before calling General McPeak and asking him what to do.   

The fact is that a nuclear-armed Iran will be a far more assertive and dangerous power than it already is. No words from an American president, no matter how ringing, can solve Israel’s defense dilemma at a stroke. Unless the U.S. or Israel takes action, we may yet have to learn to live with an Iranian bomb. But it’s folly to believe we can solve major security problems with declarations.

Charles Krauthammer lays out the case today for a U.S. nuclear guarantee to Israel. “It’s time to admit the truth,” he writes. “The Bush administration’s attempt to halt Iran’s nuclear program has failed.” He proposes instead that George Bush should take a leaf from the Cuban missile crisis and issue a ringing declaration that:

“It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear attack upon Israel by Iran, or originating in Iran, as an attack by Iran on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon Iran.”

This should be followed with a simple explanation: “As a beacon of tolerance and as leader of the free world, the United States will not permit a second Holocaust to be perpetrated upon the Jewish people.”

Such an approach has its undeniable appeal, but would it suffice to assure Israel’s security needs, or even survival, in the face of a nuclear-armed Iran?

In some scenarios, perhaps. It certainly might give the Iranians pause before launching a nuclear-missile fusillade against Tel Aviv directly from their soil. But there are many far more ambiguous forms in which an Iranian nuclear weapon might be employed, and not only against Israel, but against other countries in the region. The provision of a nuclear weapon to a terrorist surrogate group under Iranian control is one. Coercive nuclear threats are another.

Would the United States really follow through on its word and destroy Tehran if, say, Hizballah smuggled a nuclear device into Haifa and detonated it? Somehow, I doubt it. And we are not even contemplating here the possibility that it might be Barack Obama who has to answer the phone at 3AM before calling General McPeak and asking him what to do.   

The fact is that a nuclear-armed Iran will be a far more assertive and dangerous power than it already is. No words from an American president, no matter how ringing, can solve Israel’s defense dilemma at a stroke. Unless the U.S. or Israel takes action, we may yet have to learn to live with an Iranian bomb. But it’s folly to believe we can solve major security problems with declarations.

Read Less

Barack Blogs B’Ivrit

In his effort to win a greater share of the Jewish vote, Barack Obama has now launched a blog in Hebrew. Based on the first two posts, he’s clearly not putting too much time into it just yet: One is a letter from his Middle East advisor Eric Lynn; the other is a speech he gave in March 2007 on Middle East policy. But we should not underestimate the cleverness of this move.

One of the least understood aspects of Israel-Diaspora relations is the high-bandwidth sharing of information and opinions between liberal American Jews and the left-leaning Israeli media elite. This is clearly a two-way street: American Jewish opinion tends to follow whatever the mainstream media in Israel has to say about Israeli politics, while the Israeli media tend to parrot American Jewish thinking about the United States. Thus you often find Israeli pundits opposing the war in Iraq (despite the fact that the elimination of Saddam Hussein was one of the greatest strategic windfalls in Israel’s history), or criticizing Christian Zionists (usually without having ever met any of them).

Barack Obama understands that Hillary is crushing him in Israeli polls, and that this reverberates back into the American Jewish debate over who is better for Israel. It’s a bit of a stretch to imagine that this alone will tip the scales on the American Jewish vote. But as part of a broader strategy, it makes more sense than one might think.

In his effort to win a greater share of the Jewish vote, Barack Obama has now launched a blog in Hebrew. Based on the first two posts, he’s clearly not putting too much time into it just yet: One is a letter from his Middle East advisor Eric Lynn; the other is a speech he gave in March 2007 on Middle East policy. But we should not underestimate the cleverness of this move.

One of the least understood aspects of Israel-Diaspora relations is the high-bandwidth sharing of information and opinions between liberal American Jews and the left-leaning Israeli media elite. This is clearly a two-way street: American Jewish opinion tends to follow whatever the mainstream media in Israel has to say about Israeli politics, while the Israeli media tend to parrot American Jewish thinking about the United States. Thus you often find Israeli pundits opposing the war in Iraq (despite the fact that the elimination of Saddam Hussein was one of the greatest strategic windfalls in Israel’s history), or criticizing Christian Zionists (usually without having ever met any of them).

