Commentary Magazine


Posts For: May 19, 2008

Which Is It?

Now Barack Obama says “Iran is a grave threat.” Several points are in order. Rule one (after “Don’t announce a withdrawal date to the enemy while at war”) of national security policy: be consistent. In the course of twenty-four hours, Obama went from “tiny” to “grave” in his Iran threat assessment. His supporters swear he has gone from unconditional, presidential talks with rogue state leaders to something else. (His supporters may wish it were so, but there is little evidence from the candidate himself of this transformation. If there has been, Hillary Clinton gets a big “I told you so.”)

Second, Monday was another day spent on foreign policy and another one with Obama on the defensive. So score one for the McCain messaging team. If every day between now and Election Day is about appeasement, Obama’s foreign policy flip flops and Iran, McCain will be delighted. (And, no, it won’t happen — which remains a problem for the McCain team which is never so effective as when battling on foreign policy grounds.)

Finally, one of the downsides for Democrats of their endless primary season is that the shift from base-directed rhetoric (“I am not afraid to talk to Iran”) to general election moderation (“Of course we don’t talk to our enemies without ‘preparation’”) does not get blurred in the passage of time. Little wonder then that John McCain’s Saturday Night Live appearance featured a plea for the Democrats to keep at it.

Now Barack Obama says “Iran is a grave threat.” Several points are in order. Rule one (after “Don’t announce a withdrawal date to the enemy while at war”) of national security policy: be consistent. In the course of twenty-four hours, Obama went from “tiny” to “grave” in his Iran threat assessment. His supporters swear he has gone from unconditional, presidential talks with rogue state leaders to something else. (His supporters may wish it were so, but there is little evidence from the candidate himself of this transformation. If there has been, Hillary Clinton gets a big “I told you so.”)

Second, Monday was another day spent on foreign policy and another one with Obama on the defensive. So score one for the McCain messaging team. If every day between now and Election Day is about appeasement, Obama’s foreign policy flip flops and Iran, McCain will be delighted. (And, no, it won’t happen — which remains a problem for the McCain team which is never so effective as when battling on foreign policy grounds.)

Finally, one of the downsides for Democrats of their endless primary season is that the shift from base-directed rhetoric (“I am not afraid to talk to Iran”) to general election moderation (“Of course we don’t talk to our enemies without ‘preparation’”) does not get blurred in the passage of time. Little wonder then that John McCain’s Saturday Night Live appearance featured a plea for the Democrats to keep at it.

Read Less

Fair Game

Lay off my wife, or else. That was Barack Obama’s warning on Good Morning America earlier today to Republicans.

If they think that they’re going to try to make Michelle an issue in this campaign, they should be careful because that I find unacceptable, the notion that you start attacking my wife or my family.

For them to try to distort or to play snippets of her remarks in ways that are unflattering to her is, I think, just low class.

Obama was referring to a GOP ad which ran in Tennessee in advance of Michelle Obama’s visit there last Thursday.  The ad re-played Michelle’s words from a speech in February in which she said

For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country.

But the Obamas can’t have it both ways.  Michelle Obama doesn’t just show up at fundraisers or make the occasional, canned surrogate speech. She is, as The New York Times noted here, involved in shaping campaign strategy, and her speeches have sometimes generated as much attention as his. Why shouldn’t she be fair game for speculation, dissection, and criticism?

Michelle Obama is an Ivy League-educated lawyer with strong opinions and an activist career.  The last First Lady with a similar pedigree ended up using the hitherto ceremonial role to launch her own political career.

Lay off my wife, or else. That was Barack Obama’s warning on Good Morning America earlier today to Republicans.

If they think that they’re going to try to make Michelle an issue in this campaign, they should be careful because that I find unacceptable, the notion that you start attacking my wife or my family.

For them to try to distort or to play snippets of her remarks in ways that are unflattering to her is, I think, just low class.

Obama was referring to a GOP ad which ran in Tennessee in advance of Michelle Obama’s visit there last Thursday.  The ad re-played Michelle’s words from a speech in February in which she said

For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country.

But the Obamas can’t have it both ways.  Michelle Obama doesn’t just show up at fundraisers or make the occasional, canned surrogate speech. She is, as The New York Times noted here, involved in shaping campaign strategy, and her speeches have sometimes generated as much attention as his. Why shouldn’t she be fair game for speculation, dissection, and criticism?

Michelle Obama is an Ivy League-educated lawyer with strong opinions and an activist career.  The last First Lady with a similar pedigree ended up using the hitherto ceremonial role to launch her own political career.

Read Less

We’re Already There

Joe Lieberman’s party allegiance is a much-discussed issue. One of the most interesting moments of Sen. Lieberman’s lecture last night came when he described his reason for staying in the Democratic Party.

