Commentary Magazine


Posts For: April 22, 2008

The Futility of Talking to Tehran

In today’s Washington Times, Michael O’Hanlon suggests the U.S. should engage Iran diplomatically, for “hawkish” reasons:

U.S. diplomatic contact with Iran, the sooner the better, still makes sense — not because it will likely produce any breakthroughs, but because . . . “hawkish engagement” can set the U.S. up more effectively to galvanize the kind of growing international pressure on Iran that is probably our only long-term hope of producing better behavior from Tehran. By trying to talk, we better position ourselves to get tough and have others join the effort.

Through negotiation, we can prove to the world that American recalcitrance, Texas cowboy foreign policymaking, and pre-emption doctrine are not the real problems here. Only by patiently trying to work with Iran, and consistently failing to make progress, will we gradually convince Bush-haters and U.S. doubters around the world that the real problem does not lie in Washington.

Where have I heard this before? Oh yeah! When people said that Israel’s handing over Gaza would give the Jewish state the moral high ground in the eyes of the world. And how did that work out? International opinion described the second Lebanon War as a violent overreaction, and the international community talks about the Israeli government as if the Kadima party was formed in the sole hope of occupying more land.

O’Hanlon’s recommendation is based on two false premises, and together they create a circular bind. The first falsehood is the notion that America (like Israel) incurs more hatred through its actions than through its mere existence. If expressed sentiment toward America was based only on American policy, then most nations of the world would celebrate America Is Great Day every day of the year. In the history of the world there’s simply never been a country to extend either the largess or make the sacrifices of the United States today. Whether it’s monetary aid for Palestinians, natural disaster relief for Indonesia, military action on behalf of Muslims being killed in the Balkans, AIDS relief to Africa, or missile defense for Eastern Europe, if the rest of the world were to respond to the U.S. reciprocally, we’d never have another problem again.

The second false premise is that America’s ally deficit on Iran is one of number rather than approach. We have allies in opposition to Iran—many European countries are on board with tougher sanctions. But, in the end, these countries aren’t doing much aside from offering lip service. Why? Because the U.S. has ended up taking care of their geostrategy problems for half a century—which brings us right back to the first false premise.

If the U.S. talked to Iran, anti-Americans would point to it as a sign of defeat and weakness. They’d switch from enjoying self-righteous rage to savoring perceived superiority. And America’s allies wouldn’t pay all that much attention. They know full well that if the talks failed, the U.S. would still do something to keep the threat at bay.

In today’s Washington Times, Michael O’Hanlon suggests the U.S. should engage Iran diplomatically, for “hawkish” reasons:

U.S. diplomatic contact with Iran, the sooner the better, still makes sense — not because it will likely produce any breakthroughs, but because . . . “hawkish engagement” can set the U.S. up more effectively to galvanize the kind of growing international pressure on Iran that is probably our only long-term hope of producing better behavior from Tehran. By trying to talk, we better position ourselves to get tough and have others join the effort.

Through negotiation, we can prove to the world that American recalcitrance, Texas cowboy foreign policymaking, and pre-emption doctrine are not the real problems here. Only by patiently trying to work with Iran, and consistently failing to make progress, will we gradually convince Bush-haters and U.S. doubters around the world that the real problem does not lie in Washington.

Where have I heard this before? Oh yeah! When people said that Israel’s handing over Gaza would give the Jewish state the moral high ground in the eyes of the world. And how did that work out? International opinion described the second Lebanon War as a violent overreaction, and the international community talks about the Israeli government as if the Kadima party was formed in the sole hope of occupying more land.

O’Hanlon’s recommendation is based on two false premises, and together they create a circular bind. The first falsehood is the notion that America (like Israel) incurs more hatred through its actions than through its mere existence. If expressed sentiment toward America was based only on American policy, then most nations of the world would celebrate America Is Great Day every day of the year. In the history of the world there’s simply never been a country to extend either the largess or make the sacrifices of the United States today. Whether it’s monetary aid for Palestinians, natural disaster relief for Indonesia, military action on behalf of Muslims being killed in the Balkans, AIDS relief to Africa, or missile defense for Eastern Europe, if the rest of the world were to respond to the U.S. reciprocally, we’d never have another problem again.

The second false premise is that America’s ally deficit on Iran is one of number rather than approach. We have allies in opposition to Iran—many European countries are on board with tougher sanctions. But, in the end, these countries aren’t doing much aside from offering lip service. Why? Because the U.S. has ended up taking care of their geostrategy problems for half a century—which brings us right back to the first false premise.

If the U.S. talked to Iran, anti-Americans would point to it as a sign of defeat and weakness. They’d switch from enjoying self-righteous rage to savoring perceived superiority. And America’s allies wouldn’t pay all that much attention. They know full well that if the talks failed, the U.S. would still do something to keep the threat at bay.

