Commentary Magazine


Posts For: April 18, 2008

What Is She Thinking?

In keeping her commitment to run the worst presidential campaign in recent memory, Hillary Clinton has once again refused to step aside and let media momentum turn her opponent’s blunder to her benefit. She couldn’t get out of the way of Snobgate and now she’s about to go down hard in the wake of her own debate victory. Here she is speaking in Philadelphia today, overplaying her hand yet again:

I know some of my opponent’s supporters and my opponent are complaining about the hard questions . . .Well, having been in the White House for eight years and seeing what happens in terms of the pressures and the stresses on a president, that was nothing . . .I’m with Harry Truman on this. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

Does she not remember literally crying only a few months ago because “it’s not easy” to run for President? Does she not remember turning that moment of perceived vulnerability into a battery recharge, claiming to have found her voice in those tears? Does she not remember scolding debate moderators on the spot for unfairly making her field questions before Obama?

Hilary Clinton is blind to history. Whether it’s Tuzla, her husband’s pardoning of terrorists, or her own recent words, she can’t imagine the possibility of being fact-checked or called out on a simple matter of public record. This quality is more than a little chilling in someone hoping to be President. It is only a matter of time before Obama exploits this recent burst of hypocrisy and Hillary looks even worse.

In keeping her commitment to run the worst presidential campaign in recent memory, Hillary Clinton has once again refused to step aside and let media momentum turn her opponent’s blunder to her benefit. She couldn’t get out of the way of Snobgate and now she’s about to go down hard in the wake of her own debate victory. Here she is speaking in Philadelphia today, overplaying her hand yet again:

I know some of my opponent’s supporters and my opponent are complaining about the hard questions . . .Well, having been in the White House for eight years and seeing what happens in terms of the pressures and the stresses on a president, that was nothing . . .I’m with Harry Truman on this. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

Does she not remember literally crying only a few months ago because “it’s not easy” to run for President? Does she not remember turning that moment of perceived vulnerability into a battery recharge, claiming to have found her voice in those tears? Does she not remember scolding debate moderators on the spot for unfairly making her field questions before Obama?

Hilary Clinton is blind to history. Whether it’s Tuzla, her husband’s pardoning of terrorists, or her own recent words, she can’t imagine the possibility of being fact-checked or called out on a simple matter of public record. This quality is more than a little chilling in someone hoping to be President. It is only a matter of time before Obama exploits this recent burst of hypocrisy and Hillary looks even worse.

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Are Two Wars Better Than One?

There’s an interesting piece over at the Jawa Report arguing that we’d be best served by conceptually dividing the Iraq War into two Iraq Wars. The first, to topple Saddam, was a quick and tidy triumph for coalition forces; the second, to defeat Islamists, is now painfully underway:

Failing to see the two war distinction is critical. From Obama we hear that he was “against the war” from the beginning. From Clinton we hear that she “changed her mind on the war sometime after she realized that the war was a mistake.”

Continuing to allow politicians to criticize the war in Iraq by criticizing the decision to topple the Hussein regime is to allow them to conflate two very separate issues: 1) should we have invaded Iraq? 2) should we now give up fighting al Qaeda and anti-government Islamist elements in Iraq?

Answering no to question number one says nothing about how question two should be answered. Nothing.

That’s an indisputable point. But while recasting the fight in terms of Iraq I and Iraq II is helpful on a tactical level, the distinction actually manages to blur the moral clarity behind the initial undertaking and is, in the end, a rhetorical side-door best left shut.

For those who believe the Iraq War was not morally optional, this is all one war. We had a moral choice: Indefinitely leave 20 million people in the hands of a tyrannical killing machine or reduce the net suffering to the best of our ability. The latter “option” continues to define the ethical mandate that makes talk of withdrawal, frankly, revolting. Whether it’s a Ba’athist megalomaniac or a wave of Islamist fascists, we must keep such monsters in our cross-hairs.

Strategically, it is also the same war. After September 11, it became clear that abandoning a segment of the world to the whims of nominally secular or overtly fundamentalist dictatorships was no longer tenable. The diminution of human rights and education such conditions entail takes the West’s potential partners and turns them into envious and implacable enemies.

It’s disingenuous and sloppy for the Democrats to cite the decisions of 2003 as catalysts for the decisions of 2008, true. But in the most important ways, we still live under the paradigm defined by those decisions. And side-stepping the conceptual ramifications of that understanding weakens, not strengthens, the case to stay in Iraq until we finish the job.

There’s an interesting piece over at the Jawa Report arguing that we’d be best served by conceptually dividing the Iraq War into two Iraq Wars. The first, to topple Saddam, was a quick and tidy triumph for coalition forces; the second, to defeat Islamists, is now painfully underway:

Failing to see the two war distinction is critical. From Obama we hear that he was “against the war” from the beginning. From Clinton we hear that she “changed her mind on the war sometime after she realized that the war was a mistake.”