As others here have mentioned, Lieberman believes it’s important for both parties to have strong national security wings. It’s frustrating to witness the Democrats’ shabby treatment of Lieberman, but his point is important. Lieberman’s going to the GOP would leave the Democrats the official foreign policy softies. National security is more than an ideological issue, it’s a survival issue, and if Democrats and Republican became strictly polarized in this regard, the decision to deal with threats would hinge on party affiliation.

Which is actually what we’re witnessing in the unofficial beginning of the general election, anyway. Barack Obama sees Iran as a “tiny” threat, and American SUV’s as a dangerous liability. John McCain sees Iran’s triple-threat of terrorism, hegemony, and nuclear technology for exactly what it is: deadly. Worse still, Democrats are scrambling to defend Obama’s official position of talking to Tehran without preconditions. The de facto politicization of national security is already here.

Senator Lieberman’s instincts are admirable. Unfortunately, one man, even with courage, does not a wing make. If and when the Democratic Party ever returns to the robust national security platforms of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and John F. Kennedy, it will swing in that direction of its own momentum. Even a man as brave as Joe Lieberman is beyond halting an ideological wilting of this magnitude.

Joe Lieberman’s party allegiance is a much-discussed issue. One of the most interesting moments of Sen. Lieberman’s lecture last night came when he described his reason for staying in the Democratic Party.

As others here have mentioned, Lieberman believes it’s important for both parties to have strong national security wings. It’s frustrating to witness the Democrats’ shabby treatment of Lieberman, but his point is important. Lieberman’s going to the GOP would leave the Democrats the official foreign policy softies. National security is more than an ideological issue, it’s a survival issue, and if Democrats and Republican became strictly polarized in this regard, the decision to deal with threats would hinge on party affiliation.

Which is actually what we’re witnessing in the unofficial beginning of the general election, anyway. Barack Obama sees Iran as a “tiny” threat, and American SUV’s as a dangerous liability. John McCain sees Iran’s triple-threat of terrorism, hegemony, and nuclear technology for exactly what it is: deadly. Worse still, Democrats are scrambling to defend Obama’s official position of talking to Tehran without preconditions. The de facto politicization of national security is already here.

Senator Lieberman’s instincts are admirable. Unfortunately, one man, even with courage, does not a wing make. If and when the Democratic Party ever returns to the robust national security platforms of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and John F. Kennedy, it will swing in that direction of its own momentum. Even a man as brave as Joe Lieberman is beyond halting an ideological wilting of this magnitude.

Read Less

The Misuse of “Hack”

One of the oddest tropes on the Democratic liberal-left is the reference to Sen. Joseph Lieberman as a “hack,” which has been a fairly steady refrain on The New Republic‘s blog for two years now. No politician on earth would have wanted to take the journey Lieberman has taken — from his party’s vice-presidential nominee in 2000 to defeat in a primary battle in his home state six years later. To hold views so discordant with your long-time comrades and colleagues is the sort of thing that can cause even the strongest of men to lose faith in his own views. And most politicians, who must balance conviction with prudence, would go with prudence in Lieberman’s situation and work to stifle his difference with his party’s orthodoxy. That is precisely what keeps an actual hack in line — the fear of being out of step and losing favor with those who have favors to dispense.

By remaining steadfast on the war in Iraq when others in his party fled their vote and then blamed their inconstancy on the supposed “lies” of the administration. And by refusing to join the jackal-like feast on George W. Bush’s reputation, Lieberman earned the hatred of many fellow Democrats. That hatred caused a hugely rich man in his state to spend millions of his own money to oust Lieberman from his own party’s nomination after serving three full terms as senator.

And yet there he remained, and remains, unbending. This is the opposite of hackery. It is the antithesis of hackery. It is the quality everyone says he yearns for in Washington — principled consistency, a willingness to work across the aisle in a bipartisan fashion, and a refusal to kowtow to the loudest voices merely because they are so loud. Last night, at the annual dinner of the Commentary Fund, Lieberman said he remained a Democrat precisely because he believes the strong foreign policy he espouses must have a bipartisan foundation. Interesting, and telling, that those who believe him to be a partisan turncoat use the mot injuste to describe him.

One of the oddest tropes on the Democratic liberal-left is the reference to Sen. Joseph Lieberman as a “hack,” which has been a fairly steady refrain on The New Republic‘s blog for two years now. No politician on earth would have wanted to take the journey Lieberman has taken — from his party’s vice-presidential nominee in 2000 to defeat in a primary battle in his home state six years later. To hold views so discordant with your long-time comrades and colleagues is the sort of thing that can cause even the strongest of men to lose faith in his own views. And most politicians, who must balance conviction with prudence, would go with prudence in Lieberman’s situation and work to stifle his difference with his party’s orthodoxy. That is precisely what keeps an actual hack in line — the fear of being out of step and losing favor with those who have favors to dispense.

