Commentary Magazine


Posts For: April 15, 2008

Saint Jimmy, Virulent Realist

Jimmy Carter’s disastrous trip to the Middle East — which was really just what the Democrats needed right now — is an object lesson in American foreign-policy myopia. When Carter, shockingly, said that in speaking to dictators, he was speaking “to all the people” under the dictator’s thumb, he revealed something important about himself. Far from being the idealist of legend, he is actually nothing more than an old-style, unreconstructed “realist.”

Carter is forever attempting to cut deals with dictators — as he did in 1994 when he claimed to have solved the North Korean nuclear problem in a one-on-one with Kim Il Sung. He has no choice, really. If you’re an American eminence who wants to make headlines by cutting deals on a foreign trip, you can only do so with a tyranny, because representative governments don’t move quickly enough.

Here’s the thing about dictators: They are very easy to deal with. If you ask them to do something for you, and they agree, it gets done. They don’t have bothersome parliaments or independent courts or restive populaces to hinder their actions. And it is in part for this reason that realists have long looked suspiciously on democratizing as foreign policy. It isn’t just that they are dubious about the capacity of such societies to liberalize; it is also that for the United States, a tyranny may simply be a more practical partner.

I have no doubt that the reason American presidents have spent decades speaking very softly and in kindly terms about Saudi Arabia is that all they have to do is place a phone call to the right person (who was, for decades, Prince Bandar) and they can get something out of the call — something important and useful and entirely clandestine that they believe is in the American national interest. America’s delicacy in dealing with Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf over the past six or seven years is doubtless due to the same sort of thing — Condi or Colin calls, Pervez responds.

Those who believe this kind of relationship is the most and the best Americans can expect from a difficult world usually think of themselves as hardened by experience — serious, appropriately cynical, tough, and without illusion.

We don’t usually think of Carter as a “realist,” in part because he is given to preening moralizing and in part because he is falsely given credit for putting human rights at the center of his foreign policy during his presidency. (I say “falsely” because his administration’s efforts in this regard with the Soviet Union were intended entirely as window-dressing for some very questionable bilateral negotiations; it was Soviet and Eastern European dissidents themselves who figured out how to use the human-rights language in some of these negotiations as a weapon against those awful regimes, a brilliant twist that neither the Soviets nor the Carterites ever anticipated.)

But a realist he is, of a particularly disagreeable sort. A cynic doesn’t usually expect, demand, and need the world to think of him as a saint.

Jimmy Carter’s disastrous trip to the Middle East — which was really just what the Democrats needed right now — is an object lesson in American foreign-policy myopia. When Carter, shockingly, said that in speaking to dictators, he was speaking “to all the people” under the dictator’s thumb, he revealed something important about himself. Far from being the idealist of legend, he is actually nothing more than an old-style, unreconstructed “realist.”

Carter is forever attempting to cut deals with dictators — as he did in 1994 when he claimed to have solved the North Korean nuclear problem in a one-on-one with Kim Il Sung. He has no choice, really. If you’re an American eminence who wants to make headlines by cutting deals on a foreign trip, you can only do so with a tyranny, because representative governments don’t move quickly enough.

Here’s the thing about dictators: They are very easy to deal with. If you ask them to do something for you, and they agree, it gets done. They don’t have bothersome parliaments or independent courts or restive populaces to hinder their actions. And it is in part for this reason that realists have long looked suspiciously on democratizing as foreign policy. It isn’t just that they are dubious about the capacity of such societies to liberalize; it is also that for the United States, a tyranny may simply be a more practical partner.

I have no doubt that the reason American presidents have spent decades speaking very softly and in kindly terms about Saudi Arabia is that all they have to do is place a phone call to the right person (who was, for decades, Prince Bandar) and they can get something out of the call — something important and useful and entirely clandestine that they believe is in the American national interest. America’s delicacy in dealing with Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf over the past six or seven years is doubtless due to the same sort of thing — Condi or Colin calls, Pervez responds.

Those who believe this kind of relationship is the most and the best Americans can expect from a difficult world usually think of themselves as hardened by experience — serious, appropriately cynical, tough, and without illusion.

We don’t usually think of Carter as a “realist,” in part because he is given to preening moralizing and in part because he is falsely given credit for putting human rights at the center of his foreign policy during his presidency. (I say “falsely” because his administration’s efforts in this regard with the Soviet Union were intended entirely as window-dressing for some very questionable bilateral negotiations; it was Soviet and Eastern European dissidents themselves who figured out how to use the human-rights language in some of these negotiations as a weapon against those awful regimes, a brilliant twist that neither the Soviets nor the Carterites ever anticipated.)

But a realist he is, of a particularly disagreeable sort. A cynic doesn’t usually expect, demand, and need the world to think of him as a saint.

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What’s in a Name?

Inquiring minds want to know: why did the new anti-AIPAC name itself “J Street”? One clever emailer writes that the name

is based on an entirely inside-the-Beltway reference (there is no J Street). I am almost tempted to say that, just as their name refers to a non-existent street, their organization appeals to a non-existent constituency.

Over at the Corner, Mark Krikorian says that

Sending tourists to an address on J Street is a prank, like asking for a left-handed wrench or a bucket of vacuum.

My theory is that the name was inspired by the Nation‘s blog, also called J Street and self-described thusly:

That mythical street between L and K is a metaphor for all that should be in the nation’s capital but isn’t: voices marginalized or ignored, ideas too radical or unpopular for the mainstream, movements elided or dismissed.

Too perfect!

Inquiring minds want to know: why did the new anti-AIPAC name itself “J Street”? One clever emailer writes that the name

is based on an entirely inside-the-Beltway reference (there is no J Street). I am almost tempted to say that, just as their name refers to a non-existent street, their organization appeals to a non-existent constituency.

Over at the Corner, Mark Krikorian says that

Sending tourists to an address on J Street is a prank, like asking for a left-handed wrench or a bucket of vacuum.

My theory is that the name was inspired by the Nation‘s blog, also called J Street and self-described thusly:

That mythical street between L and K is a metaphor for all that should be in the nation’s capital but isn’t: voices marginalized or ignored, ideas too radical or unpopular for the mainstream, movements elided or dismissed.

Too perfect!

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Flogging on the Quads

New York magazine reports that a multi-multi-million dollar deal to set up a New York University campus in the Arab city-state of Abu Dhabi is all but closed. The Gulf campus will be a clone of the Manhattan one “but with an Arab twist,” according to Khaldoon Al Mubarak, the CEO of the government-owned investment company overseeing the deal.

What’s involved in an Arab twist, you ask? “Homosexual activity is illegal in the United Arab Emirates, and those found guilty of drug use, prostitution, or adultery can be sentenced to flogging.” There goes spring break!

John Sexton, NYU’s president and the driving force behind the deal, isn’t worried. “We have to accept the fact that, like in New York, we cannot provide immunity to students or faculty members at NYU Abu Dhabi from the normal laws of that society when not engaged in activities on our campus,” he says. And when they are engaged in campus activities–what can we expect then? “Two years ago, a foreign lecturer at a university in the emirates was dismissed for showing and discussing controversial Danish cartoons that ridiculed the Prophet Muhammad.”