Barack Obama understands that Hillary is crushing him in Israeli polls, and that this reverberates back into the American Jewish debate over who is better for Israel. It’s a bit of a stretch to imagine that this alone will tip the scales on the American Jewish vote. But as part of a broader strategy, it makes more sense than one might think.

Read Less

Be Nice to Hillary Day

The presidential contenders made taped appearances on American Idol Thursday night as part of the show’s charity appeal (“Idol Gives Back”). Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton made almost identical apolitical (slightly boring) pitches to help people around the corner and around the globe. But John McCain joked that Idol is a lot like a presidential primary “except for people who live in Michigan and Florida–their votes actually count.” Take that, Obama.

Thursday must have been “be nice to Hillary day” in GOP circles.

The presidential contenders made taped appearances on American Idol Thursday night as part of the show’s charity appeal (“Idol Gives Back”). Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton made almost identical apolitical (slightly boring) pitches to help people around the corner and around the globe. But John McCain joked that Idol is a lot like a presidential primary “except for people who live in Michigan and Florida–their votes actually count.” Take that, Obama.

Thursday must have been “be nice to Hillary day” in GOP circles.

Read Less

Carter’s Awkward Moments

Jimmy Carter’s upcoming handshake with Hamas leader Khalid Meshal in Damascus promises to be an incredibly awkward moment. In fact, it will be so awkward that–almost forty-eight hours after the story broke–the Carter Center has yet to confirm the visit (though Hamas has done so giddily). Amidst this dithering, the U.S. foreign policy community has overwhelmingly lambasted the proposed meet-and-greet, while the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Ibrahim Hooper seems to be Carter’s lone supporter in Washington.It’s gotten so bad that even Kofi Annan–who infamously greeted Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah during his tenure as UN Secretary General–is distancing himself from Carter, canceling his plans to accompany the former U.S. president to the Middle East.

Rest assured, this awkwardness is here to stay, and will not subside once Carter boards his plane back from Damascus. Rather, it will follow him all the way to the Democratic National Convention in Denver–where the keynote address he will deliver as a former Democratic president will be a chillingly awkward moment for the ultimate presidential nominee. Indeed, without Carter having even addressed the Hamas meeting publicly, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have criticized Carter’s plans through their press offices. For now, Carter’s lack of attachment to either campaign makes this form of distancing acceptable. Yet when Carter addresses a national audience for a full half-hour or so in late August at the convention, the ultimate nominee will have some serious explaining to do–particularly because the nominee’s campaign is largely responsible for drafting speakers, and thus technically responsible for Carter’s time in the limelight.

Naturally, Carter’s visit with Hamas will be most problematic if Obama wins the nomination. As an article in the LA Times noted yesterday, Obama continues to face doubters within the Jewish community, who remain concerned by his longtime relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright and question the sincerity of his pro-Israel pronouncements. It is for this reason that Carter’s decision to legitimize Hamas now is most confounding: how can Carter, who has hinted at his support for Obama, put him in such an awkward position?

Jimmy Carter’s upcoming handshake with Hamas leader Khalid Meshal in Damascus promises to be an incredibly awkward moment. In fact, it will be so awkward that–almost forty-eight hours after the story broke–the Carter Center has yet to confirm the visit (though Hamas has done so giddily). Amidst this dithering, the U.S. foreign policy community has overwhelmingly lambasted the proposed meet-and-greet, while the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Ibrahim Hooper seems to be Carter’s lone supporter in Washington.It’s gotten so bad that even Kofi Annan–who infamously greeted Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah during his tenure as UN Secretary General–is distancing himself from Carter, canceling his plans to accompany the former U.S. president to the Middle East.