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“______” Terrorism

Yesterday, Muneer Fareed, head of the Islamic Society of North America, called for John McCain to cease using the terms Muslim or Islamic in describing–Mohammedan?–terrorism. Here’s Fareed, as quoted in the Washington Times:

You want to call them terrorist criminals, fine. But adding the word ‘Muslim’ or ‘Islamic’ certainly doesn’t help our cause as Americans . . . It paints an entire community of believers, 1.2 billion in total, in a very negative way.

In fact, it does no such thing. The modifiers “Islamic” and “Muslim” are critical in helping to identify the methodology, motivation, and personnel working against us. What does paint the moderate Muslim community “in a very negative way” is Fareed’s evident refusal to face up to a blunt fact: people calling themselves Muslims have waged a war against people they’ve labeled infidels.

The argument goes, of course, that terrorists who kill innocents in the name of Islam are not observant Muslims. Islam forbids such indiscriminate carnage. This is an argument that’s owed a great deal of respect, particularly if we’re looking for moderate Muslims to practice a version of Islam compatible with modern ideas of pluralism and human rights.

However, for a Western government to toe that line without reservation is an error. Which is precisely what England started doing about three months ago. The British government has now officially re-labeled Islamic terrorism “anti-Islamic activity”–so as not to upset people like Fareed.

The funny part of all this is that Bin Laden and company object to the “terrorist” part of the description: they consider themselves good Muslims! So, if you really want to be part of the even-handed multi-culti crowd, you can’t talk about either Islam or terrorism. Which, come to think of it, makes it easier to forget about this whole, distracting war thing and focus on the gun-toting zealots in our own society.

Yesterday, Muneer Fareed, head of the Islamic Society of North America, called for John McCain to cease using the terms Muslim or Islamic in describing–Mohammedan?–terrorism. Here’s Fareed, as quoted in the Washington Times:

You want to call them terrorist criminals, fine. But adding the word ‘Muslim’ or ‘Islamic’ certainly doesn’t help our cause as Americans . . . It paints an entire community of believers, 1.2 billion in total, in a very negative way.

In fact, it does no such thing. The modifiers “Islamic” and “Muslim” are critical in helping to identify the methodology, motivation, and personnel working against us. What does paint the moderate Muslim community “in a very negative way” is Fareed’s evident refusal to face up to a blunt fact: people calling themselves Muslims have waged a war against people they’ve labeled infidels.

The argument goes, of course, that terrorists who kill innocents in the name of Islam are not observant Muslims. Islam forbids such indiscriminate carnage. This is an argument that’s owed a great deal of respect, particularly if we’re looking for moderate Muslims to practice a version of Islam compatible with modern ideas of pluralism and human rights.

However, for a Western government to toe that line without reservation is an error. Which is precisely what England started doing about three months ago. The British government has now officially re-labeled Islamic terrorism “anti-Islamic activity”–so as not to upset people like Fareed.

The funny part of all this is that Bin Laden and company object to the “terrorist” part of the description: they consider themselves good Muslims! So, if you really want to be part of the even-handed multi-culti crowd, you can’t talk about either Islam or terrorism. Which, come to think of it, makes it easier to forget about this whole, distracting war thing and focus on the gun-toting zealots in our own society.

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Reliable

You can count on two daily occurrences in the Democratic race: Barack Obama brushing off the media and Bill Clinton displaying his self-absorbed and increasingly out-of-touch psyche.

In response to the first, the media continue to get the bum’s rush. But their reaction is meek and mild. This is emblematic:

Journalists in general don’t relish asking politicians questions in awkward situations, like on a golf course or over a waffle. But sometimes our hands are forced: Obama hasn’t given a press conference in 10 days and the questions, some of them — like Hamas — rather important, are starting to build up. If he wins the nomination he’ll be running again John McCain, whose philosophy is to give the press total access to the point of saturation; Obama might consider holding avails with a little more regularity. Then, maybe, reporters would let him to eat in peace.

Whether they are nervous about a gaffe or afraid of further diminishing Obama’s precious aura, there seems to be no sign that the Obama team will allow the candidate to become more accessible anytime soon. It’s more likely that Bill Clinton will exhibit some self-restraint or self-awareness. But that doesn’t seem very probable either. . .

You can count on two daily occurrences in the Democratic race: Barack Obama brushing off the media and Bill Clinton displaying his self-absorbed and increasingly out-of-touch psyche.

In response to the first, the media continue to get the bum’s rush. But their reaction is meek and mild. This is emblematic:

Journalists in general don’t relish asking politicians questions in awkward situations, like on a golf course or over a waffle. But sometimes our hands are forced: Obama hasn’t given a press conference in 10 days and the questions, some of them — like Hamas — rather important, are starting to build up. If he wins the nomination he’ll be running again John McCain, whose philosophy is to give the press total access to the point of saturation; Obama might consider holding avails with a little more regularity. Then, maybe, reporters would let him to eat in peace.

Whether they are nervous about a gaffe or afraid of further diminishing Obama’s precious aura, there seems to be no sign that the Obama team will allow the candidate to become more accessible anytime soon. It’s more likely that Bill Clinton will exhibit some self-restraint or self-awareness. But that doesn’t seem very probable either. . .