At a recent NYU faculty meeting, one person asked “What exactly is the status of Abu Dhabi’s relationship with Israel?” Well, it can’t be much worse than American academia’s relationship with Israel. Or can it? For starters, Israelis are prohibited from entering the country. And then there’s this:

According to the Anti-Defamation League, a 2002 symposium sponsored by a now-defunct Abu Dhabi think tank challenged the reality of the Holocaust; a speaker called Jews “the enemies of all nations.”

Sexton, once again: “I would say to any student here that wants to go to the Abu Dhabi campus, ‘Go.’ Gay students, Israeli students, I refuse to think in those categories.” (As if the problem lies in Americans thinking in those categories.) This whole thing is, for Sexton, a great big multi-culti wet kiss to the post-9/11 Arab world:

After that day, we were forced to confront the critical choice of the 21st century. What is our attitude toward ‘the other’ going to be? Is it going to be a clash of civilizations? Or is it going to be an ecumenical gift?

Do I have a vote? Because I’m willing to clash with any civilization that flogs homosexuals and outlaws Israeli visitors. By selling a degraded clone of itself to the highest bidder, NYU is doing irreversible damage to U.S. universities as a whole. This frightening love-child of Western multi-cultural lunacy and Arab oil money represents a new low. As NYU professor Marcelo Suárez-Orozco enthusiastically stated, “This is not just study abroad on steroids . . . This is really upping the ante. It will be a complete game-changer for higher education as we know it.”

New York magazine reports that a multi-multi-million dollar deal to set up a New York University campus in the Arab city-state of Abu Dhabi is all but closed. The Gulf campus will be a clone of the Manhattan one “but with an Arab twist,” according to Khaldoon Al Mubarak, the CEO of the government-owned investment company overseeing the deal.

What’s involved in an Arab twist, you ask? “Homosexual activity is illegal in the United Arab Emirates, and those found guilty of drug use, prostitution, or adultery can be sentenced to flogging.” There goes spring break!

John Sexton, NYU’s president and the driving force behind the deal, isn’t worried. “We have to accept the fact that, like in New York, we cannot provide immunity to students or faculty members at NYU Abu Dhabi from the normal laws of that society when not engaged in activities on our campus,” he says. And when they are engaged in campus activities–what can we expect then? “Two years ago, a foreign lecturer at a university in the emirates was dismissed for showing and discussing controversial Danish cartoons that ridiculed the Prophet Muhammad.”

At a recent NYU faculty meeting, one person asked “What exactly is the status of Abu Dhabi’s relationship with Israel?” Well, it can’t be much worse than American academia’s relationship with Israel. Or can it? For starters, Israelis are prohibited from entering the country. And then there’s this:

According to the Anti-Defamation League, a 2002 symposium sponsored by a now-defunct Abu Dhabi think tank challenged the reality of the Holocaust; a speaker called Jews “the enemies of all nations.”

Sexton, once again: “I would say to any student here that wants to go to the Abu Dhabi campus, ‘Go.’ Gay students, Israeli students, I refuse to think in those categories.” (As if the problem lies in Americans thinking in those categories.) This whole thing is, for Sexton, a great big multi-culti wet kiss to the post-9/11 Arab world:

After that day, we were forced to confront the critical choice of the 21st century. What is our attitude toward ‘the other’ going to be? Is it going to be a clash of civilizations? Or is it going to be an ecumenical gift?

Do I have a vote? Because I’m willing to clash with any civilization that flogs homosexuals and outlaws Israeli visitors. By selling a degraded clone of itself to the highest bidder, NYU is doing irreversible damage to U.S. universities as a whole. This frightening love-child of Western multi-cultural lunacy and Arab oil money represents a new low. As NYU professor Marcelo Suárez-Orozco enthusiastically stated, “This is not just study abroad on steroids . . . This is really upping the ante. It will be a complete game-changer for higher education as we know it.”

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Sounds Bitter to Me

Yes, he’s having a hard week. But I think laughing at the firestorm he created by insulting a whole state is not the best way for Barack Obama to get out of his jam. Addressing a group of veterans today he declared: “I am amused about this notion of elitist.” He then went on to recount his modest background, topping it off with this:

We lived for the first 13 years in our marriage, up until three years ago, in a one-bedroom condo without a garage which means, if you live in Chicago, you are scraping ice from your windshield.

First tip: don’t bring up your housing situation if you live in Chicago (h/t Instapundit). Next tip: many (or most, I dare say) people don’t think a one-bedroom condo in Chicago, garage or no, is roughing it. And finally: Democratic establishment types probably don’t think this is funny at all. A little less snickering and a little more abject apologizing might go a long way towards reassuring them that you regret giving John McCain a cudgel to whack the entire party with come November.

Yes, he’s having a hard week. But I think laughing at the firestorm he created by insulting a whole state is not the best way for Barack Obama to get out of his jam. Addressing a group of veterans today he declared: “I am amused about this notion of elitist.” He then went on to recount his modest background, topping it off with this:

We lived for the first 13 years in our marriage, up until three years ago, in a one-bedroom condo without a garage which means, if you live in Chicago, you are scraping ice from your windshield.

First tip: don’t bring up your housing situation if you live in Chicago (h/t Instapundit). Next tip: many (or most, I dare say) people don’t think a one-bedroom condo in Chicago, garage or no, is roughing it. And finally: Democratic establishment types probably don’t think this is funny at all. A little less snickering and a little more abject apologizing might go a long way towards reassuring them that you regret giving John McCain a cudgel to whack the entire party with come November.

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Losing His Touch?

Barack Obama, many conservatives would argue, has lots of faults. But being a poor orator isn’t generally thought to be one of them. Nevertheless, there seems to have been an outbreak of applause failure at Obama’s recent speeches.

The New York Times provides a harsh review of Obama’s speech to the Building Trades Council today, noting he “seemed to offer another rationale for the self-inflicted brouhaha that has dominated the political debate for four days running.” And the crowd? The Times reports:

As Mr. Obama spoke about the controversy, the crowd largely listened in silence. When he concluded, applause broke out, but it was far from the standing ovation Mr. Obama received when he addressed the matter to voters late last week in Indiana.

Must have been an off day.

But what about his speech yesterday before the AP? Dana Milbank tells us: “On the same day, the two media darlings of the presidential election cycle came to address their base–and McCain easily bested his likely opponent.” Obama was “defensive and somber.” The crowd? “McCain got a standing ovation–an honor Obama did not receive when his turn came two hours later.”

Has the Great Inspirer lost his touch? It could be that the bloom is off the rose, as far as the press is concerned. (He certainly is getting a lot of harsh criticism from the non-Kool Aid-drinking Left, which has essentially given up trying to help him get out of his fix.) Or perhaps Obama is less engaging when under fire. It may be that his initial stump speech–the one he trotted out endlessly about good ideas dying in Washington–was the best he had. But what does he say now? “I am not a snob” doesn’t seem to be working.

Barack Obama, many conservatives would argue, has lots of faults. But being a poor orator isn’t generally thought to be one of them. Nevertheless, there seems to have been an outbreak of applause failure at Obama’s recent speeches.