By remaining steadfast on the war in Iraq when others in his party fled their vote and then blamed their inconstancy on the supposed “lies” of the administration. And by refusing to join the jackal-like feast on George W. Bush’s reputation, Lieberman earned the hatred of many fellow Democrats. That hatred caused a hugely rich man in his state to spend millions of his own money to oust Lieberman from his own party’s nomination after serving three full terms as senator.

And yet there he remained, and remains, unbending. This is the opposite of hackery. It is the antithesis of hackery. It is the quality everyone says he yearns for in Washington — principled consistency, a willingness to work across the aisle in a bipartisan fashion, and a refusal to kowtow to the loudest voices merely because they are so loud. Last night, at the annual dinner of the Commentary Fund, Lieberman said he remained a Democrat precisely because he believes the strong foreign policy he espouses must have a bipartisan foundation. Interesting, and telling, that those who believe him to be a partisan turncoat use the mot injuste to describe him.

Read Less

Senator Lieberman’s Address

Senator Joseph Lieberman spoke last night at the annual Commentary Fund dinner at New York’s University Club, which I attended. Although he termed it a “lecture,” his address was in fact a history lesson, one that–in light of the past week’s events–it appears the country badly needs.

Lieberman reviewed the bipartisan war that both American political parties waged against fascism and then communism in the 20th century. He traced the committment to fighting totalitarianism that ran from Roosevelt to Truman to Kennedy to Reagan. After a near-collapse during the Carter presidency and abandonment by a series of failed Democratic presidential candidates, that tradition of support for freedom and opposition to tyranny, he contended, was restored and became a mainstay in the Clinton administration. He praised Clinton’s willingness to use American military power in Bosnia to prevent ethnic cleansing in Europe’s midst. And he maintained this was the essential platform that he and Al Gore ran on in 2000.

With obvious pained disappointed he argued that his once stalwart Democratic party has in fact fallen prey to isolationism and defeatism. He spoke of his decision to endorse John McCain, who, he contends, understands the stakes in Iraq and more generally America’s role in the world. As for his own historic party, he is not yet ready to give up on the notion of a Democratic Party devoted to a muscular defense of American interest and thus remains an “Independent Democrat.”

What to make of the address? I confess I came away wondering how the American political alignment on this issues would have turned out had that Florida vote gone differently in 2000. But overwhelmingly, I felt a sense of regret that he really is a voice in the wilderness, without bitterness but nevertheless alone, in his struggle to return the Democratic party to its robust national security position. Still, his erudite and good-humored address reminds us that those in public life (and those who write about it) are obligated to teach and reteach the lessons of the past. Without them– properly told and properly understood–we are lost. And never more so than now.

Senator Joseph Lieberman spoke last night at the annual Commentary Fund dinner at New York’s University Club, which I attended. Although he termed it a “lecture,” his address was in fact a history lesson, one that–in light of the past week’s events–it appears the country badly needs.

Lieberman reviewed the bipartisan war that both American political parties waged against fascism and then communism in the 20th century. He traced the committment to fighting totalitarianism that ran from Roosevelt to Truman to Kennedy to Reagan. After a near-collapse during the Carter presidency and abandonment by a series of failed Democratic presidential candidates, that tradition of support for freedom and opposition to tyranny, he contended, was restored and became a mainstay in the Clinton administration. He praised Clinton’s willingness to use American military power in Bosnia to prevent ethnic cleansing in Europe’s midst. And he maintained this was the essential platform that he and Al Gore ran on in 2000.

With obvious pained disappointed he argued that his once stalwart Democratic party has in fact fallen prey to isolationism and defeatism. He spoke of his decision to endorse John McCain, who, he contends, understands the stakes in Iraq and more generally America’s role in the world. As for his own historic party, he is not yet ready to give up on the notion of a Democratic Party devoted to a muscular defense of American interest and thus remains an “Independent Democrat.”

What to make of the address? I confess I came away wondering how the American political alignment on this issues would have turned out had that Florida vote gone differently in 2000. But overwhelmingly, I felt a sense of regret that he really is a voice in the wilderness, without bitterness but nevertheless alone, in his struggle to return the Democratic party to its robust national security position. Still, his erudite and good-humored address reminds us that those in public life (and those who write about it) are obligated to teach and reteach the lessons of the past. Without them– properly told and properly understood–we are lost. And never more so than now.

Read Less

“Tiny” Iran?

As noted here, Barack Obama seemed to discount any real concern about Iran in remarks in Oregon last night. Today, at the beginning of an economic speech, John McCain responded to Obama’s conclusion that compared to the Soviet Union during the Cold War, the threat now posed by Iran is “tiny:”

Obviously, Iran isn’t a superpower and doesn’t possess the military power the Soviet Union had. But that does not mean that the threat posed by Iran is insignificant. On the contrary, right now Iran provides some of the deadliest explosive devices used in Iraq to kill our soldiers. They are the chief sponsor of Shia extremists in Iraq, and terrorist organizations in the Middle East. And their President, who has called Israel a “stinking corpse,” has repeatedly made clear his government’s commitment to Israel’s destruction. Most worrying, Iran is intent on acquiring nuclear weapons. The biggest national security challenge the United States currently faces is keeping nuclear material out of the hands of terrorists. Should Iran acquire nuclear weapons, that danger would become very dire, indeed. They might not be a superpower, but the threat the Government of Iran poses is anything but “tiny.”