Continuing to allow politicians to criticize the war in Iraq by criticizing the decision to topple the Hussein regime is to allow them to conflate two very separate issues: 1) should we have invaded Iraq? 2) should we now give up fighting al Qaeda and anti-government Islamist elements in Iraq?

Answering no to question number one says nothing about how question two should be answered. Nothing.

That’s an indisputable point. But while recasting the fight in terms of Iraq I and Iraq II is helpful on a tactical level, the distinction actually manages to blur the moral clarity behind the initial undertaking and is, in the end, a rhetorical side-door best left shut.

For those who believe the Iraq War was not morally optional, this is all one war. We had a moral choice: Indefinitely leave 20 million people in the hands of a tyrannical killing machine or reduce the net suffering to the best of our ability. The latter “option” continues to define the ethical mandate that makes talk of withdrawal, frankly, revolting. Whether it’s a Ba’athist megalomaniac or a wave of Islamist fascists, we must keep such monsters in our cross-hairs.

Strategically, it is also the same war. After September 11, it became clear that abandoning a segment of the world to the whims of nominally secular or overtly fundamentalist dictatorships was no longer tenable. The diminution of human rights and education such conditions entail takes the West’s potential partners and turns them into envious and implacable enemies.

It’s disingenuous and sloppy for the Democrats to cite the decisions of 2003 as catalysts for the decisions of 2008, true. But in the most important ways, we still live under the paradigm defined by those decisions. And side-stepping the conceptual ramifications of that understanding weakens, not strengthens, the case to stay in Iraq until we finish the job.

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Re: “Shameful”?

Peter, this isn’t the first time in this campaign the media has betrayed its own stated ideals in order to help out Barack Obama. Recall the “piling on” debate, in which Hillary Clinton claimed her opponents and the moderators were ganging up on her. The media (fairly uniformly) rebuffed her, scoffing that she was playing the “gender card.” After all, that was the appropriate tough treatment for a front-runner (which she was at the time).

For Obama, they’ve shown no similar inclination to defend their own role. But it extends to more than debate coverage. When Obama whimpers that eight questions are quite enough on Tony Rezko, or when he snaps at the press and goes days or weeks without making himself available to the press, we do not see a flood of stories complaining that he is “evasive” or “cloistered.”

It isn’t just that reporters are helping their horse in the race. They’re doing so at the expense of their own professed journalistic standards. When ABC decided to do its job, the rest of the horde pounced. Now, that is shameful.

Peter, this isn’t the first time in this campaign the media has betrayed its own stated ideals in order to help out Barack Obama. Recall the “piling on” debate, in which Hillary Clinton claimed her opponents and the moderators were ganging up on her. The media (fairly uniformly) rebuffed her, scoffing that she was playing the “gender card.” After all, that was the appropriate tough treatment for a front-runner (which she was at the time).

For Obama, they’ve shown no similar inclination to defend their own role. But it extends to more than debate coverage. When Obama whimpers that eight questions are quite enough on Tony Rezko, or when he snaps at the press and goes days or weeks without making himself available to the press, we do not see a flood of stories complaining that he is “evasive” or “cloistered.”

It isn’t just that reporters are helping their horse in the race. They’re doing so at the expense of their own professed journalistic standards. When ABC decided to do its job, the rest of the horde pounced. Now, that is shameful.

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Bringing People Together (Finally)

The New York Times opinion page is not kind to Barack Obama today. First, David Brooks reviews the carnage from the debate:

He sprinkled his debate performance Wednesday night with the sorts of fibs, evasions and hypocrisies that are the stuff of conventional politics. He claimed falsely that his handwriting wasn’t on a questionnaire about gun control. He claimed that he had never attacked Clinton for her exaggerations about the Tuzla airport, though his campaign was all over it. Obama piously condemned the practice of lifting other candidates’ words out of context, but he has been doing exactly the same thing to John McCain, especially over his 100 years in Iraq comment.

Paul Krugman, from the other end of the political spectrum, sounds like Bill Clinton: rapping Obama for implying that the Clinton years were not good to working-class voters and advising him to “stop denigrating the very good economic record of the only Democratic administration most Americans remember.” As for Snobgate, he agrees with other academics that Obama’s sociology is wrong:

[S]mall-town, working-class Americans are actually less likely than affluent metropolitan residents to vote on the basis of religion and social values. Nor have working-class voters trended Republican over time; on the contrary, Democrats do better with these voters now than they did in the 1960′s.