The New York Times provides a harsh review of Obama’s speech to the Building Trades Council today, noting he “seemed to offer another rationale for the self-inflicted brouhaha that has dominated the political debate for four days running.” And the crowd? The Times reports:

As Mr. Obama spoke about the controversy, the crowd largely listened in silence. When he concluded, applause broke out, but it was far from the standing ovation Mr. Obama received when he addressed the matter to voters late last week in Indiana.

Must have been an off day.

But what about his speech yesterday before the AP? Dana Milbank tells us: “On the same day, the two media darlings of the presidential election cycle came to address their base–and McCain easily bested his likely opponent.” Obama was “defensive and somber.” The crowd? “McCain got a standing ovation–an honor Obama did not receive when his turn came two hours later.”

Has the Great Inspirer lost his touch? It could be that the bloom is off the rose, as far as the press is concerned. (He certainly is getting a lot of harsh criticism from the non-Kool Aid-drinking Left, which has essentially given up trying to help him get out of his fix.) Or perhaps Obama is less engaging when under fire. It may be that his initial stump speech–the one he trotted out endlessly about good ideas dying in Washington–was the best he had. But what does he say now? “I am not a snob” doesn’t seem to be working.

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Taking It to the (J) Street

I just got off a journalists’ conference call with the proprietors of the new “J Street” project, which fancies itself an enlightened answer to AIPAC. J Street’s website advertises the organization as “a new pro-peace, pro-Israel political voice” that will stand against the prevailing U.S.-Israeli mindset of “advocating military responses to political problems.”

So what does J Street want? A “comprehensive negotiated peace between Israel and all its Arab neighbors.” Well, what if some of those neighbors — Hezbollah, Syria, Hamas — don’t want the same thing? This is a forbidden thought. A similar litany of foggy platitudes surrounds other issues: “You make peace with your enemies, not your friends” (i.e., Israel should negotiate with Hamas.) The list goes on; to save time, imagine roughly the editorial positions of The Nation magazine in the mouths of lobbyists.

J Street places near the top of its list of supporters someone named Avram Burg, who may not ring a bell to many Americans, but who is notorious in Israel. Burg advocates, among other things, the dissolution of Israel as a Jewish state; recommends that Israeli parents secure foreign passports for their children; and compares Israel today to late 1930′s Germany. When asked during the call why someone like Burg is affiliated with J Street, the group’s proprietors downplayed and misrepresented the man’s radicalism. It is difficult to imagine how the J Streeters believe their organization will be taken seriously as a pro-Israel lobby at the same time they advertise the endorsement of a figure like Avram Burg.

One of the more interesting aspects of the J Street phenomenon is the belief that there are great battalions of American Jewish doves languishing in voicelessness, awaiting mobilization by leaders whose answer to Islamist terrorism is interminable dialogue. One of the salutary benefits of J Street might be a demonstration that the absence of a peace lobby is not the reason why diplomatic fetishism retains little currency among policymakers.

I just got off a journalists’ conference call with the proprietors of the new “J Street” project, which fancies itself an enlightened answer to AIPAC. J Street’s website advertises the organization as “a new pro-peace, pro-Israel political voice” that will stand against the prevailing U.S.-Israeli mindset of “advocating military responses to political problems.”

So what does J Street want? A “comprehensive negotiated peace between Israel and all its Arab neighbors.” Well, what if some of those neighbors — Hezbollah, Syria, Hamas — don’t want the same thing? This is a forbidden thought. A similar litany of foggy platitudes surrounds other issues: “You make peace with your enemies, not your friends” (i.e., Israel should negotiate with Hamas.) The list goes on; to save time, imagine roughly the editorial positions of The Nation magazine in the mouths of lobbyists.

J Street places near the top of its list of supporters someone named Avram Burg, who may not ring a bell to many Americans, but who is notorious in Israel. Burg advocates, among other things, the dissolution of Israel as a Jewish state; recommends that Israeli parents secure foreign passports for their children; and compares Israel today to late 1930′s Germany. When asked during the call why someone like Burg is affiliated with J Street, the group’s proprietors downplayed and misrepresented the man’s radicalism. It is difficult to imagine how the J Streeters believe their organization will be taken seriously as a pro-Israel lobby at the same time they advertise the endorsement of a figure like Avram Burg.

One of the more interesting aspects of the J Street phenomenon is the belief that there are great battalions of American Jewish doves languishing in voicelessness, awaiting mobilization by leaders whose answer to Islamist terrorism is interminable dialogue. One of the salutary benefits of J Street might be a demonstration that the absence of a peace lobby is not the reason why diplomatic fetishism retains little currency among policymakers.

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Obama’s America

One of the things worth noting about Senator Obama’s comments about the “bitter” working class voters who “cling” to guns, religion, and nativist sentiments because of their “frustrations” is this: Obama’s view of America and Americans is almost unremittingly bleak. In his increasingly prickly and aggressive defense, Obama insists that his comments about ordinary Americans are accurate. He is, he insists, completely “in touch” with the struggles that define modern American life. At least that’s how he defines things: if you review Obama’s speeches, his portrait of Americans is of a people broken and dispirited, anxious and angry and without hope (and for whom Obama, as you might have guessed, is the balm).

Obama has spoken about crumbling schools, growing divisions, and shattered dreams. He speaks about the one father who goes to work before dawn and lies awake at night wondering how he’s going to pay the bills, and the father who’s worried he won’t be able to send his children to college . . . about the mother who can’t afford health care for her sick child and the other mother who saw her mortgage double in two weeks and didn’t know where her two-year old children would sleep at night . . . the woman who works the night shift after a full day of college and still can’t afford health care for a sick sister . . . the senior who lost his pension when the company he gave his life to went bankrupt . . . the teacher who works at Dunkin’ Donuts after school just to make ends meet, and on and on. The American public, Obama believes, has justifiably become cynical, frustrated, and bitter.

It’s also worth considering the views of those to whom Obama is closest. His wife Michelle has said that America is “downright mean.” It’s a nation whose soul is “broken.” And it’s a nation in which she had never, until her husband ran for President, taken pride. Obama’s longtime friend, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Jr., describes America as fundamentally racist, the “U.S. of K.K.K,” a “Eurocentric wasteland of lily-white lies.”

Senator Obama, in casting himself as a change agent, wants to focus on the failings of our nation. That is typical fare for a presidential candidate. It’s perfectly legitimate, and even right, to call attention to problems that need to be solved and the struggles people are having.

The question for Obama, however, is whether his portrait of America is defining. Does he believe that his comments about working-class people are actually characteristic of them? When he looks out at Americans does he see people who are, on some deep level, broken, bitter, angry, and unable to cope with the vicissitudes of life?

It appears that he does. And if he does, it certainly explains his support for paternalistic government and for the nanny state. It has become unfashionable to point out that for all the problems we face, those of us now living in America are the most fortunate people in history. We live in a nation of extraordinary wealth and scientific and medical advancements. This country, while not without its flaws, has made great strides in alleviating poverty, discrimination, and injustice. We are free to speak, vote, worship, and associate with others. Americans now live longer and better than any previous generation. Our nation remains a force for good in the world. That doesn’t mean our citizen’s lives are without challenges or concerns. It only means that, relative to the rest of the world and relative to history, we’re in pretty good shape.