McCain went on to argue that Obama’s comparison of a presidential meeting to a Soviet summit “betrays the depth of Senator Obama’s inexperience and reckless judgment” and would only give Iran “massive world media coverage” without hope of any change in the country’s behavior. Could it be that someone over in the McCain camp read Ambassador John Bolton’s column? If so, we can look forward to a much-needed starting point for an informed discussion of why and when we should be talking to our adversaries and who should be doing the talking.

As noted here, Barack Obama seemed to discount any real concern about Iran in remarks in Oregon last night. Today, at the beginning of an economic speech, John McCain responded to Obama’s conclusion that compared to the Soviet Union during the Cold War, the threat now posed by Iran is “tiny:”

Obviously, Iran isn’t a superpower and doesn’t possess the military power the Soviet Union had. But that does not mean that the threat posed by Iran is insignificant. On the contrary, right now Iran provides some of the deadliest explosive devices used in Iraq to kill our soldiers. They are the chief sponsor of Shia extremists in Iraq, and terrorist organizations in the Middle East. And their President, who has called Israel a “stinking corpse,” has repeatedly made clear his government’s commitment to Israel’s destruction. Most worrying, Iran is intent on acquiring nuclear weapons. The biggest national security challenge the United States currently faces is keeping nuclear material out of the hands of terrorists. Should Iran acquire nuclear weapons, that danger would become very dire, indeed. They might not be a superpower, but the threat the Government of Iran poses is anything but “tiny.”

McCain went on to argue that Obama’s comparison of a presidential meeting to a Soviet summit “betrays the depth of Senator Obama’s inexperience and reckless judgment” and would only give Iran “massive world media coverage” without hope of any change in the country’s behavior. Could it be that someone over in the McCain camp read Ambassador John Bolton’s column? If so, we can look forward to a much-needed starting point for an informed discussion of why and when we should be talking to our adversaries and who should be doing the talking.

Read Less

Israel’s Goldberg Problem

I have a fair amount of respect for Jeffrey Goldberg, now of the Atlantic, who has done some first-rate reporting on the Middle East. So I was all the more shocked at the slippery reasoning of his New York Times op-ed: “Israel’s ‘American Problem.’” He argues that it is imperative for Israel’s long-term safety

to create conditions on the West Bank that would allow for the birth of a moderate Palestinian state. Most American Jewish leaders are opposed, not without reason, to negotiations with Hamas, but if the moderates aren’t strengthened, Hamas will be the only party left. And the best way to bring about the birth of a Palestinian state is to reverse – not merely halt, but reverse – the West Bank settlement project. The dismantling of settlements is the one step that would buttress the dwindling band of Palestinian moderates in their struggle against the fundamentalists of Hamas.

So not only is it imperative for Israel to make concessions in the West Bank to the Palestinians–regardless, it seems, of whether they make concessions in response–but, he goes on to argue, it imperative for America to have a president “who prods the Jewish state” in that direction “publicly, continuously, and vociferously.” And why won’t America’s current president prod Israel in that direction? According to Goldberg,

[t]he leadership of the organized American Jewish community has allowed the partisans of settlement to conflate support for the colonization of the West Bank with support for Israel itself.

Although he goes on to criticize the Mearsheimer-Walt thesis that this nefarious “Lobby” holds hostage American policy toward Israel, Goldberg concedes most of their substantive case. Which is crazy, because nearly every strand of his argument is deeply flawed.

How can he argue with a straight face that more territorial concessions on Israel’s part will “buttress” Palestinian moderates when we’ve seen just the opposite happen in the recent past? Israel unilaterally evacuated southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, in the latter case dismantling settlements as Goldberg urged. (I was in favor of this move, too.) The result, as we all know now, was to empower Hezbollah and Hamas–not the “moderates.” Why Goldberg thinks the result of a West Bank pullout would be any different is not readily apparent from his Times essay.

In fact, it is the failure of past concessions to win peace from the Palestinians that makes Israel wary today of further concessions in the West Bank. The influence of the American pro-Israel lobby has little or nothing to do with it. The lobby, after all, was just as powerful in 2000 as it is today. Yet then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak was willing to concede more than 95 percent of the West Bank and Gaza to the Palestinians. And, lobby or no lobby, President Clinton was happy to prod Israel “publicly, continuously and vociferously” in that direction.