Obama is finally bringing about some consensus, if only among the chattering class. (Though he may be the victim of the same “peculiar pathology” which has hobbled other Democrats in actually making it to the White House.)

The New York Times opinion page is not kind to Barack Obama today. First, David Brooks reviews the carnage from the debate:

He sprinkled his debate performance Wednesday night with the sorts of fibs, evasions and hypocrisies that are the stuff of conventional politics. He claimed falsely that his handwriting wasn’t on a questionnaire about gun control. He claimed that he had never attacked Clinton for her exaggerations about the Tuzla airport, though his campaign was all over it. Obama piously condemned the practice of lifting other candidates’ words out of context, but he has been doing exactly the same thing to John McCain, especially over his 100 years in Iraq comment.

Paul Krugman, from the other end of the political spectrum, sounds like Bill Clinton: rapping Obama for implying that the Clinton years were not good to working-class voters and advising him to “stop denigrating the very good economic record of the only Democratic administration most Americans remember.” As for Snobgate, he agrees with other academics that Obama’s sociology is wrong:

[S]mall-town, working-class Americans are actually less likely than affluent metropolitan residents to vote on the basis of religion and social values. Nor have working-class voters trended Republican over time; on the contrary, Democrats do better with these voters now than they did in the 1960′s.

Obama is finally bringing about some consensus, if only among the chattering class. (Though he may be the victim of the same “peculiar pathology” which has hobbled other Democrats in actually making it to the White House.)

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Enemies of the Awakening

You often hear from antiwar advocates that the American success in recruiting Sunnis to join the Awakening (Sahwa) movement is illusory. Those men are only signing up for a U.S.-provided salary, we are told. Before long they will go back to fighting us and the Shiite-dominated government again.

That may be so. But it’s interesting to note that the Al Qaeda in Iraq does not share this dismissive view when it comes to the Awakening movement. The terrorists see the Awakening–and its ability to field Sons of Iraq to defend their neighborhoods–as the most serious threat they face. That’s why they are putting so much effort into targeting Awakening members.

All of those points come through clearly in a letter written by an Al Qaeda member named Abu Sayaf. It was lifted last month off the corpse of a terrorist killed in Balad and recently released by Coalition forces. You can read the text here. The entire letter is interesting as a window into Al Qaeda’s depraved world view. It includes, for instance, a suggestion for waging biological war:

Throw large amounts of Nitric Acid even Bacteria and other materials that can spread illnesses and kill people until the enemy melts in the lakes and valleys. Even place it in the enemy’s water pipes which will spread the killing and dangerous illnesses among them.

But what is most striking to me is how concerned the author is with the Awakening and how many strategies he proposes for derailing this movement. For instance:

The soldiers of the Islamic State must deceive the enemy and inform their public (the enemy’s people) that the Awakening members are liars and deceivers, they steal and rape the women. They must spread information that they (the Awakening) are spreading corruption everywhere.

Unfortunately, it seems that some skeptics in the West have already bought into this anti-Awakening media line.

You often hear from antiwar advocates that the American success in recruiting Sunnis to join the Awakening (Sahwa) movement is illusory. Those men are only signing up for a U.S.-provided salary, we are told. Before long they will go back to fighting us and the Shiite-dominated government again.

That may be so. But it’s interesting to note that the Al Qaeda in Iraq does not share this dismissive view when it comes to the Awakening movement. The terrorists see the Awakening–and its ability to field Sons of Iraq to defend their neighborhoods–as the most serious threat they face. That’s why they are putting so much effort into targeting Awakening members.

All of those points come through clearly in a letter written by an Al Qaeda member named Abu Sayaf. It was lifted last month off the corpse of a terrorist killed in Balad and recently released by Coalition forces. You can read the text here. The entire letter is interesting as a window into Al Qaeda’s depraved world view. It includes, for instance, a suggestion for waging biological war:

Throw large amounts of Nitric Acid even Bacteria and other materials that can spread illnesses and kill people until the enemy melts in the lakes and valleys. Even place it in the enemy’s water pipes which will spread the killing and dangerous illnesses among them.

But what is most striking to me is how concerned the author is with the Awakening and how many strategies he proposes for derailing this movement. For instance:

The soldiers of the Islamic State must deceive the enemy and inform their public (the enemy’s people) that the Awakening members are liars and deceivers, they steal and rape the women. They must spread information that they (the Awakening) are spreading corruption everywhere.

Unfortunately, it seems that some skeptics in the West have already bought into this anti-Awakening media line.

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Carter Lies in Cairo

Jimmy Carter’s terrorist outreach tour of the Middle East has brought the purse-mouthed preacher man to Cairo, where he uttered a lie that has been ably demolished by TigerHawk: (h/t JG)

Before the college student could grin in agreement, Carter did the mathematics of bloodshed. He said that for every Israeli killed in the conflict, 30 to 40 Palestinians die because of Israel’s superior military and “pinpoint accuracy.”