On some deep level, Obama doesn’t see this. He looks out at America and sees a nation needy, crippled, and desperate for succor from the federal government. A friend of mine wrote to me yesterday:

The supreme arrogance of this man [Obama] comes through with every new defense. I just saw his remarks to the steelworkers in Pittsburgh and, again, it’s everyone else who’s out of touch. Also, it really is a slander against millions of people. I’ve belonged to small town churches all my life (and still do) and I belong to [a gun club in his home state of Minnesota]. It’s hard to find more positive, affirming, communities than small town churches and the hunting/fishing/outdoor culture. What he really doesn’t “get” is the non-materialistic nature of these cultures.

That sounds about right to me. Barack Obama is running as the candidate of hope–but he views America as more or less a wreck and its people as beaten down. From this flawed assumption flows much else, from his rhetoric to his policy proposals. And it helps explain why Obama’s off-the-record comments to a group of wealthy liberals in San Francisco weren’t a “distraction,” as he now characterizes them, but rather a real insight into the mind and sensibilities of the junior senator from Illinois.

One of the things worth noting about Senator Obama’s comments about the “bitter” working class voters who “cling” to guns, religion, and nativist sentiments because of their “frustrations” is this: Obama’s view of America and Americans is almost unremittingly bleak. In his increasingly prickly and aggressive defense, Obama insists that his comments about ordinary Americans are accurate. He is, he insists, completely “in touch” with the struggles that define modern American life. At least that’s how he defines things: if you review Obama’s speeches, his portrait of Americans is of a people broken and dispirited, anxious and angry and without hope (and for whom Obama, as you might have guessed, is the balm).

Obama has spoken about crumbling schools, growing divisions, and shattered dreams. He speaks about the one father who goes to work before dawn and lies awake at night wondering how he’s going to pay the bills, and the father who’s worried he won’t be able to send his children to college . . . about the mother who can’t afford health care for her sick child and the other mother who saw her mortgage double in two weeks and didn’t know where her two-year old children would sleep at night . . . the woman who works the night shift after a full day of college and still can’t afford health care for a sick sister . . . the senior who lost his pension when the company he gave his life to went bankrupt . . . the teacher who works at Dunkin’ Donuts after school just to make ends meet, and on and on. The American public, Obama believes, has justifiably become cynical, frustrated, and bitter.

It’s also worth considering the views of those to whom Obama is closest. His wife Michelle has said that America is “downright mean.” It’s a nation whose soul is “broken.” And it’s a nation in which she had never, until her husband ran for President, taken pride. Obama’s longtime friend, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Jr., describes America as fundamentally racist, the “U.S. of K.K.K,” a “Eurocentric wasteland of lily-white lies.”

Senator Obama, in casting himself as a change agent, wants to focus on the failings of our nation. That is typical fare for a presidential candidate. It’s perfectly legitimate, and even right, to call attention to problems that need to be solved and the struggles people are having.

The question for Obama, however, is whether his portrait of America is defining. Does he believe that his comments about working-class people are actually characteristic of them? When he looks out at Americans does he see people who are, on some deep level, broken, bitter, angry, and unable to cope with the vicissitudes of life?

It appears that he does. And if he does, it certainly explains his support for paternalistic government and for the nanny state. It has become unfashionable to point out that for all the problems we face, those of us now living in America are the most fortunate people in history. We live in a nation of extraordinary wealth and scientific and medical advancements. This country, while not without its flaws, has made great strides in alleviating poverty, discrimination, and injustice. We are free to speak, vote, worship, and associate with others. Americans now live longer and better than any previous generation. Our nation remains a force for good in the world. That doesn’t mean our citizen’s lives are without challenges or concerns. It only means that, relative to the rest of the world and relative to history, we’re in pretty good shape.

On some deep level, Obama doesn’t see this. He looks out at America and sees a nation needy, crippled, and desperate for succor from the federal government. A friend of mine wrote to me yesterday:

The supreme arrogance of this man [Obama] comes through with every new defense. I just saw his remarks to the steelworkers in Pittsburgh and, again, it’s everyone else who’s out of touch. Also, it really is a slander against millions of people. I’ve belonged to small town churches all my life (and still do) and I belong to [a gun club in his home state of Minnesota]. It’s hard to find more positive, affirming, communities than small town churches and the hunting/fishing/outdoor culture. What he really doesn’t “get” is the non-materialistic nature of these cultures.

That sounds about right to me. Barack Obama is running as the candidate of hope–but he views America as more or less a wreck and its people as beaten down. From this flawed assumption flows much else, from his rhetoric to his policy proposals. And it helps explain why Obama’s off-the-record comments to a group of wealthy liberals in San Francisco weren’t a “distraction,” as he now characterizes them, but rather a real insight into the mind and sensibilities of the junior senator from Illinois.

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Jimmy Carter: Man of the People

It’s no small feat for a regular Joe to gain access to Yasser Arafat’s tomb, located as it is in the West Bank. Yet private U.S. citizen Jimmy Carter was last seen silently laying a wreath of red roses on the terrorist’s grave. Carter’s trip director told reporters: “He and Mrs. Carter and his son Jeff wanted to pay their respects to President Arafat.” Mission accomplished! Even Barack Obama’s call for dialogue with our enemies was confined to the living.

Citizen Carter has more ambitious plans still. “I haven’t been able to get permission to go into Gaza. I would like to. I asked for permission. But I was turned down. But maybe we can find a way to circumvent that. I don’t know yet,” he said. This guy thinks big. I’m not even sure that an American President could “find a way to circumvent” the laws of the sovereign nation of which he’s a guest. But this Carter fellow, who insists he’s there as a plain old American citizen, just like you and me? He’s looking for an angle. If this guy had only been in a position to solve the Middle East crisis, I bet things would be much different today.

But who am I kidding? He’s just Joe Sixpack on vacation. It’s not as if he’ll be a keynote speaker at the 2008 Democratic convention or anything. If he was, he could work wonders. Not only does his family respect Arafat—Carter says they like Obama, too. A regular guy who’s able to do so much could really sway people with an endorsement like that.

It’s no small feat for a regular Joe to gain access to Yasser Arafat’s tomb, located as it is in the West Bank. Yet private U.S. citizen Jimmy Carter was last seen silently laying a wreath of red roses on the terrorist’s grave. Carter’s trip director told reporters: “He and Mrs. Carter and his son Jeff wanted to pay their respects to President Arafat.” Mission accomplished! Even Barack Obama’s call for dialogue with our enemies was confined to the living.

Citizen Carter has more ambitious plans still. “I haven’t been able to get permission to go into Gaza. I would like to. I asked for permission. But I was turned down. But maybe we can find a way to circumvent that. I don’t know yet,” he said. This guy thinks big. I’m not even sure that an American President could “find a way to circumvent” the laws of the sovereign nation of which he’s a guest. But this Carter fellow, who insists he’s there as a plain old American citizen, just like you and me? He’s looking for an angle. If this guy had only been in a position to solve the Middle East crisis, I bet things would be much different today.