Rest assured, this awkwardness is here to stay, and will not subside once Carter boards his plane back from Damascus. Rather, it will follow him all the way to the Democratic National Convention in Denver–where the keynote address he will deliver as a former Democratic president will be a chillingly awkward moment for the ultimate presidential nominee. Indeed, without Carter having even addressed the Hamas meeting publicly, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have criticized Carter’s plans through their press offices. For now, Carter’s lack of attachment to either campaign makes this form of distancing acceptable. Yet when Carter addresses a national audience for a full half-hour or so in late August at the convention, the ultimate nominee will have some serious explaining to do–particularly because the nominee’s campaign is largely responsible for drafting speakers, and thus technically responsible for Carter’s time in the limelight.

Naturally, Carter’s visit with Hamas will be most problematic if Obama wins the nomination. As an article in the LA Times noted yesterday, Obama continues to face doubters within the Jewish community, who remain concerned by his longtime relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright and question the sincerity of his pro-Israel pronouncements. It is for this reason that Carter’s decision to legitimize Hamas now is most confounding: how can Carter, who has hinted at his support for Obama, put him in such an awkward position?

Read Less

Throwing Rocks in the Pond

Hillary Clinton has been mum on the subject lately. The McCain camp has studiously avoided mentioning Reverend Wright. But not Vice President Cheney. He had this to say on Thursday in an interview with Sean Hannity:

I’ve watched what’s going on on the Democratic side with great interest, and sort of blowing hot and cold in terms of who is going to win, whether it is going to be Senator Clinton or Senator Obama. I thought the controversy over Reverend Wright was remarkable. I thought some of the things he said were absolutely appalling. And, you know, I haven’t gotten into the business of trying to judge how Senator Obama dealt with it, or didn’t deal with it, but I really — I think, like most Americans, I was stunned at what the Reverend was preaching in his church and then putting up on his website.

Is this just a casual observation? Unlikely: Cheney has weathered two presidential elections. Maybe it’s a bouquet to Hillary Clinton, who could use a lift. Maybe it’s an attempt to counteract Colin Powell’s praise for Obama earlier in the day. Regardless of its motive, the effect is the same: Wright’s name stays in the news and voters continue to ponder this troubling association.

Meanwhile, Howard Dean tells us that, under no circumstances, will the Democrats bring up McCain’s age (71) as a factor in the election. It would be wrong, you see, to mention McCain’s age (71), and the Democrats are above mentioning McCain’s age (71). Did he mention that the Democrats’ high ethical standards don’t allow them to mention McCain’s age (71)? Even though his age (71) is a factor, according to focus groups run by the DNC (which is too high-minded to bring up his age)?

Hillary Clinton has been mum on the subject lately. The McCain camp has studiously avoided mentioning Reverend Wright. But not Vice President Cheney. He had this to say on Thursday in an interview with Sean Hannity:

I’ve watched what’s going on on the Democratic side with great interest, and sort of blowing hot and cold in terms of who is going to win, whether it is going to be Senator Clinton or Senator Obama. I thought the controversy over Reverend Wright was remarkable. I thought some of the things he said were absolutely appalling. And, you know, I haven’t gotten into the business of trying to judge how Senator Obama dealt with it, or didn’t deal with it, but I really — I think, like most Americans, I was stunned at what the Reverend was preaching in his church and then putting up on his website.

Is this just a casual observation? Unlikely: Cheney has weathered two presidential elections. Maybe it’s a bouquet to Hillary Clinton, who could use a lift. Maybe it’s an attempt to counteract Colin Powell’s praise for Obama earlier in the day. Regardless of its motive, the effect is the same: Wright’s name stays in the news and voters continue to ponder this troubling association.

Meanwhile, Howard Dean tells us that, under no circumstances, will the Democrats bring up McCain’s age (71) as a factor in the election. It would be wrong, you see, to mention McCain’s age (71), and the Democrats are above mentioning McCain’s age (71). Did he mention that the Democrats’ high ethical standards don’t allow them to mention McCain’s age (71)? Even though his age (71) is a factor, according to focus groups run by the DNC (which is too high-minded to bring up his age)?

Read Less