Actually, since Yasser Arafat ordered up the current intifada on September 29, 2000, 4,604 Palestinian Arabs have died compared to 1,033 Israelis (figures through February 2008). That’s according to the manifestly anti-Israeli IfAmericansKnew.com. So while any politician can manipulate statistics and I am sure Jimmy Carter could cherry-pick some period of time in which “30 to 40″ Palestinians died compared to a single Israeli, in the sweep of this war the ratio is more like 4.6 to 1.

I kind of get the feeling Carter wishes the 30-40:1 ratio was true.

Jimmy Carter’s terrorist outreach tour of the Middle East has brought the purse-mouthed preacher man to Cairo, where he uttered a lie that has been ably demolished by TigerHawk: (h/t JG)

Before the college student could grin in agreement, Carter did the mathematics of bloodshed. He said that for every Israeli killed in the conflict, 30 to 40 Palestinians die because of Israel’s superior military and “pinpoint accuracy.”

Actually, since Yasser Arafat ordered up the current intifada on September 29, 2000, 4,604 Palestinian Arabs have died compared to 1,033 Israelis (figures through February 2008). That’s according to the manifestly anti-Israeli IfAmericansKnew.com. So while any politician can manipulate statistics and I am sure Jimmy Carter could cherry-pick some period of time in which “30 to 40″ Palestinians died compared to a single Israeli, in the sweep of this war the ratio is more like 4.6 to 1.

I kind of get the feeling Carter wishes the 30-40:1 ratio was true.

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“Shameful”?

In an article today, Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post cites various media figures–from Tom Shales of the Post to Greg Mitchell of Editor & Publisher to Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News to MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann–who are outraged at the performance of George Stephanopoulos and Charles Gibson during Wednesday’s Democratic debate. The ABC News duo’s performance, we are told, was “despicable,” “shameful,” and “disgraced democracy itself.”

And what did Stephanopoulos and Gibson do to earn this scorn? Why, they asked Barack Obama some probing questions, including one about his past relationships with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Jr. and a former leader of the Weather Underground, William Ayers.

Consider this thought experiment: Assume that a conservative candidate for the GOP nomination spent two decades at a church whose senior pastor was a white supremacist who uttered ugly racial (as well as anti-American) epithets from the pulpit. Assume, too, that this minister wasn’t just the candidate’s pastor but also a close friend, the man who married the candidate and his wife, baptized his two daughters, and inspired the title of his best-selling book.

In addition, assume that this GOP candidate, in preparing for his entry into politics, attended an early organizing meeting at the home of a man who, years before, was involved in blowing up multiple abortion clinics and today was unrepentant, stating his wish that he had bombed even more clinics. And let’s say that the GOP candidate’s press spokesman described the relationship between the two men as “friendly.”

Do you think that if those moderating a debate asked the GOP candidate about these relationships for the first time, after 22 previous debates had been held, that other journalists would become apoplectic at the moderators for merely asking about the relationships? Not only would there be a near-universal consensus that those questions should be asked; there would be a moral urgency in pressing for answers. We would, I predict, be seeing an unprecedented media “feeding frenzy.”

The truth is that a close relationship with a white supremacist pastor and a friendly relationship with an abortion clinic bomber would, by themselves, torpedo a conservative candidate running for president. There is an enormous double standard at play here, one rooted in the fawning regard many journalists have for Barack Obama. They have a deep, even emotional, investment in his candidacy. And, as we are seeing, they will turn on anyone, even their colleagues, who dare raise appropriate and searching questions–the kind journalists are supposed to ask. The reaction to Stephanopoulos and Gibson is a revealing and depressing glimpse into the state of modern journalism.

In an article today, Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post cites various media figures–from Tom Shales of the Post to Greg Mitchell of Editor & Publisher to Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News to MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann–who are outraged at the performance of George Stephanopoulos and Charles Gibson during Wednesday’s Democratic debate. The ABC News duo’s performance, we are told, was “despicable,” “shameful,” and “disgraced democracy itself.”

And what did Stephanopoulos and Gibson do to earn this scorn? Why, they asked Barack Obama some probing questions, including one about his past relationships with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Jr. and a former leader of the Weather Underground, William Ayers.

Consider this thought experiment: Assume that a conservative candidate for the GOP nomination spent two decades at a church whose senior pastor was a white supremacist who uttered ugly racial (as well as anti-American) epithets from the pulpit. Assume, too, that this minister wasn’t just the candidate’s pastor but also a close friend, the man who married the candidate and his wife, baptized his two daughters, and inspired the title of his best-selling book.