But who am I kidding? He’s just Joe Sixpack on vacation. It’s not as if he’ll be a keynote speaker at the 2008 Democratic convention or anything. If he was, he could work wonders. Not only does his family respect Arafat—Carter says they like Obama, too. A regular guy who’s able to do so much could really sway people with an endorsement like that.

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Why Commit Suicide?

One good reason, if you also want to take some Zionists with you, is the prospect of conjoining with 72 virgins in the world to come. Some of the virgins are apparently pretty nice.

Here, courtesy of the indispensable Middle East Media Research Institute, is the Saudi Cleric Omar Al-Sweilem extolling their virtues, which include great skin that remains soft even without any cream — “no Nivea, no Vaseline”:

Harith Ibn Al-Muhasibi told us what would happen when we meet the black-eyed virgin with her black hair and white face — praised be He who created night and day. What hair! What a chest! What a mouth! What cheeks! What a figure! What breasts! What thighs! What legs! What whiteness! What softness! Without any creams — no Nivea, no Vaseline. No nothing! He said that faces would be soft that day. Even your own face will be soft without any powder or makeup. You yourself will be soft, so how soft will a black-eyed virgin be, when she comes to you so tall and with her beautiful face, her black hair and white face – praised be He who created night and day. Just feel her palm, Sheik! He said: How soft will a fingertip be, after being softened in paradise for thousands of years! There is no god but Allah. He told us that if you entered one of the palaces, you would find ten black-eyed virgins sprawled on musk cushions. Where is Abu Khaled? Here, he has arrived! When they see you, they will get up and run to you. Lucky is the one who gets to put her thumb in your hand. When they get hold of you, they will push you onto your back, on the musk cushions. They will push you onto your back, Jamal! Allah Akbar! I wish this on all people present here. He said that one of them would place her mouth on yours. Do whatever you want. Another one would press her cheek against yours, yet another would press her chest against yours, and the others would await their turn. There is no god but Allah. He told us that one black-eyed virgin would give you a glass of wine. Wine in Paradise is a reward for your good deeds. The wine of this world is destructive, but not the wine of the world to come.

One good reason, if you also want to take some Zionists with you, is the prospect of conjoining with 72 virgins in the world to come. Some of the virgins are apparently pretty nice.

Here, courtesy of the indispensable Middle East Media Research Institute, is the Saudi Cleric Omar Al-Sweilem extolling their virtues, which include great skin that remains soft even without any cream — “no Nivea, no Vaseline”:

Harith Ibn Al-Muhasibi told us what would happen when we meet the black-eyed virgin with her black hair and white face — praised be He who created night and day. What hair! What a chest! What a mouth! What cheeks! What a figure! What breasts! What thighs! What legs! What whiteness! What softness! Without any creams — no Nivea, no Vaseline. No nothing! He said that faces would be soft that day. Even your own face will be soft without any powder or makeup. You yourself will be soft, so how soft will a black-eyed virgin be, when she comes to you so tall and with her beautiful face, her black hair and white face – praised be He who created night and day. Just feel her palm, Sheik! He said: How soft will a fingertip be, after being softened in paradise for thousands of years! There is no god but Allah. He told us that if you entered one of the palaces, you would find ten black-eyed virgins sprawled on musk cushions. Where is Abu Khaled? Here, he has arrived! When they see you, they will get up and run to you. Lucky is the one who gets to put her thumb in your hand. When they get hold of you, they will push you onto your back, on the musk cushions. They will push you onto your back, Jamal! Allah Akbar! I wish this on all people present here. He said that one of them would place her mouth on yours. Do whatever you want. Another one would press her cheek against yours, yet another would press her chest against yours, and the others would await their turn. There is no god but Allah. He told us that one black-eyed virgin would give you a glass of wine. Wine in Paradise is a reward for your good deeds. The wine of this world is destructive, but not the wine of the world to come.

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His Own Economic Niche

Today John McCain delivered his most comprehensive economic address to date. It was a clear-cut effort to distinguish himself from both his opponents and to escape being tagged Bush’s twin. The latter will be the ongoing theme, I anticipate, of nearly every policy address. The McCain team believes this is a necessity–a reasonable assessment given Bush’s political standing.

McCain railed against “extravagant salaries and severance deals for CEO’s.” Fiscal conservatives are going to want to know at some point whether this is jawboning or whether he actually intends to get into the business of regulating the private sector’s personnel decisions.

He also said he intends to oppose the repeal of the bevy of tax cuts due to expire in 2010, and drove home the message of fiscal conservatism. But he’s beginning to pepper his fiscal discipline talk with some distinctly populist notions: he promises to turn away “subsidies for special pleaders . . . no more corporate welfare . . . no more throwing around billions of dollars of the people’s money on pet projects, while the people themselves are struggling to afford their homes, groceries, and gas.” On taxes he spoke of corporate rate reduction and a doubling of the exemption for dependents. On healthcare, he offered reform but also promised to charge the wealthy more for Medicare Part D.

On the home mortgage crisis fiscal conservatives will grimace: he essentially joined the stampede for direct government intervention. One wonders what all the responsible home owners will think of their new obligation to in effect co-sign loans for those already proven to be financially irresponsible.

In short: McCain is looking to mollify fiscal conservatives by hewing to free market principles–with the exception of his plans to address the home mortgage crisis. (Club for Growth gives him credit for the tax and spend proposals but raps him for leaving taxpayers “on the hook” for bad loans and getting government into the business of re-writing home loan agreements.)

For independents there is an effort to sound notes not typical of a cookie-cutter, pro-business Republican. This ad makes an even more overt play for independents. The speech, in other words, is an opening salvo in the fight against the Democrats for the all-important independent voters.

Today John McCain delivered his most comprehensive economic address to date. It was a clear-cut effort to distinguish himself from both his opponents and to escape being tagged Bush’s twin. The latter will be the ongoing theme, I anticipate, of nearly every policy address. The McCain team believes this is a necessity–a reasonable assessment given Bush’s political standing.

McCain railed against “extravagant salaries and severance deals for CEO’s.” Fiscal conservatives are going to want to know at some point whether this is jawboning or whether he actually intends to get into the business of regulating the private sector’s personnel decisions.

He also said he intends to oppose the repeal of the bevy of tax cuts due to expire in 2010, and drove home the message of fiscal conservatism. But he’s beginning to pepper his fiscal discipline talk with some distinctly populist notions: he promises to turn away “subsidies for special pleaders . . . no more corporate welfare . . . no more throwing around billions of dollars of the people’s money on pet projects, while the people themselves are struggling to afford their homes, groceries, and gas.” On taxes he spoke of corporate rate reduction and a doubling of the exemption for dependents. On healthcare, he offered reform but also promised to charge the wealthy more for Medicare Part D.

On the home mortgage crisis fiscal conservatives will grimace: he essentially joined the stampede for direct government intervention. One wonders what all the responsible home owners will think of their new obligation to in effect co-sign loans for those already proven to be financially irresponsible.

In short: McCain is looking to mollify fiscal conservatives by hewing to free market principles–with the exception of his plans to address the home mortgage crisis. (Club for Growth gives him credit for the tax and spend proposals but raps him for leaving taxpayers “on the hook” for bad loans and getting government into the business of re-writing home loan agreements.)