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A Suggestion for Zawahri

Poor Al-Qaeda. For months, the Islamist organization has had to give over the limelight to Iran, Hezbullah, and Hamas, all of which have more guns and the advantage of constant terror activity to get them attention. Today, Ayman al-Zawahri, Bin-Laden’s right hand, issued a two-hour taped speech in which he grumbled about how (a) Iran is secretly in league with the U.S.; (b) Iran and Hezbollah are trying to deprive al-Qaeda of credit for 9/11 by suggesting that Israel did it; and (c) Hamas is violating Islamic law by contemplating a cease-fire with Israel.

Although he did not ask for my opinion, I would offer Al-Zawahri the following suggestion: If you’re really that mad at Iran, why don’t you put your organization’s efforts into taking out their nuclear program? That would really show them.

Poor Al-Qaeda. For months, the Islamist organization has had to give over the limelight to Iran, Hezbullah, and Hamas, all of which have more guns and the advantage of constant terror activity to get them attention. Today, Ayman al-Zawahri, Bin-Laden’s right hand, issued a two-hour taped speech in which he grumbled about how (a) Iran is secretly in league with the U.S.; (b) Iran and Hezbollah are trying to deprive al-Qaeda of credit for 9/11 by suggesting that Israel did it; and (c) Hamas is violating Islamic law by contemplating a cease-fire with Israel.

Although he did not ask for my opinion, I would offer Al-Zawahri the following suggestion: If you’re really that mad at Iran, why don’t you put your organization’s efforts into taking out their nuclear program? That would really show them.

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Obliterate Them

Hillary Clinton, on Good Morning America, had this to say on the U.S. response, if she were President, should Iran launch a nuclear attack on Israel:

I want the Iranians to know that if I’m the president, we will attack Iran . . . In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them.

My initial reaction? Good answer. But in a Democratic primary does this really help her? If–and this is a big if–there is a core of national security voters who worry about Hamas’s endorsement of Barack Obama and who are displeased with his predilection to meet with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, then yes. (This also may be of some benefit to the extent some independents and GOP voters with these concerns have registered to vote in the primary.)

Aside from the politics, however, this statement does, I’d argue, represent Clinton’s true worldview (just as her vote on the Kyl-Lieberman amendment to declare the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization did). Much as she might like to hide it from the Democratic party’s base, she is not above threatening the world’s miscreants. By contrast, I can’t imagine Obama saying anything nearly so definitive. And sure enough, on one of the morning shows, he said that Clinton’s attitude “doesn’t produce good results.”

So Clinton’s message may fail to resonate with a chunk of Democratic primary voters. But it’s hard to argue with the conclusion that she might scare the living daylights out of the Iranians.

Hillary Clinton, on Good Morning America, had this to say on the U.S. response, if she were President, should Iran launch a nuclear attack on Israel:

I want the Iranians to know that if I’m the president, we will attack Iran . . . In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them.

My initial reaction? Good answer. But in a Democratic primary does this really help her? If–and this is a big if–there is a core of national security voters who worry about Hamas’s endorsement of Barack Obama and who are displeased with his predilection to meet with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, then yes. (This also may be of some benefit to the extent some independents and GOP voters with these concerns have registered to vote in the primary.)

Aside from the politics, however, this statement does, I’d argue, represent Clinton’s true worldview (just as her vote on the Kyl-Lieberman amendment to declare the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization did). Much as she might like to hide it from the Democratic party’s base, she is not above threatening the world’s miscreants. By contrast, I can’t imagine Obama saying anything nearly so definitive. And sure enough, on one of the morning shows, he said that Clinton’s attitude “doesn’t produce good results.”

So Clinton’s message may fail to resonate with a chunk of Democratic primary voters. But it’s hard to argue with the conclusion that she might scare the living daylights out of the Iranians.

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McCain (Remember Him?)

John McCain is on a tour to “forgotten places” this week: stops where Republicans don’t always look for votes. He’s looking to make headway in small towns and rural areas where Barack Obama’s Snobgate remarks didn’t go down so well. But his remarks in Youngstown, Ohio today sounded like they could have been aimed at Hillary Clinton:

As you might recall, it was a different story last year, when I could claim the unqualified support of Cindy and my mother – and Mom was starting to keep her options open. Back then, there were some very impressive frontrunners … there was a very formidable second tier of contenders … and then there was me. As I recall, a few pollsters even declared my campaign a hopeless cause, and there was no margin of error to soften the blow. But a person learns along the way that if you hold on – if you don’t quit no matter what the odds – sometimes life will surprise you. Sometimes you get a second chance, and opportunity turns back your way. And when it does, we are stronger and readier because of all that we had to overcome.

Yes, McCain is trying to bond with these voters by analogizing to his own hard luck story. But this is Clinton’s pitch as well. At bottom, both are trying to overcome Obama’s novelty by presenting themselves as tried-and-true leaders. So far it’s worked a bit better for McCain than Clinton. But a win today for Clinton will allow her to posit that she is now the “stronger and readier” candidate for Democrats.