In addition, assume that this GOP candidate, in preparing for his entry into politics, attended an early organizing meeting at the home of a man who, years before, was involved in blowing up multiple abortion clinics and today was unrepentant, stating his wish that he had bombed even more clinics. And let’s say that the GOP candidate’s press spokesman described the relationship between the two men as “friendly.”

Do you think that if those moderating a debate asked the GOP candidate about these relationships for the first time, after 22 previous debates had been held, that other journalists would become apoplectic at the moderators for merely asking about the relationships? Not only would there be a near-universal consensus that those questions should be asked; there would be a moral urgency in pressing for answers. We would, I predict, be seeing an unprecedented media “feeding frenzy.”

The truth is that a close relationship with a white supremacist pastor and a friendly relationship with an abortion clinic bomber would, by themselves, torpedo a conservative candidate running for president. There is an enormous double standard at play here, one rooted in the fawning regard many journalists have for Barack Obama. They have a deep, even emotional, investment in his candidacy. And, as we are seeing, they will turn on anyone, even their colleagues, who dare raise appropriate and searching questions–the kind journalists are supposed to ask. The reaction to Stephanopoulos and Gibson is a revealing and depressing glimpse into the state of modern journalism.

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Thou Shalt Not Whine

It’s one thing for supporters to complain. It’s another for campaign operatives to pout. But it’s quite another for the candidate to do it. Yesterday, after a day of awful debate reviews, Barack Obama offered up this at a North Carolina campaign stop (where his presence, by the way, may indicate he’s given up on winning Pennsylvania):

She was taking every opportunity to get a dig in there. That’s alright. That’s her right. That’s her right to kind of twist the knife a little bit.

There are a few problems with this tactic. It set him up for the “whine” charge delivered by Bill Clinton. And today Hillary said that Presidents “can’t run away:”

We need a president who is going to be up there fighting every day for the American people and not complain about how much pressure there is, and how hard the questions are.

Obama’s complaints also amplified the candidates’ respective performances: he basically conceded that she sliced-and-diced him. (And saying he’s done debating makes him look even worse.) They also threw a monkey wrench into the evil-ABC-moderators conspiracy theory. Apparently, it wasn’t that the questions were too obscure, but that Hillary was too tough.

The real danger here, though, is that Obama and his faithful friends have added to the list of explanations that will take hold if he loses in Pennsylvania next week. Snobgate is a bad enough reason for a potential loss: it would cement doubts about his appeal to working class and rural voters. Now he and his boosters have (inadvertently) pointed out another flaw: his inability to prepare for tough questioning and to defend himself effectively. The combination of these concerns is precisely what Hillary Clinton wants those critical superdelegates to focus on.

It’s one thing for supporters to complain. It’s another for campaign operatives to pout. But it’s quite another for the candidate to do it. Yesterday, after a day of awful debate reviews, Barack Obama offered up this at a North Carolina campaign stop (where his presence, by the way, may indicate he’s given up on winning Pennsylvania):

She was taking every opportunity to get a dig in there. That’s alright. That’s her right. That’s her right to kind of twist the knife a little bit.

There are a few problems with this tactic. It set him up for the “whine” charge delivered by Bill Clinton. And today Hillary said that Presidents “can’t run away:”

We need a president who is going to be up there fighting every day for the American people and not complain about how much pressure there is, and how hard the questions are.

Obama’s complaints also amplified the candidates’ respective performances: he basically conceded that she sliced-and-diced him. (And saying he’s done debating makes him look even worse.) They also threw a monkey wrench into the evil-ABC-moderators conspiracy theory. Apparently, it wasn’t that the questions were too obscure, but that Hillary was too tough.

The real danger here, though, is that Obama and his faithful friends have added to the list of explanations that will take hold if he loses in Pennsylvania next week. Snobgate is a bad enough reason for a potential loss: it would cement doubts about his appeal to working class and rural voters. Now he and his boosters have (inadvertently) pointed out another flaw: his inability to prepare for tough questioning and to defend himself effectively. The combination of these concerns is precisely what Hillary Clinton wants those critical superdelegates to focus on.

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Britain’s Pirate Problems

The London Times reports that the Royal Navy has been ordered by the Foreign Office not to detain pirates because doing so “may breach their human rights.” The problem, you see, is that many of these pirates operate off Somalia, and the Somalian punishment for piracy, under sharia, is the removal of heads, arms, or other appendages. Such punishment would not only be inhumane–it would potentially entitle the pirates to asylum in Britain.