No doubt the prime minister of Israel will be willing to make such concessions again at some point–with the full support of America’s President–if it appears that the Palestinians are serious about peaceful co-existence. That isn’t the case today. It is, therefore, positively perverse to blame the current impasse in the Middle East “peace process” not on Palestinian terrorists but on the leaders of American Jewish organizations.

I have a fair amount of respect for Jeffrey Goldberg, now of the Atlantic, who has done some first-rate reporting on the Middle East. So I was all the more shocked at the slippery reasoning of his New York Times op-ed: “Israel’s ‘American Problem.’” He argues that it is imperative for Israel’s long-term safety

to create conditions on the West Bank that would allow for the birth of a moderate Palestinian state. Most American Jewish leaders are opposed, not without reason, to negotiations with Hamas, but if the moderates aren’t strengthened, Hamas will be the only party left. And the best way to bring about the birth of a Palestinian state is to reverse – not merely halt, but reverse – the West Bank settlement project. The dismantling of settlements is the one step that would buttress the dwindling band of Palestinian moderates in their struggle against the fundamentalists of Hamas.

So not only is it imperative for Israel to make concessions in the West Bank to the Palestinians–regardless, it seems, of whether they make concessions in response–but, he goes on to argue, it imperative for America to have a president “who prods the Jewish state” in that direction “publicly, continuously, and vociferously.” And why won’t America’s current president prod Israel in that direction? According to Goldberg,

[t]he leadership of the organized American Jewish community has allowed the partisans of settlement to conflate support for the colonization of the West Bank with support for Israel itself.

Although he goes on to criticize the Mearsheimer-Walt thesis that this nefarious “Lobby” holds hostage American policy toward Israel, Goldberg concedes most of their substantive case. Which is crazy, because nearly every strand of his argument is deeply flawed.

How can he argue with a straight face that more territorial concessions on Israel’s part will “buttress” Palestinian moderates when we’ve seen just the opposite happen in the recent past? Israel unilaterally evacuated southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, in the latter case dismantling settlements as Goldberg urged. (I was in favor of this move, too.) The result, as we all know now, was to empower Hezbollah and Hamas–not the “moderates.” Why Goldberg thinks the result of a West Bank pullout would be any different is not readily apparent from his Times essay.

In fact, it is the failure of past concessions to win peace from the Palestinians that makes Israel wary today of further concessions in the West Bank. The influence of the American pro-Israel lobby has little or nothing to do with it. The lobby, after all, was just as powerful in 2000 as it is today. Yet then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak was willing to concede more than 95 percent of the West Bank and Gaza to the Palestinians. And, lobby or no lobby, President Clinton was happy to prod Israel “publicly, continuously and vociferously” in that direction.

No doubt the prime minister of Israel will be willing to make such concessions again at some point–with the full support of America’s President–if it appears that the Palestinians are serious about peaceful co-existence. That isn’t the case today. It is, therefore, positively perverse to blame the current impasse in the Middle East “peace process” not on Palestinian terrorists but on the leaders of American Jewish organizations.

Read Less

Contradicting the Obama Doctrine

I admit it! The willful misrepresentation of Barack Obama’s policies IS a huge a problem. Only it’s not Republicans who are playing fast and loose with the details. It’s Obama’s supporters and other Democrats.

Here’s Gary Hart:

I don’t think Barack Obama or any other president is going to meet with a head of state without lower-level discussions preceding that . . . What you do is send diplomats and negotiators to explore areas of mutual interest. And if it does seem profitable, then you go to the heads of state.

Here’s Joe Biden:

What we’re talking about here is that he has repeatedly since then said he would not negotiate unconditionally, meaning him sitting down, alone, right off the bat with these leaders.

This is a fellow who I think shorthanded an answer that in fact was the wrong answer, in my view, saying I would within my first year, it implied he’d personally sit down with anybody who wanted to sit down with him. That’s not what he meant. That’s not what he has said since then for the last year or thereabout.

Here’s Barack Obama’swebsite:

Barack Obama is the only major candidate who supports tough, direct presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions.

This is one of the few policies about which Obama has provided clear details. It’s too important an issue to allow for a rhetorical bail-out. If Obama is such a masterful expositor and if there’s a misunderstanding about his policy, why doesn’t he just come out and clarify it?

I admit it! The willful misrepresentation of Barack Obama’s policies IS a huge a problem. Only it’s not Republicans who are playing fast and loose with the details. It’s Obama’s supporters and other Democrats.

Here’s Gary Hart:

I don’t think Barack Obama or any other president is going to meet with a head of state without lower-level discussions preceding that . . . What you do is send diplomats and negotiators to explore areas of mutual interest. And if it does seem profitable, then you go to the heads of state.

Here’s Joe Biden:

What we’re talking about here is that he has repeatedly since then said he would not negotiate unconditionally, meaning him sitting down, alone, right off the bat with these leaders.