John McCain is on a tour to “forgotten places” this week: stops where Republicans don’t always look for votes. He’s looking to make headway in small towns and rural areas where Barack Obama’s Snobgate remarks didn’t go down so well. But his remarks in Youngstown, Ohio today sounded like they could have been aimed at Hillary Clinton:

As you might recall, it was a different story last year, when I could claim the unqualified support of Cindy and my mother – and Mom was starting to keep her options open. Back then, there were some very impressive frontrunners … there was a very formidable second tier of contenders … and then there was me. As I recall, a few pollsters even declared my campaign a hopeless cause, and there was no margin of error to soften the blow. But a person learns along the way that if you hold on – if you don’t quit no matter what the odds – sometimes life will surprise you. Sometimes you get a second chance, and opportunity turns back your way. And when it does, we are stronger and readier because of all that we had to overcome.

Yes, McCain is trying to bond with these voters by analogizing to his own hard luck story. But this is Clinton’s pitch as well. At bottom, both are trying to overcome Obama’s novelty by presenting themselves as tried-and-true leaders. So far it’s worked a bit better for McCain than Clinton. But a win today for Clinton will allow her to posit that she is now the “stronger and readier” candidate for Democrats.

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Kicking Hillary and Taking Names

Still on the Rolling Temper Tantrum Tour ’08, Bill Clinton gave a revelatory radio interview yesterday. Losing his cool and discarding any remnants of good sense, he was in top meltdown form, complete with a not-quite-out-of-earshot bit of profanity. Here’s what we learned:

1. The fallout over his comparing Obama’s South Carolina primary victory to Jesse Jackson’s was a matter of the race card being used against him. Though he brought up Jackson in connection with Obama, any connection on basis of race was introduced by the Obama camp in an effort to smear poor Bill.

2. He knows this now for a fact, because of some unearthed memos from the Obama camp.

3. You have to work pretty darn hard to cast Bill Clinton as a racist because . . . he has an office in Harlem.

4. He doesn’t think he “should take any s**t from anybody on that, do you?”

Actually, he should. On that and a great many other things, Americans (especially his wife) are hoping against hope that Bill Clinton will pipe down, get humble, and disappear. His inability to do so approaches the pathological. What’s fascinating about this most recent interview is not the victim mentality, the paranoia, or the commercial real estate approach to civil rights.

It’s that nothing offered in this outburst could possibly help his wife in Pennsylvania today. The temptation to psychoanalyze candidates and their spouses is best resisted, but in the case of Bill Clinton no analysis is required. He’s openly telling you: He doesn’t think he should take s**t from anybody, campaign be damned. With delegate math making things nearly impossible for Hillary, it’s as if Bill has decided to try and fight for some obscure personal validation. Can there be any question that the Clintons are heading for a double defeat?

Still on the Rolling Temper Tantrum Tour ’08, Bill Clinton gave a revelatory radio interview yesterday. Losing his cool and discarding any remnants of good sense, he was in top meltdown form, complete with a not-quite-out-of-earshot bit of profanity. Here’s what we learned:

1. The fallout over his comparing Obama’s South Carolina primary victory to Jesse Jackson’s was a matter of the race card being used against him. Though he brought up Jackson in connection with Obama, any connection on basis of race was introduced by the Obama camp in an effort to smear poor Bill.

2. He knows this now for a fact, because of some unearthed memos from the Obama camp.

3. You have to work pretty darn hard to cast Bill Clinton as a racist because . . . he has an office in Harlem.

4. He doesn’t think he “should take any s**t from anybody on that, do you?”

Actually, he should. On that and a great many other things, Americans (especially his wife) are hoping against hope that Bill Clinton will pipe down, get humble, and disappear. His inability to do so approaches the pathological. What’s fascinating about this most recent interview is not the victim mentality, the paranoia, or the commercial real estate approach to civil rights.

It’s that nothing offered in this outburst could possibly help his wife in Pennsylvania today. The temptation to psychoanalyze candidates and their spouses is best resisted, but in the case of Bill Clinton no analysis is required. He’s openly telling you: He doesn’t think he should take s**t from anybody, campaign be damned. With delegate math making things nearly impossible for Hillary, it’s as if Bill has decided to try and fight for some obscure personal validation. Can there be any question that the Clintons are heading for a double defeat?

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In the Kitchen with Bin Laden

Senator Hillary Clinton has a new ad that describes the presidency as “the toughest job in the world. You need to be ready for anything–especially now, with two wars, oil prices skyrocketing, and an economy in crisis.” The ad quotes Harry Truman–”if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”– and concludes with this question: “Who do you think has what it takes?”

Among the images in the ad is one of Osama bin Laden. It turns out that was too much for some of Barack Obama’s supporters. In his interview last night with Clinton, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann said:

Let me ask you about the campaign and something you said in Pittsburgh today and again, let me read the quote about being president. “It’s the toughest job in the world and you have to be ready for anything. Two wars, skyrocketing oil prices, an economy in crisis. Well, if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.” That is almost word for word the narration of this new ad that your campaign put out today, and that ad flashes a very brief image of Osama bin Laden. For nearly six years now since Senator Max Cleland was cut down by a commercial that featured a picture of bin Laden, that has been — that tactic has been kind of a bloody shirt for many Democrats. Is it not just, in your opinion, as much of a scare tactic for a Democrat to use it against another Democrat, as it is for a Republican to use it in a race against the Democrat?