Gilbert and Sullivan could hardly have done it better: poor Frederick, the Dudley Do-Right hero of Pirates of Penzance, wriggles out of his indenture to the Pirate King by aiding (however ineffectively) in his capture. The Foreign Office can’t even manage this: in response to Conservative criticism, the best Britain’s diplomats could come up with was the claim that “There are issues about human rights . . . . The main thing is to ensure any incident is resolved peacefully.” (No wonder the Iranians found it so easy to knock off the Royal Navy last year.)

The Foreign Office’s grasp of law is as feeble as its morality. Piracy is a universal crime: indeed, it is the first universal crime, older even than slave-trading. All states have a duty to punish it as harshly as their law allows. This obligation is included in many relevant international conventions, including the 1958 Geneva Convention on the High Seas, to which Britain has been party since 1960, and the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, to which Britain acceded in 1997 by act of the Labour Government.

The Foreign Office’s delusion has two parts. One is a simple error: that pirates captured on the high seas have to be returned to the nearest country for trial. The second fallacy flows from the first. It’s more subtle, but it’s typical and pathetic: that international law descended from on high, and we have to obey all of it to the letter even if the other guy–Somalia, in this case–is unwilling or unable to live up to its commitments. Nonsense: “international law” is a fancy phrase for treaties between states, or for treaties that establish institutions that arbitrate between states. If Somalia cannot control its own waters–never mind the high seas–we are released from any obligation to do anything with them.

Britain–and all the other nations participating in the various anti-piracy patrols around the world–should exercise a healthy unilateralism. A blanket declaration that all pirates will be pursued, shot if they fail to surrender, and held over for trial if they are captured would do lot of good. Putting that policy visibly into practice would do even more. And no, I don’t rule out returning pirates to Somalia for trial: I’m not a fan of sharia, but in this case, it may just have found punishments that fit the crime.

The London Times reports that the Royal Navy has been ordered by the Foreign Office not to detain pirates because doing so “may breach their human rights.” The problem, you see, is that many of these pirates operate off Somalia, and the Somalian punishment for piracy, under sharia, is the removal of heads, arms, or other appendages. Such punishment would not only be inhumane–it would potentially entitle the pirates to asylum in Britain.

Gilbert and Sullivan could hardly have done it better: poor Frederick, the Dudley Do-Right hero of Pirates of Penzance, wriggles out of his indenture to the Pirate King by aiding (however ineffectively) in his capture. The Foreign Office can’t even manage this: in response to Conservative criticism, the best Britain’s diplomats could come up with was the claim that “There are issues about human rights . . . . The main thing is to ensure any incident is resolved peacefully.” (No wonder the Iranians found it so easy to knock off the Royal Navy last year.)

The Foreign Office’s grasp of law is as feeble as its morality. Piracy is a universal crime: indeed, it is the first universal crime, older even than slave-trading. All states have a duty to punish it as harshly as their law allows. This obligation is included in many relevant international conventions, including the 1958 Geneva Convention on the High Seas, to which Britain has been party since 1960, and the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, to which Britain acceded in 1997 by act of the Labour Government.

The Foreign Office’s delusion has two parts. One is a simple error: that pirates captured on the high seas have to be returned to the nearest country for trial. The second fallacy flows from the first. It’s more subtle, but it’s typical and pathetic: that international law descended from on high, and we have to obey all of it to the letter even if the other guy–Somalia, in this case–is unwilling or unable to live up to its commitments. Nonsense: “international law” is a fancy phrase for treaties between states, or for treaties that establish institutions that arbitrate between states. If Somalia cannot control its own waters–never mind the high seas–we are released from any obligation to do anything with them.

Britain–and all the other nations participating in the various anti-piracy patrols around the world–should exercise a healthy unilateralism. A blanket declaration that all pirates will be pursued, shot if they fail to surrender, and held over for trial if they are captured would do lot of good. Putting that policy visibly into practice would do even more. And no, I don’t rule out returning pirates to Somalia for trial: I’m not a fan of sharia, but in this case, it may just have found punishments that fit the crime.

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Carter’s Dixie Chicks Moment

Yesterday, following meetings with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and another Hamas delegation, Jimmy Carter blasted American attitudes regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “My country, the political arena of my country, is almost 100 percent supportive of the Israeli position,” Carter said. “You never hear any debates on both sides much, and most of the information is predicated on that sort of original premise.”

The spectacle of a former U.S. president denouncing his fellow countrymen abroad was a Dixie Chicks moment for the ages. But his choice of venue for decrying the lack of debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was no less ironic: the American University in Cairo–where students are so unwilling to consider the “other side” that they threatened strikes and sit-ins when rumors surfaced that Israeli professors had been invited to campus. Most recently at AUC, a play that featured an Israeli character was protested by its own student-actors, who walked on the stage draped in kaffiyehs and donned “Palestine will remain Arab” t-shirts following the performance. (The actors objected to Israelis being portrayed “as humans only,” one cast member said.)