This is a fellow who I think shorthanded an answer that in fact was the wrong answer, in my view, saying I would within my first year, it implied he’d personally sit down with anybody who wanted to sit down with him. That’s not what he meant. That’s not what he has said since then for the last year or thereabout.

Here’s Barack Obama’swebsite:

Barack Obama is the only major candidate who supports tough, direct presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions.

This is one of the few policies about which Obama has provided clear details. It’s too important an issue to allow for a rhetorical bail-out. If Obama is such a masterful expositor and if there’s a misunderstanding about his policy, why doesn’t he just come out and clarify it?

Read Less

But The Networks Said It Was Over

As much as everyone in the media would just like to, er, move on, the Democratic primary is not quite done. Barack Obama’s poll numbers–national head-to-head against both John McCain and Hillary Clinton as well as in tomorrow’s contests–don’t look so hot. Could he be leading only in low single digits in the two latest polls from Oregon and in for a drubbing in Kentucky?

We’ll see what voters actually decide. But if this trend continues, Obama may want to reconsider spending all his time claiming he’s not an appeaser and defending his plans to chat personally with the top state sponsors of terror. (Maybe this wasn’t the brilliant move some suspected it would be.) He might even have to rethink his plan of ignoring Clinton!

As much as everyone in the media would just like to, er, move on, the Democratic primary is not quite done. Barack Obama’s poll numbers–national head-to-head against both John McCain and Hillary Clinton as well as in tomorrow’s contests–don’t look so hot. Could he be leading only in low single digits in the two latest polls from Oregon and in for a drubbing in Kentucky?

We’ll see what voters actually decide. But if this trend continues, Obama may want to reconsider spending all his time claiming he’s not an appeaser and defending his plans to chat personally with the top state sponsors of terror. (Maybe this wasn’t the brilliant move some suspected it would be.) He might even have to rethink his plan of ignoring Clinton!

Read Less

Time to Acquiesce?

This morning Emanuele Ottolenghi discussed Ray Takeyh’s suggestion, in yesterday’s Washington Post, to accept Iran’s program to enrich uranium. Ottolenghi identifies the critical problem with this proposal: it rewards Tehran’s past violations of its Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obligations. Let’s look at another drawback with Takeyh’s suggestion: it simply will not work.

Takeyh first (correctly) argues that Tehran will not peacefully give up its nuclear program-there is a broad consensus to continue it among regime leaders. The Council on Foreign Relations scholar then suggests “it is time to discard the formula of ‘suspension for incentives’ for one that trades ‘enrichment for transparency.’ ”

Takeyh, in other words, believes we should try to put an especially rigorous verification system in place to prevent the mullahs from using their new expertise to build bombs. He also thinks we should attempt to get Iran to limit its stockpile of fissile material. And should the Iranians fail to accept these measures, he hopes Russia and China will drop their support for Iran.

Takeyh’s suggestions have the advantage of putting Tehran–as well as Moscow and Beijing–to the test. Iran’s rejection of them–or Russian and Chinese continued support for Iranian nuclear efforts–would make it easier for the West to come together to stop the theocracy. On a theoretical level, this sounds great.

So why are Takeyh’s proposals misconceived? Let’s think how Tehran’s leaders will respond. If I were a mullah, the first thing I would do, to appear conciliatory, is agree to limit my declared stockpile of enriched uranium as Takeyh suggests. Then I would refuse to permit the intrusive measures that Takeyh has in mind, such as constant surveillance, continual environmental sampling, and no-notice inspections. Without these safeguards, I know I could run a parallel bomb program in secret. It does not take too much imagination to see how I could create intense pressure on Washington to keep the peace and accept a system of inadequate supervision. After all, as a mullah I know that the Great Satan’s State Department always caves in at critical moments.

Well, I’m not a mullah, and I am against dangerous compromises. The Iranian regime has already shown itself to be an untrustworthy custodian of nuclear technology. The regime, after all, hid whole facilities from U.N. inspectors for almost two decades in violation of its obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Since the outing of secret facilities in 2002 by a dissident group, Iranian officials have stalled inspectors, lied to them, and changed their story when it became clear they had fibbed. They have told the truth only when there has been no alternative. Now, they are enriching uranium in defiance of a Security Council resolution and three sets of U.N. sanctions-as well as building missiles suitable only for nuclear warheads.

Takeyh is right that the Iranians cannot be persuaded to give up their enrichment program. Yet he is most certainly wrong when he writes this: “It is impossible to turn back the clock.” The United States, should it so choose, can reverse time, at least as far as Iran’s possession of enrichment technology is concerned. In the end we may decide not to use force, but the option does indeed exist.