Jamal Simmons, a Democratic strategist, was on CNN making the same complaint:

What’s really disappointing about this ad is all of us should remember in 2002 when the Republicans ran an ad featuring Osama bin Laden against Max Cleland. And all the Democrats were upset about that, because they used Osama bin Laden to stir up fear. And now here we are again, watching Democrats use Osama bin Laden to stir fear against other Democrats.

The Max Cleland ad has become an urban legend in some quarters. According to this narrative, an ad run by Cleland’s opponent, Saxby Chambliss, questioned the patriotism of Cleland, a man who served in Vietnam and became a triple amputee. In point of fact, this ad did no such thing. Cleland had voted multiple times against a homeland security bill that would have given the President freedom from union rules which Bush had deemed necessary to make the new Department of Homeland Security more effective. Chambliss’s ad included pictures of bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, underscoring the threats faced by America. At no point was Cleland’s patriotism impugned. What the ad did do was dispute Cleland’s claim that he had the “courage to lead” and that he “supports President Bush at every opportunity.”

So it has come to this: simply the picture of Osama bin Laden in an ad highlighting threats to America has become a “scare tactic” and a “bloody shirt for many Democrats.” Forget the fact that the threats we face are real, that bin Laden was responsible for killing almost 3,000 Americans on September 11th, and that he is leading figure in a jihadist movement that wants to destroy our country and kill many more of our people. Using the image of bin Laden is verboten.

This is yet one more example of the delicate sensibilities and manufactured outrage that makes people wonder about contemporary liberalism. I suspect Americans are more concerned with the threat posed by bin Laden than they are concerned by the use of his image in an ad. The public is right to be impatient with such childishness.

Senator Hillary Clinton has a new ad that describes the presidency as “the toughest job in the world. You need to be ready for anything–especially now, with two wars, oil prices skyrocketing, and an economy in crisis.” The ad quotes Harry Truman–”if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”– and concludes with this question: “Who do you think has what it takes?”

Among the images in the ad is one of Osama bin Laden. It turns out that was too much for some of Barack Obama’s supporters. In his interview last night with Clinton, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann said:

Let me ask you about the campaign and something you said in Pittsburgh today and again, let me read the quote about being president. “It’s the toughest job in the world and you have to be ready for anything. Two wars, skyrocketing oil prices, an economy in crisis. Well, if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.” That is almost word for word the narration of this new ad that your campaign put out today, and that ad flashes a very brief image of Osama bin Laden. For nearly six years now since Senator Max Cleland was cut down by a commercial that featured a picture of bin Laden, that has been — that tactic has been kind of a bloody shirt for many Democrats. Is it not just, in your opinion, as much of a scare tactic for a Democrat to use it against another Democrat, as it is for a Republican to use it in a race against the Democrat?

Jamal Simmons, a Democratic strategist, was on CNN making the same complaint:

What’s really disappointing about this ad is all of us should remember in 2002 when the Republicans ran an ad featuring Osama bin Laden against Max Cleland. And all the Democrats were upset about that, because they used Osama bin Laden to stir up fear. And now here we are again, watching Democrats use Osama bin Laden to stir fear against other Democrats.

The Max Cleland ad has become an urban legend in some quarters. According to this narrative, an ad run by Cleland’s opponent, Saxby Chambliss, questioned the patriotism of Cleland, a man who served in Vietnam and became a triple amputee. In point of fact, this ad did no such thing. Cleland had voted multiple times against a homeland security bill that would have given the President freedom from union rules which Bush had deemed necessary to make the new Department of Homeland Security more effective. Chambliss’s ad included pictures of bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, underscoring the threats faced by America. At no point was Cleland’s patriotism impugned. What the ad did do was dispute Cleland’s claim that he had the “courage to lead” and that he “supports President Bush at every opportunity.”

So it has come to this: simply the picture of Osama bin Laden in an ad highlighting threats to America has become a “scare tactic” and a “bloody shirt for many Democrats.” Forget the fact that the threats we face are real, that bin Laden was responsible for killing almost 3,000 Americans on September 11th, and that he is leading figure in a jihadist movement that wants to destroy our country and kill many more of our people. Using the image of bin Laden is verboten.

This is yet one more example of the delicate sensibilities and manufactured outrage that makes people wonder about contemporary liberalism. I suspect Americans are more concerned with the threat posed by bin Laden than they are concerned by the use of his image in an ad. The public is right to be impatient with such childishness.