For independents there is an effort to sound notes not typical of a cookie-cutter, pro-business Republican. This ad makes an even more overt play for independents. The speech, in other words, is an opening salvo in the fight against the Democrats for the all-important independent voters.

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Bitter Polls

Three polls out in Pennsylvania show a Clinton lead ranging from six to fourteen points. (A noteworthy fact: the poll with the smallest lead includes several days of surveying before Snob-gate broke.) Clinton is also showing a bump in Indiana. This is a far cry from last week , when Clinton’s lead in Pennsylvania seemed to be evaporating under Barack Obama’s withering TV-ad assault and the fallout from her own repressed Bosnia memories.

Pundits can question whether Obama’s momentum had already slowed before he insulted the state. But a loss, especially a double-digit loss, has to be attributed in part to his blunder. Then, just as Texas and Ohio were Clinton’s trials-by-fire, Indiana and North Carolina will become Obama’s–tests of whether he has permanently damaged his chances or merely given John McCain a juicy target for the general election.

Three polls out in Pennsylvania show a Clinton lead ranging from six to fourteen points. (A noteworthy fact: the poll with the smallest lead includes several days of surveying before Snob-gate broke.) Clinton is also showing a bump in Indiana. This is a far cry from last week , when Clinton’s lead in Pennsylvania seemed to be evaporating under Barack Obama’s withering TV-ad assault and the fallout from her own repressed Bosnia memories.

Pundits can question whether Obama’s momentum had already slowed before he insulted the state. But a loss, especially a double-digit loss, has to be attributed in part to his blunder. Then, just as Texas and Ohio were Clinton’s trials-by-fire, Indiana and North Carolina will become Obama’s–tests of whether he has permanently damaged his chances or merely given John McCain a juicy target for the general election.

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Faith-Based Deterrence

“Some people imagine there is a building somewhere with a secret door they can open and find a group of scantily clad women enriching uranium.”

And with that unspeakably hilarious excuse, our chief North Korea negotiator, Christopher Hill of the State Department, has quipped America into submission. Today’s Wall Street Journal carries a piece by John Bolton about Mr. Hill and the startling failure of the American effort to disarm North Korea. Bolton writes:

According to numerous press reports and Mr. Hill’s April 10 congressional briefing, the U.S. will be expected to accept on faith, literally, North Korean assertions that it has not engaged in significant uranium enrichment, and that it has not proliferated nuclear technology or materials to countries like Syria and Iran.

Indeed, the North will not even make the declaration it earlier agreed to, but merely “acknowledge” that we are concerned about reports of such activities – which the United States itself will actually list. By some accounts, the North Korean statement will not even be public. In exchange for this utter nonperformance, the North will be rewarded with political “compensation” (its word): Concurrent with its “declaration,” it will be removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism and freed from the Trading With the Enemy Act.

Axis, schmaxis. As Bolton points out, the worst is yet to come. North Korea has been compensated for refusing to comply with the least intrusive of inspections. If Iran’s mullahs had ever considered being transparent about their own enrichment, they’re laughing about it now. The question of America’s role as the world’s police department is a debatable one. But if we’re  going to be the donut-chomping, overtime-collecting cop who was grandfathered into the force under outdated qualifications, who’s going to object? Only the nations we’ve pledged to protect, I suppose

“Some people imagine there is a building somewhere with a secret door they can open and find a group of scantily clad women enriching uranium.”

And with that unspeakably hilarious excuse, our chief North Korea negotiator, Christopher Hill of the State Department, has quipped America into submission. Today’s Wall Street Journal carries a piece by John Bolton about Mr. Hill and the startling failure of the American effort to disarm North Korea. Bolton writes:

According to numerous press reports and Mr. Hill’s April 10 congressional briefing, the U.S. will be expected to accept on faith, literally, North Korean assertions that it has not engaged in significant uranium enrichment, and that it has not proliferated nuclear technology or materials to countries like Syria and Iran.

Indeed, the North will not even make the declaration it earlier agreed to, but merely “acknowledge” that we are concerned about reports of such activities – which the United States itself will actually list. By some accounts, the North Korean statement will not even be public. In exchange for this utter nonperformance, the North will be rewarded with political “compensation” (its word): Concurrent with its “declaration,” it will be removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism and freed from the Trading With the Enemy Act.

Axis, schmaxis. As Bolton points out, the worst is yet to come. North Korea has been compensated for refusing to comply with the least intrusive of inspections. If Iran’s mullahs had ever considered being transparent about their own enrichment, they’re laughing about it now. The question of America’s role as the world’s police department is a debatable one. But if we’re  going to be the donut-chomping, overtime-collecting cop who was grandfathered into the force under outdated qualifications, who’s going to object? Only the nations we’ve pledged to protect, I suppose

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Rallying The Base

It was not so long ago that Republicans fretted about the putative difficulty conservatives would have in summoning the same animosity towards Barack Obama that they harbored towards Hillary Clinton. How could they bring themselves to man the battle stations on behalf of a candidate many had opposed in the primary?

My, how times change. Since the March 4 primary, conservatives have learned about Reverend Wright and heard Obama’s discourse on small-town America. Moreover, they have seen the same liberal characteristics in Obama that have driven them to distraction for decades now: moral relativism, condescension to working-class Americans, and the application of double standards. Add in Obama’s fascination with Palestinian activists, a former Weather Underground member, and more than one hate-spewing preacher, and you have a mixture more than potent enough to get the dander up of the very same people who, months ago, were threatening to stay home in November.

So if McCain’s staff were nervous that conservatives might be less than enthusiastic about going after his opponent, they can rest easy now. Obama has done a fine job of making himself into an opponent conservatives will love to attack.

It was not so long ago that Republicans fretted about the putative difficulty conservatives would have in summoning the same animosity towards Barack Obama that they harbored towards Hillary Clinton. How could they bring themselves to man the battle stations on behalf of a candidate many had opposed in the primary?

My, how times change. Since the March 4 primary, conservatives have learned about Reverend Wright and heard Obama’s discourse on small-town America. Moreover, they have seen the same liberal characteristics in Obama that have driven them to distraction for decades now: moral relativism, condescension to working-class Americans, and the application of double standards. Add in Obama’s fascination with Palestinian activists, a former Weather Underground member, and more than one hate-spewing preacher, and you have a mixture more than potent enough to get the dander up of the very same people who, months ago, were threatening to stay home in November.

So if McCain’s staff were nervous that conservatives might be less than enthusiastic about going after his opponent, they can rest easy now. Obama has done a fine job of making himself into an opponent conservatives will love to attack.

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Stop Digging Already

Barack Obama issued a somewhat standard greeting for Pope Benedict XVI, but apparently couldn’t resist throwing in this:

At a time when American families face rising costs at home and a range of worries abroad, the theme of Pope Benedict’s journey, “Christ Our Hope,” offers comfort and grace as well as a challenge to all faith communities to put our faith into action for the common good. It will not only be Catholics who are listening to the Holy Father’s message of hope and peace; all Americans will be listening with open hearts and minds.