Sadly, if Carter’s address has any influence, AUC is unlikely to become more hospitable to meaningful dialogue on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict anytime soon. After all, the more Carter spoke, the more he justified AUC students’ hatred for the Jewish state. At one point, after speaking of his visit to Sderot, where the daily barrage of rockets from Gaza has traumatized the community, Carter said, “At the same time, if you live in Gaza, you know that for every Israeli killed in any kind of combat, between 30 to 40 Palestinians are killed because of the extreme military capability of Israel.” At another point, he creatively redefined “terrorism” to equate Palestinian rocket-firings with Israel’s military response, saying that any “killings of civilians is an act of terrorism.”

Even for Carter, this exercise in public counter-diplomacy is shocking. After all, Carter’s greatest legacy–for which he still deserves his Nobel Peace Prize–remains his efforts to forge peace between Egypt and Israel. The more vociferously he denounces Israel to young Egyptians still raised to hate it, the more he jeopardizes that one accomplishment.

Yesterday, following meetings with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and another Hamas delegation, Jimmy Carter blasted American attitudes regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “My country, the political arena of my country, is almost 100 percent supportive of the Israeli position,” Carter said. “You never hear any debates on both sides much, and most of the information is predicated on that sort of original premise.”

The spectacle of a former U.S. president denouncing his fellow countrymen abroad was a Dixie Chicks moment for the ages. But his choice of venue for decrying the lack of debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was no less ironic: the American University in Cairo–where students are so unwilling to consider the “other side” that they threatened strikes and sit-ins when rumors surfaced that Israeli professors had been invited to campus. Most recently at AUC, a play that featured an Israeli character was protested by its own student-actors, who walked on the stage draped in kaffiyehs and donned “Palestine will remain Arab” t-shirts following the performance. (The actors objected to Israelis being portrayed “as humans only,” one cast member said.)

Sadly, if Carter’s address has any influence, AUC is unlikely to become more hospitable to meaningful dialogue on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict anytime soon. After all, the more Carter spoke, the more he justified AUC students’ hatred for the Jewish state. At one point, after speaking of his visit to Sderot, where the daily barrage of rockets from Gaza has traumatized the community, Carter said, “At the same time, if you live in Gaza, you know that for every Israeli killed in any kind of combat, between 30 to 40 Palestinians are killed because of the extreme military capability of Israel.” At another point, he creatively redefined “terrorism” to equate Palestinian rocket-firings with Israel’s military response, saying that any “killings of civilians is an act of terrorism.”

Even for Carter, this exercise in public counter-diplomacy is shocking. After all, Carter’s greatest legacy–for which he still deserves his Nobel Peace Prize–remains his efforts to forge peace between Egypt and Israel. The more vociferously he denounces Israel to young Egyptians still raised to hate it, the more he jeopardizes that one accomplishment.

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“Nice”?

Hillary Clinton, perhaps in jest, suggested yesterday that those knocking on doors on her behalf might say “She’s really nice.” What about “She’s not as bad as you think”? Theres a winning line.

Still, she does seem to be aware of her huge handicap. Once voters have soured on you, it is hard to get back in their good graces quickly. And she needs to be quick. If you believe the poll numbers, she has not yet benefited from some terrible news cycles for Barack Obama. That may be because–as seen in a recent Washington Post-ABC poll–her own unfavorable ratings are high and she is not regarded as trustworthy, a key factor in Presidential preferences.

So she is left with little else to do but push up Obama’s negatives (or watch in awe as he pushes them up all by himself) and to hope that she can climb her way back into voters’ good graces. A combination of Bob-the-Builder competence and self-deprecating humor is a start.

Hillary Clinton, perhaps in jest, suggested yesterday that those knocking on doors on her behalf might say “She’s really nice.” What about “She’s not as bad as you think”? Theres a winning line.

Still, she does seem to be aware of her huge handicap. Once voters have soured on you, it is hard to get back in their good graces quickly. And she needs to be quick. If you believe the poll numbers, she has not yet benefited from some terrible news cycles for Barack Obama. That may be because–as seen in a recent Washington Post-ABC poll–her own unfavorable ratings are high and she is not regarded as trustworthy, a key factor in Presidential preferences.

So she is left with little else to do but push up Obama’s negatives (or watch in awe as he pushes them up all by himself) and to hope that she can climb her way back into voters’ good graces. A combination of Bob-the-Builder competence and self-deprecating humor is a start.