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Italy’s Iran Reversal

Italy, reversing its previous policy of putting commercial interests before strategic ones, has decided to endorse a series of additional EU sanctions against Iran–which include embargoing Bank Melli, Iran’s main commercial bank and a conveyor belt for terror financing. The motives for Italy’s government to have reversed its policy are less than noble, though. The outgoing left-of-center government, according to news reports, does not want to give the incoming new right-of-center executive the opportunity to portray Romano Prodi’s outgoing government as one that stood against “the whole European Union.”

Had Prodi’s policies–to say nothing of his foreign minister’s regular outbursts–not been so embarrassing, he would not have to worry about looking bad on his way out. Regardless, the portrayal of Italy’s outgoing government as “standing alone against the whole European Union” gives too much credit to Italy’s now-reversed stance on Iran. After all, the Italians are not alone in giving Iran a free pass–Spain, Greece, Austria, Cyprus, and some Scandinavian countries are likely to regret Italy’s change of heart. And with the EU still deadlocked on further measures to implement UN Security council Resolution 1803, the swing in favor of further sanctions is not as dramatic as it first appears.

Italy, reversing its previous policy of putting commercial interests before strategic ones, has decided to endorse a series of additional EU sanctions against Iran–which include embargoing Bank Melli, Iran’s main commercial bank and a conveyor belt for terror financing. The motives for Italy’s government to have reversed its policy are less than noble, though. The outgoing left-of-center government, according to news reports, does not want to give the incoming new right-of-center executive the opportunity to portray Romano Prodi’s outgoing government as one that stood against “the whole European Union.”

Had Prodi’s policies–to say nothing of his foreign minister’s regular outbursts–not been so embarrassing, he would not have to worry about looking bad on his way out. Regardless, the portrayal of Italy’s outgoing government as “standing alone against the whole European Union” gives too much credit to Italy’s now-reversed stance on Iran. After all, the Italians are not alone in giving Iran a free pass–Spain, Greece, Austria, Cyprus, and some Scandinavian countries are likely to regret Italy’s change of heart. And with the EU still deadlocked on further measures to implement UN Security council Resolution 1803, the swing in favor of further sanctions is not as dramatic as it first appears.

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“Patriotic” Chinese Protests

Sunday, thousands of angry Chinese took to the streets in anti-foreigner protests in major cities in China, including Wuhan, Harbin, Jinan, Xian, Qingdao, and Dalian. The demonstrations followed those occurring on Friday and Saturday, which took place around the country, including Beijing, Kunming, and Hefei. They were the largest anti-foreign protests in three years, since anti-Japan riots shook Beijing, Shanghai, and other cities in China.

Young Chinese, upset at foreign media coverage of recent ethnic disturbances and pro-Tibetan protests around the world, gathered in front of foreign stores, declared a boycott of French retailer Carrefour, and carried pictures of Mao Zedong. “Condemn CNN” and “Shut up you French,” seen on banners over the weekend, expressed popular sentiment. “We’re supporting the Olympics and boycotting Tibetan independence,” said the organizer of one of the demonstrations in the Chinese capital. As Zhu Xiaomeng, a student in Beijing who has been organizing a boycott of French companies, noted, “After 5,000 years, we’re not so soft anymore.”

That’s the message Beijing wants you to hear. Chinese state media triggered the protests in China with noxious anti-French stories that began appearing about a week ago, and Beijing has fueled demonstrations in Paris, Berlin, Vienna, London, Birmingham, and Manchester in Europe and San Francisco, Los Angeles, the Twin Cities, and Washington, D.C. by paying “patriotic” Chinese to participate.

The ugly tactic seems to be working. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, for instance, will be sending three envoys to Beijing to try to limit the damage (the first left France yesterday). He also invited Jin Jing, a disabled fencer who protected the Olympic flame in the Paris torch relay from protesters, to be his “personal guest.” There is, however, evidence that Beijing manufactured the incident that made the “wheelchair angel” a national symbol of Chinese defiance.

So the West is being intimidated once again by arrogant Chinese rulers. Eventually, we will learn that Beijing has been manipulating us all along. In the meantime, Western leaders will continue to apologize to the Middle Kingdom whenever it gets into a snit.

Sunday, thousands of angry Chinese took to the streets in anti-foreigner protests in major cities in China, including Wuhan, Harbin, Jinan, Xian, Qingdao, and Dalian. The demonstrations followed those occurring on Friday and Saturday, which took place around the country, including Beijing, Kunming, and Hefei. They were the largest anti-foreign protests in three years, since anti-Japan riots shook Beijing, Shanghai, and other cities in China.

Young Chinese, upset at foreign media coverage of recent ethnic disturbances and pro-Tibetan protests around the world, gathered in front of foreign stores, declared a boycott of French retailer Carrefour, and carried pictures of Mao Zedong. “Condemn CNN” and “Shut up you French,” seen on banners over the weekend, expressed popular sentiment. “We’re supporting the Olympics and boycotting Tibetan independence,” said the organizer of one of the demonstrations in the Chinese capital. As Zhu Xiaomeng, a student in Beijing who has been organizing a boycott of French companies, noted, “After 5,000 years, we’re not so soft anymore.”