Do Catholics and other people of faith think Pope Benedict’s appeal has special resonance because of “rising costs”? Would he be less welcome if gas prices were lower? I’m fairly certain Catholics believe in the message of “comfort and grace” even when prices are steady. And if Obama isn’t saying this–for an eloquent guy he seems perpetually to be misundertood–why mention “rising costs” at all?

This seems a bald-faced attempt to say “See, economic conditions do impact religiosity.” For those who were offended the first time Obama went down this road, they won’t be thrilled to see him try it again. Using the Pontiff’s visit as an excuse to reiterate his own political defense seems crass, at best.

At some point Obama may want to give up this “false consciousness” canard and instead concede that faith is not a mere refuge from economic anxiety. But no: he was right and he’s not backing down. See? See?

Barack Obama issued a somewhat standard greeting for Pope Benedict XVI, but apparently couldn’t resist throwing in this:

At a time when American families face rising costs at home and a range of worries abroad, the theme of Pope Benedict’s journey, “Christ Our Hope,” offers comfort and grace as well as a challenge to all faith communities to put our faith into action for the common good. It will not only be Catholics who are listening to the Holy Father’s message of hope and peace; all Americans will be listening with open hearts and minds.

Do Catholics and other people of faith think Pope Benedict’s appeal has special resonance because of “rising costs”? Would he be less welcome if gas prices were lower? I’m fairly certain Catholics believe in the message of “comfort and grace” even when prices are steady. And if Obama isn’t saying this–for an eloquent guy he seems perpetually to be misundertood–why mention “rising costs” at all?

This seems a bald-faced attempt to say “See, economic conditions do impact religiosity.” For those who were offended the first time Obama went down this road, they won’t be thrilled to see him try it again. Using the Pontiff’s visit as an excuse to reiterate his own political defense seems crass, at best.

At some point Obama may want to give up this “false consciousness” canard and instead concede that faith is not a mere refuge from economic anxiety. But no: he was right and he’s not backing down. See? See?

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Britain’s Qumran Craziness

When will the Brits run out of new and creative ways to attack Israel? The British Advertising Standards Authority, an independent watchdog set up to ensure fairness in advertising, has attacked the Israeli tourism ministry for including the historical site at Qumran in one of its ads. The problem? Qumran is on the wrong side of the Green Line, and is technically in territory captured by Israel in the 1967 war. Therefore, Israel is “misleading” consumers by implying that Qumran is in Israel.

Leave aside the fact that the territory is disputed, or that Qumran is known as an important site only because the Israeli government has enabled archaeologists for a generation to excavate and analyze the crucial Dead Sea Scrolls that were found there. Even leave aside the ridiculous double-standards involved: According to one ministry official, “Representatives of the Palestinian Tourism Ministry feature a map of Palestine which shows all of Israel’s regions, including Ben-Gurion Airport, as Palestine’s major airport, but the British never complained about that.”

What I’m wondering is: Are images of the Western Wall, which was also conquered by Israel in 1967, also “misleading”? And what about the Knesset, which sits in Western Jerusalem, which has never been formally recognized as part of Israel? We’re waiting, BASA . . .

When will the Brits run out of new and creative ways to attack Israel? The British Advertising Standards Authority, an independent watchdog set up to ensure fairness in advertising, has attacked the Israeli tourism ministry for including the historical site at Qumran in one of its ads. The problem? Qumran is on the wrong side of the Green Line, and is technically in territory captured by Israel in the 1967 war. Therefore, Israel is “misleading” consumers by implying that Qumran is in Israel.

Leave aside the fact that the territory is disputed, or that Qumran is known as an important site only because the Israeli government has enabled archaeologists for a generation to excavate and analyze the crucial Dead Sea Scrolls that were found there. Even leave aside the ridiculous double-standards involved: According to one ministry official, “Representatives of the Palestinian Tourism Ministry feature a map of Palestine which shows all of Israel’s regions, including Ben-Gurion Airport, as Palestine’s major airport, but the British never complained about that.”

What I’m wondering is: Are images of the Western Wall, which was also conquered by Israel in 1967, also “misleading”? And what about the Knesset, which sits in Western Jerusalem, which has never been formally recognized as part of Israel? We’re waiting, BASA . . .

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Boosting Navy Bandwidth

I recall a few years ago visiting an Aegis cruiser, one of the most advanced warships in the world. In its Combat Information Center, sailors can track dozens of targets and coordinate an entire battle group. So it was more than a little jarring to see that the computers that run everything showed glowing green text on black screens. I didn’t realize there were any pre-Windows computers still around. Yet here they were.

Obviously the armed forces need to do a better job of keeping up with new technology—but that’s not so easy to do given loooong procurement cycles and the demands of security and reliability. Vice Admiral Mark Edwards, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Communications Networks, addresses that very challenge in the new issue of the Naval Institute’s invaluable magazine, Proceedings. He notes a shocking statistic:

The two-way communication bandwidth of a single Blackberry is three times greater than the bandwidth of the entire Arleigh Burke [-class, Aegis guided-missile] destroyer. Looked at another way, the Navy’s most modern in-service multi-mission warship has only five percent of the bandwidth we have in our home Internet connection.

The problem is that the Navy is not keeping up with Silicon Valley:

As computing capabilities continue to grow exponentially, the costs of computers, servers, storage, and software are coming down. Across the commercial industry worldwide, IT budgets are actually declining as capacity goes up. But in the Navy, the opposite is taking place . . . . Moreover, every system we field takes nearly seven years to reach the Fleet. By the time it gets to the people who need it, it is already out of date. There is no agility or flexibility in our IT.

The answer, he argues, is to switch from “closed” to “open” IT architecture. That is, to end the current practice of buying from “only a few vendors who build highly integrated systems—where the software and hardware are tightly coupled and where interoperability between two or more systems is gained only by building costly middleware.” Instead, “[w]e have to . . . separate our data, hardware, and applications. We need a network architecture that is agile and can be upgraded rapidly. It must be flexible, with the ability to accommodate the expected exponential increase in demand.”

Easier said than done. The idea of an “open” architecture based on commonly available software runs counter to a long-standing military mentality. I am glad to see that Admiral Edwards is implementing reforms in the Navy, but I suspect it will be a long, costly process that is sure to be resisted by more than a few bureaucrats.

And, of course, these problems aren’t limited to the Navy. All of the armed forces rely for the most part on highly specialized, one-of-a-kind computer systems that take far too long and cost far too much to field. Addressing this problem will be crucial for maintaining America’s military edge in the 21st century. For as the Economist put it (in a line quoted by Edwards): “If Napoleon’s armies marched on their stomachs, American ones march on bandwidth.”

I recall a few years ago visiting an Aegis cruiser, one of the most advanced warships in the world. In its Combat Information Center, sailors can track dozens of targets and coordinate an entire battle group. So it was more than a little jarring to see that the computers that run everything showed glowing green text on black screens. I didn’t realize there were any pre-Windows computers still around. Yet here they were.

Obviously the armed forces need to do a better job of keeping up with new technology—but that’s not so easy to do given loooong procurement cycles and the demands of security and reliability. Vice Admiral Mark Edwards, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Communications Networks, addresses that very challenge in the new issue of the Naval Institute’s invaluable magazine, Proceedings. He notes a shocking statistic:

The two-way communication bandwidth of a single Blackberry is three times greater than the bandwidth of the entire Arleigh Burke [-class, Aegis guided-missile] destroyer. Looked at another way, the Navy’s most modern in-service multi-mission warship has only five percent of the bandwidth we have in our home Internet connection.