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The Richard Immerman Watch

We have already noted here and in the Weekly Standard that a fox is guarding the hen house. Richard Immerman, a far-Left professor of history on leave from Temple University who participated there in “teach-ins” against the Iraq war, is working in the heart of U.S. intelligence, serving as the ombudsman for “analytic integrity” in the office of the Director of National Intelligence.

How he is able to perform this job while himself being a partisan in the intelligence wars is a mystery. As recently as this past January, Immerman published an essay lambasting the “Bushites” for manipulating intelligence in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. They made “every effort to ‘cook the books,’” Immerman wrote, ” they ‘hyped’ the need to go to war, and they lied too often to count.”

Matters are complicated by an additional wrinkle. While at Temple, Immerman became the target of a lawsuit. The student who filed it, Christian M. DeJohn, was a master’s candidate in history, He also happened to be a decorated tank commander in the Pennsylvania National Guard, who days after September 11, 2001 was called up to serve on a counterterrorism mission in Bosnia.

While at Temple, Sgt. DeJohn had clashed with Immerman about some of the professor’s left-wing views. Then, while he was stationed in Bosnia, the Temple history department began sending him anti-war fliers, inviting him to take part in its teach-ins against Bush’s “imperialist” foreign policy. Sgt. DeJohn objected, and asked to be taken off the list.

When Sgt DeJohn returned to the states in April 2003 and attempted to resume his education at Temple, it seems, according to the complaint, that a campaign of retribution ensued, carried out by Immerman and some of his history department colleagues. Matters became so serious that Sgt. DeJohn filed a lawsuit alleging that his First Amendment right of free speech was being infringed.

In the course of discovery proceedings, email correspondence among history department faculty members came to light in which Sgt. DeJohn was accused of suffering from “paranoid delusions,” being “mentally imbalanced,” “trained to kill by the U.S. Army,” and being “literally obsessed with the idea of liberal bias.”

Among the emails was one from Richard Immerman in which he stated that “Christian is a gnat whom I hope will self-destruct without any help from us.”

This is interesting language for a professor to use about one of his students, especially a student who voluntarily chose to put himself in harm’s way to defend Immerman’s right to spout nonsense.

If dissenting students were treated in this way at Temple, how are dissenting analysts within the intelligence community treated now that Immerman is responsible for investigating their complaints of left-wing and/or any other form of bias?

I would welcome receiving reports from any “gnats” who have had experience dealing with the good professor.

We have already noted here and in the Weekly Standard that a fox is guarding the hen house. Richard Immerman, a far-Left professor of history on leave from Temple University who participated there in “teach-ins” against the Iraq war, is working in the heart of U.S. intelligence, serving as the ombudsman for “analytic integrity” in the office of the Director of National Intelligence.

How he is able to perform this job while himself being a partisan in the intelligence wars is a mystery. As recently as this past January, Immerman published an essay lambasting the “Bushites” for manipulating intelligence in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. They made “every effort to ‘cook the books,’” Immerman wrote, ” they ‘hyped’ the need to go to war, and they lied too often to count.”

Matters are complicated by an additional wrinkle. While at Temple, Immerman became the target of a lawsuit. The student who filed it, Christian M. DeJohn, was a master’s candidate in history, He also happened to be a decorated tank commander in the Pennsylvania National Guard, who days after September 11, 2001 was called up to serve on a counterterrorism mission in Bosnia.

While at Temple, Sgt. DeJohn had clashed with Immerman about some of the professor’s left-wing views. Then, while he was stationed in Bosnia, the Temple history department began sending him anti-war fliers, inviting him to take part in its teach-ins against Bush’s “imperialist” foreign policy. Sgt. DeJohn objected, and asked to be taken off the list.

When Sgt DeJohn returned to the states in April 2003 and attempted to resume his education at Temple, it seems, according to the complaint, that a campaign of retribution ensued, carried out by Immerman and some of his history department colleagues. Matters became so serious that Sgt. DeJohn filed a lawsuit alleging that his First Amendment right of free speech was being infringed.

In the course of discovery proceedings, email correspondence among history department faculty members came to light in which Sgt. DeJohn was accused of suffering from “paranoid delusions,” being “mentally imbalanced,” “trained to kill by the U.S. Army,” and being “literally obsessed with the idea of liberal bias.”

Among the emails was one from Richard Immerman in which he stated that “Christian is a gnat whom I hope will self-destruct without any help from us.”

This is interesting language for a professor to use about one of his students, especially a student who voluntarily chose to put himself in harm’s way to defend Immerman’s right to spout nonsense.

If dissenting students were treated in this way at Temple, how are dissenting analysts within the intelligence community treated now that Immerman is responsible for investigating their complaints of left-wing and/or any other form of bias?

I would welcome receiving reports from any “gnats” who have had experience dealing with the good professor.

Read Less




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