That’s the message Beijing wants you to hear. Chinese state media triggered the protests in China with noxious anti-French stories that began appearing about a week ago, and Beijing has fueled demonstrations in Paris, Berlin, Vienna, London, Birmingham, and Manchester in Europe and San Francisco, Los Angeles, the Twin Cities, and Washington, D.C. by paying “patriotic” Chinese to participate.

The ugly tactic seems to be working. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, for instance, will be sending three envoys to Beijing to try to limit the damage (the first left France yesterday). He also invited Jin Jing, a disabled fencer who protected the Olympic flame in the Paris torch relay from protesters, to be his “personal guest.” There is, however, evidence that Beijing manufactured the incident that made the “wheelchair angel” a national symbol of Chinese defiance.

So the West is being intimidated once again by arrogant Chinese rulers. Eventually, we will learn that Beijing has been manipulating us all along. In the meantime, Western leaders will continue to apologize to the Middle Kingdom whenever it gets into a snit.

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Good Neighbors

For some reason, people are saying that Hamas just agreed to make peace, and to live with Israel “just like the neighbor next door,” if the Jewish state withdraws from the West Bank. Jimmy Carter even went so far as to say that “there’s no doubt that both the Arab world and the Palestinians, including Hamas, will accept Israel’s right to live in peace within the 1967 borders.”

Well, maybe there’s a little doubt. Max Boot has pointed out that Hamas is doing almost nothing on the ground to give credence to these words, and that its charter makes it seem less than likely. But we don’t need to work that hard: this is Jimmy Carter speaking. Hamas, for their part, explicitly denied saying anything of the sort. Sami Abu-Zuhri, Hamas spokesman in the Gaza strip, said that any Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank would be “transitional”–meaning it would be a good starting point until the rest of Israel is wiped out. And while Hamas may be willing to accept a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank, they have been very clear about not actually recognizing Israel at that point. Here is Khaled Meshal, the head of Hamas, speaking right after his meeting with Carter:

We agree to a [Palestinian] state on pre-67 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital with genuine sovereignty without settlements, but without recognizing Israel. We have offered a truce if Israel withdraws to the 1967 borders, a truce of 10 years as a proof of recognition.

In other words: We will stop butchering Jewish civilians for ten years, on condition that Israel gives up the West Bank, divides Jerusalem, and sets up a state where we will most likely rule after the first election, and will be free to continue building our forces in advance of a future confrontation with the Zionist enemy, which we will never recognize as a state. How . . . neighborly.

For some reason, people are saying that Hamas just agreed to make peace, and to live with Israel “just like the neighbor next door,” if the Jewish state withdraws from the West Bank. Jimmy Carter even went so far as to say that “there’s no doubt that both the Arab world and the Palestinians, including Hamas, will accept Israel’s right to live in peace within the 1967 borders.”

Well, maybe there’s a little doubt. Max Boot has pointed out that Hamas is doing almost nothing on the ground to give credence to these words, and that its charter makes it seem less than likely. But we don’t need to work that hard: this is Jimmy Carter speaking. Hamas, for their part, explicitly denied saying anything of the sort. Sami Abu-Zuhri, Hamas spokesman in the Gaza strip, said that any Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank would be “transitional”–meaning it would be a good starting point until the rest of Israel is wiped out. And while Hamas may be willing to accept a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank, they have been very clear about not actually recognizing Israel at that point. Here is Khaled Meshal, the head of Hamas, speaking right after his meeting with Carter:

We agree to a [Palestinian] state on pre-67 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital with genuine sovereignty without settlements, but without recognizing Israel. We have offered a truce if Israel withdraws to the 1967 borders, a truce of 10 years as a proof of recognition.

In other words: We will stop butchering Jewish civilians for ten years, on condition that Israel gives up the West Bank, divides Jerusalem, and sets up a state where we will most likely rule after the first election, and will be free to continue building our forces in advance of a future confrontation with the Zionist enemy, which we will never recognize as a state. How . . . neighborly.

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Every Which Way on the NIE

The November National Intelligence Estimate on Iran declared flatly in its opening sentence that ‘We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program; we also assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons.”

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, speaking at West Point last night, said that Iran remains “hell-bent” on acquiring nuclear weapons.

Does Michael Hayden, CIA director, agree? Speaking with Tim Russert  on Meet the Press on March 30, he said that “we stand by the judgment” in the NIE. That seems unequivocal.

But Hayden then began to equivocate. Russert asked him point blank: “Do you believe the Iranians are trying to develop a nuclear program?” Here is the transcript:

GEN. HAYDEN:  I–personal…

MR. RUSSERT: Yes.