The problem is that the Navy is not keeping up with Silicon Valley:

As computing capabilities continue to grow exponentially, the costs of computers, servers, storage, and software are coming down. Across the commercial industry worldwide, IT budgets are actually declining as capacity goes up. But in the Navy, the opposite is taking place . . . . Moreover, every system we field takes nearly seven years to reach the Fleet. By the time it gets to the people who need it, it is already out of date. There is no agility or flexibility in our IT.

The answer, he argues, is to switch from “closed” to “open” IT architecture. That is, to end the current practice of buying from “only a few vendors who build highly integrated systems—where the software and hardware are tightly coupled and where interoperability between two or more systems is gained only by building costly middleware.” Instead, “[w]e have to . . . separate our data, hardware, and applications. We need a network architecture that is agile and can be upgraded rapidly. It must be flexible, with the ability to accommodate the expected exponential increase in demand.”

Easier said than done. The idea of an “open” architecture based on commonly available software runs counter to a long-standing military mentality. I am glad to see that Admiral Edwards is implementing reforms in the Navy, but I suspect it will be a long, costly process that is sure to be resisted by more than a few bureaucrats.

And, of course, these problems aren’t limited to the Navy. All of the armed forces rely for the most part on highly specialized, one-of-a-kind computer systems that take far too long and cost far too much to field. Addressing this problem will be crucial for maintaining America’s military edge in the 21st century. For as the Economist put it (in a line quoted by Edwards): “If Napoleon’s armies marched on their stomachs, American ones march on bandwidth.”

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You Knew This Was Coming

This was the ad you knew was coming. Hillary Clinton finds some annoyed Pennsylvania voters to tell off Barack Obama. Right now this is the media story and she is not letting up. Given free media coverage like this, why should she?

With Snob-gate dominating the news cycle, Clinton now runs a risk. Should she fail to win by a comfortable margin after taking her best shot in the best possible news environment, Obama will claim to have survived the final desperate attack of a dying campaign. So she really better make sure the voters buy her argument. She won’t get another opportunity like this.

And if this is what Clinton is saying on TV, imagine what superdelegate wrangler Harold Ickes is saying to Democratic insiders in private. Even if the impact of Snob-gate fades, won’t this, at the very least, increase fears among the Democratic establishment that Obama is untested and could blow himself up with another mega-blunder in the general election. After all, it’s one thing to think rural voters are hicks. It’s another to say it in public. And another still to be “stunned” by the firestorm.

This was the ad you knew was coming. Hillary Clinton finds some annoyed Pennsylvania voters to tell off Barack Obama. Right now this is the media story and she is not letting up. Given free media coverage like this, why should she?

With Snob-gate dominating the news cycle, Clinton now runs a risk. Should she fail to win by a comfortable margin after taking her best shot in the best possible news environment, Obama will claim to have survived the final desperate attack of a dying campaign. So she really better make sure the voters buy her argument. She won’t get another opportunity like this.

And if this is what Clinton is saying on TV, imagine what superdelegate wrangler Harold Ickes is saying to Democratic insiders in private. Even if the impact of Snob-gate fades, won’t this, at the very least, increase fears among the Democratic establishment that Obama is untested and could blow himself up with another mega-blunder in the general election. After all, it’s one thing to think rural voters are hicks. It’s another to say it in public. And another still to be “stunned” by the firestorm.

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Be Afraid

The November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate declared flatly in the opening sentence of its key judgments that “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.” This categorical statement was accompanied by a footnote which stated that it was excluding from its appraisal “Iran’s declared civil work related to uranium conversion and enrichment.” That was misleading right off the bat because Iran’s civil uranium program is an indispensable part of its nuclear-weapons effort. This “civilian” program continues apace.

But what about the covert military side of the Iranian program itself? Did it really come to a halt in 2003 as the NIE states with “high confidence”? Back in February, reports came to light that an laptop with extensive information on Iran’s covert nuclear program had fallen into the hands of U.S. intelligence in 2004. Comprehensive and alarming stories about what was contained in the laptop appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal.

The deputy director general of safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency briefed member states, including Iran, about the contents of the laptop in February. The briefing notes have now been posted online by the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington D.C.

The IAEA official describes, among other things, instructions on how to communicate  within the Iranian program using only first names and the “timing of firing devices-leading to an explosion at an altitude of about 600 meters.” The IAEA’s evaluation of Iran’s “Tests of High Power Explosives” is unambiguous:  

The high-tension firing systems and multiple EBW detonators fired simultaneously are key components of nuclear weapons.

There are a limited number of non-nuclear applications (high performance technique for exploratory drilling).

The elements available to the Agency are not consistent with any application other than the development of a nuclear weapon.

The Agency does not have sufficient information at this stage to conclude whether the allegations are groundless or the data fabricated

Some U.S. officials initially believed the documents contained in the laptop might have been an elaborate forgery. But a consensus has emerged among Western intelligence agencies that they are in fact authentic. The documents do not indicate whether the covert nuclear program actually came to a halt in 2003 as U.S. intelligence has concluded. Nonetheless, the scale and scope of what Iran was doing up until that point is staggering. The IAEA document is essential reading.

The November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate declared flatly in the opening sentence of its key judgments that “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.” This categorical statement was accompanied by a footnote which stated that it was excluding from its appraisal “Iran’s declared civil work related to uranium conversion and enrichment.” That was misleading right off the bat because Iran’s civil uranium program is an indispensable part of its nuclear-weapons effort. This “civilian” program continues apace.

But what about the covert military side of the Iranian program itself? Did it really come to a halt in 2003 as the NIE states with “high confidence”? Back in February, reports came to light that an laptop with extensive information on Iran’s covert nuclear program had fallen into the hands of U.S. intelligence in 2004. Comprehensive and alarming stories about what was contained in the laptop appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal.

The deputy director general of safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency briefed member states, including Iran, about the contents of the laptop in February. The briefing notes have now been posted online by the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington D.C.

The IAEA official describes, among other things, instructions on how to communicate  within the Iranian program using only first names and the “timing of firing devices-leading to an explosion at an altitude of about 600 meters.” The IAEA’s evaluation of Iran’s “Tests of High Power Explosives” is unambiguous:  

The high-tension firing systems and multiple EBW detonators fired simultaneously are key components of nuclear weapons.

There are a limited number of non-nuclear applications (high performance technique for exploratory drilling).

The elements available to the Agency are not consistent with any application other than the development of a nuclear weapon.

The Agency does not have sufficient information at this stage to conclude whether the allegations are groundless or the data fabricated

Some U.S. officials initially believed the documents contained in the laptop might have been an elaborate forgery. But a consensus has emerged among Western intelligence agencies that they are in fact authentic. The documents do not indicate whether the covert nuclear program actually came to a halt in 2003 as U.S. intelligence has concluded. Nonetheless, the scale and scope of what Iran was doing up until that point is staggering. The IAEA document is essential reading.

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