This morning Emanuele Ottolenghi discussed Ray Takeyh’s suggestion, in yesterday’s Washington Post, to accept Iran’s program to enrich uranium. Ottolenghi identifies the critical problem with this proposal: it rewards Tehran’s past violations of its Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obligations. Let’s look at another drawback with Takeyh’s suggestion: it simply will not work.

Takeyh first (correctly) argues that Tehran will not peacefully give up its nuclear program-there is a broad consensus to continue it among regime leaders. The Council on Foreign Relations scholar then suggests “it is time to discard the formula of ‘suspension for incentives’ for one that trades ‘enrichment for transparency.’ ”

Takeyh, in other words, believes we should try to put an especially rigorous verification system in place to prevent the mullahs from using their new expertise to build bombs. He also thinks we should attempt to get Iran to limit its stockpile of fissile material. And should the Iranians fail to accept these measures, he hopes Russia and China will drop their support for Iran.

Takeyh’s suggestions have the advantage of putting Tehran–as well as Moscow and Beijing–to the test. Iran’s rejection of them–or Russian and Chinese continued support for Iranian nuclear efforts–would make it easier for the West to come together to stop the theocracy. On a theoretical level, this sounds great.

So why are Takeyh’s proposals misconceived? Let’s think how Tehran’s leaders will respond. If I were a mullah, the first thing I would do, to appear conciliatory, is agree to limit my declared stockpile of enriched uranium as Takeyh suggests. Then I would refuse to permit the intrusive measures that Takeyh has in mind, such as constant surveillance, continual environmental sampling, and no-notice inspections. Without these safeguards, I know I could run a parallel bomb program in secret. It does not take too much imagination to see how I could create intense pressure on Washington to keep the peace and accept a system of inadequate supervision. After all, as a mullah I know that the Great Satan’s State Department always caves in at critical moments.

Well, I’m not a mullah, and I am against dangerous compromises. The Iranian regime has already shown itself to be an untrustworthy custodian of nuclear technology. The regime, after all, hid whole facilities from U.N. inspectors for almost two decades in violation of its obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Since the outing of secret facilities in 2002 by a dissident group, Iranian officials have stalled inspectors, lied to them, and changed their story when it became clear they had fibbed. They have told the truth only when there has been no alternative. Now, they are enriching uranium in defiance of a Security Council resolution and three sets of U.N. sanctions-as well as building missiles suitable only for nuclear warheads.

Takeyh is right that the Iranians cannot be persuaded to give up their enrichment program. Yet he is most certainly wrong when he writes this: “It is impossible to turn back the clock.” The United States, should it so choose, can reverse time, at least as far as Iran’s possession of enrichment technology is concerned. In the end we may decide not to use force, but the option does indeed exist.

Read Less

They Figured It Out. So Why Didn’t He?

Both the New York Times and the Washington Post have discovered the resentment toward Barack Obama and the media brewing among Hillary Clinton’s female supporters. The New York Times reporters seem to own up that their brethren in the mainstream media may have played a role in the Clinton dissing, declaring:

Mrs. Clinton’s supporters point to a nagging series of slights: the fixation on her clothes, even her cleavage; chronic criticism that her voice is shrill; calls for her to exit the race; and most of all, the male commentators in the news media who, they argue, were consistently tougher on her than on Mr. Obama. Some even accuse Mr. Obama of chauvinism, pointing to the time he called Mrs. Clinton “likeable enough” as evidence of dismissiveness. Nancy Wait, 55, a social worker in Columbia City, Ind., said Mr. Obama was far less qualified than Mrs. Clinton and described as condescending his recent assurances that Mrs. Clinton should stay in the race as long as she liked. Ms. Wait said she would “absolutely, positively not” vote for him come fall.

Meanwhile, the Post picks up on the generational element:

To Veronica Tonay, 48, a psychology professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz and a Clinton supporter, Obama has become a pop star, the contestant on “American Idol” who wins votes because he’s cute, while the best singer is eliminated. “We are electing the leader of the free world, and that person has a finger on the nuclear launch code,” she said. “It’s not about likability.” Her stance was cemented when a young woman in one of her classes declared that she wouldn’t vote for Clinton because “she is not a beautiful woman.”

So what’s missing in all this? Perhaps a wee bit of analysis might be in order. How can a post-partisan, high-minded 21st century fellow like the Agent of Change participate in, even passively, in the conduct which brought this all about. As Abe has observed in other contexts, Obama is often delinquent in recognizing issues and has shown an unwillingness to take charge, guide the dialogue, and set an example. On an issue of personal dignity and equality, you’d think that he, of all people, would have been more on top of things.