GEN. HAYDEN: Personal belief? Yes. It’s hard for me to explain. And, you know, this is not court of law stuff. This is, this is, you know, in terms of beyond all reasonable doubt, this is, this is Mike Hayden looking at the body of evidence. OK. Why would the Iranians be willing to pay the international tariff they appear willing to pay for what they’re doing now if they did not have, at a minimum, at a minimum, if they did not have the desire to keep the option open to, to develop a nuclear weapon and perhaps even more so, that they’ve already decided to do that? It’s very difficult for us to judge intent, and so we have to work back from actions. Why the continuing production of fissile material, and Natanz? They say it’s for civilian purposes, and yet the, the planet, the globe, states around the world have offered them fissile material under controls so they can have their, their, their civilian nuclear program. But the Iranians have rejected that. I mean, when you start looking at that, and you get, not just the United States, but you get the U.N. Security Council imposing sanctions on them, why would they go through that if it were not to develop the technology that would allow them to create fissile material not under international control?

What about Mike McConnell, director of National Intelligence? Here he is defending the NIE in congressional testimony on February 5:

I’d start by saying that the integrity and the professionalism in this NIE is probably the highest in our history in terms of objectivity, and quality of the analysis, and challenging the assumptions, and conducting red teams on the process, conducting a counterintelligence assessment about were we being misled or so on.

That sounds unequivocal. But then McConnell, too, begins to equivocate:

The only thing that they’ve halted was nuclear weapons design, which is probably the least significant part of the program. So if I’d had until now to think about it, I probably would have changed a thing or two.

So, with Secretary Gates joining in, we now have a trifecta of confusion. The top three intelligence and defense officials of the Bush administration are disavowing the NIE even as the adminstration stands by it.

The November National Intelligence Estimate on Iran declared flatly in its opening sentence that ‘We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program; we also assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons.”

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, speaking at West Point last night, said that Iran remains “hell-bent” on acquiring nuclear weapons.

Does Michael Hayden, CIA director, agree? Speaking with Tim Russert  on Meet the Press on March 30, he said that “we stand by the judgment” in the NIE. That seems unequivocal.

But Hayden then began to equivocate. Russert asked him point blank: “Do you believe the Iranians are trying to develop a nuclear program?” Here is the transcript:

GEN. HAYDEN:  I–personal…

MR. RUSSERT: Yes.

GEN. HAYDEN: Personal belief? Yes. It’s hard for me to explain. And, you know, this is not court of law stuff. This is, this is, you know, in terms of beyond all reasonable doubt, this is, this is Mike Hayden looking at the body of evidence. OK. Why would the Iranians be willing to pay the international tariff they appear willing to pay for what they’re doing now if they did not have, at a minimum, at a minimum, if they did not have the desire to keep the option open to, to develop a nuclear weapon and perhaps even more so, that they’ve already decided to do that? It’s very difficult for us to judge intent, and so we have to work back from actions. Why the continuing production of fissile material, and Natanz? They say it’s for civilian purposes, and yet the, the planet, the globe, states around the world have offered them fissile material under controls so they can have their, their, their civilian nuclear program. But the Iranians have rejected that. I mean, when you start looking at that, and you get, not just the United States, but you get the U.N. Security Council imposing sanctions on them, why would they go through that if it were not to develop the technology that would allow them to create fissile material not under international control?

What about Mike McConnell, director of National Intelligence? Here he is defending the NIE in congressional testimony on February 5:

I’d start by saying that the integrity and the professionalism in this NIE is probably the highest in our history in terms of objectivity, and quality of the analysis, and challenging the assumptions, and conducting red teams on the process, conducting a counterintelligence assessment about were we being misled or so on.

That sounds unequivocal. But then McConnell, too, begins to equivocate:

The only thing that they’ve halted was nuclear weapons design, which is probably the least significant part of the program. So if I’d had until now to think about it, I probably would have changed a thing or two.

So, with Secretary Gates joining in, we now have a trifecta of confusion. The top three intelligence and defense officials of the Bush administration are disavowing the NIE even as the adminstration stands by it.

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The Spread

As this chart shows, there has been a small uptick for Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania, with a couple of polls now showing her ahead by 10 points. If she wins, as now seems very likely, the expectations game will be in full swing. The Clinton team will pursue the line that Barack Obama spent a fortune to knock her out and failed, while the Obama team will pick a percentage she should have reached (sufficiently beyond any probable outcome) to justify their sure-to-be-forthcoming argument that her win was really a “loss.”

So what is the “right” measure? Barring a blowout, there likely will be no consensus, with each side arguing to the media and superdelegates its talking points. (I think I know which side those 40 journos will take.) But Clinton will gain some momentum and confidence from a win that is better than a squeaker. And there will be no getting her out of the race before June.

As this chart shows, there has been a small uptick for Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania, with a couple of polls now showing her ahead by 10 points. If she wins, as now seems very likely, the expectations game will be in full swing. The Clinton team will pursue the line that Barack Obama spent a fortune to knock her out and failed, while the Obama team will pick a percentage she should have reached (sufficiently beyond any probable outcome) to justify their sure-to-be-forthcoming argument that her win was really a “loss.”

So what is the “right” measure? Barring a blowout, there likely will be no consensus, with each side arguing to the media and superdelegates its talking points. (I think I know which side those 40 journos will take.) But Clinton will gain some momentum and confidence from a win that is better than a squeaker. And there will be no getting her out of the race before June.

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