Both the New York Times and the Washington Post have discovered the resentment toward Barack Obama and the media brewing among Hillary Clinton’s female supporters. The New York Times reporters seem to own up that their brethren in the mainstream media may have played a role in the Clinton dissing, declaring:

Mrs. Clinton’s supporters point to a nagging series of slights: the fixation on her clothes, even her cleavage; chronic criticism that her voice is shrill; calls for her to exit the race; and most of all, the male commentators in the news media who, they argue, were consistently tougher on her than on Mr. Obama. Some even accuse Mr. Obama of chauvinism, pointing to the time he called Mrs. Clinton “likeable enough” as evidence of dismissiveness. Nancy Wait, 55, a social worker in Columbia City, Ind., said Mr. Obama was far less qualified than Mrs. Clinton and described as condescending his recent assurances that Mrs. Clinton should stay in the race as long as she liked. Ms. Wait said she would “absolutely, positively not” vote for him come fall.

Meanwhile, the Post picks up on the generational element:

To Veronica Tonay, 48, a psychology professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz and a Clinton supporter, Obama has become a pop star, the contestant on “American Idol” who wins votes because he’s cute, while the best singer is eliminated. “We are electing the leader of the free world, and that person has a finger on the nuclear launch code,” she said. “It’s not about likability.” Her stance was cemented when a young woman in one of her classes declared that she wouldn’t vote for Clinton because “she is not a beautiful woman.”

So what’s missing in all this? Perhaps a wee bit of analysis might be in order. How can a post-partisan, high-minded 21st century fellow like the Agent of Change participate in, even passively, in the conduct which brought this all about. As Abe has observed in other contexts, Obama is often delinquent in recognizing issues and has shown an unwillingness to take charge, guide the dialogue, and set an example. On an issue of personal dignity and equality, you’d think that he, of all people, would have been more on top of things.

Read Less

A New “Global Test”

In the first Bush-Kerry debate of the 2004 election, John Kerry was asked about his thoughts on preemptive U.S. military action. From Kerry’s response:

No president, through all of American history, has ever ceded, and nor would I, the right to preempt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America.

But if and when you do it, Jim, you have to do it in a way that passes the test, that passes the global test where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you’re doing what you’re doing and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons.

As bad an answer as one could imagine. For starters, there’s no unified “world” to approach for consent, and global disagreement is bound to be most striking on the eve of war. More importantly, a President need not prove the legitimacy of a national security undertaking to anyone other than the people of his nation. As George Bush commented on Kerry’s statement:

Let me — I’m not exactly sure what you mean, “passes the global test,” you take preemptive action if you pass a global test.

My attitude is you take preemptive action in order to protect the American people, that you act in order to make this country secure.

But for Kerry and Democrats like him, that’s not a good enough reason. According to their foreign policy view, American military decisions must be informed by an additional factor: popularity. If we’re merely saving American lives, we’re falling short. We have to make sure that every time an American soldier picks up a gun, it will lead to the rest of the world liking us more.

Barack Obama’s conception of the “global test” takes this silliness to new and frightening heights. On Saturday, at a rally in Oregon, Obama said:

We can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times … and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK.

In other words, now our domestic policies have to pass a global test, too. And not just our domestic policies, but our individual domestic lives. Barack Obama has rendered the American hearth and home subject to world opinion. We can’t “eat as much as we want” and hope to be popular. We can’t sit comfortably in our warm domiciles and hope to build alliances with other countries. Only as a nation of shivering hungry supplicants will America, it seems, reclaim its dominance on the world stage.

In the first Bush-Kerry debate of the 2004 election, John Kerry was asked about his thoughts on preemptive U.S. military action. From Kerry’s response:

No president, through all of American history, has ever ceded, and nor would I, the right to preempt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America.

But if and when you do it, Jim, you have to do it in a way that passes the test, that passes the global test where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you’re doing what you’re doing and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons.

As bad an answer as one could imagine. For starters, there’s no unified “world” to approach for consent, and global disagreement is bound to be most striking on the eve of war. More importantly, a President need not prove the legitimacy of a national security undertaking to anyone other than the people of his nation. As George Bush commented on Kerry’s statement:

Let me — I’m not exactly sure what you mean, “passes the global test,” you take preemptive action if you pass a global test.

My attitude is you take preemptive action in order to protect the American people, that you act in order to make this country secure.

But for Kerry and Democrats like him, that’s not a good enough reason. According to their foreign policy view, American military decisions must be informed by an additional factor: popularity. If we’re merely saving American lives, we’re falling short. We have to make sure that every time an American soldier picks up a gun, it will lead to the rest of the world liking us more.

Barack Obama’s conception of the “global test” takes this silliness to new and frightening heights. On Saturday, at a rally in Oregon, Obama said:

We can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times … and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK.

In other words, now our domestic policies have to pass a global test, too. And not just our domestic policies, but our individual domestic lives. Barack Obama has rendered the American hearth and home subject to world opinion. We can’t “eat as much as we want” and hope to be popular. We can’t sit comfortably in our warm domiciles and hope to build alliances with other countries. Only as a nation of shivering hungry supplicants will America, it seems, reclaim its dominance on the world stage.

Read Less

The Cost Of Talk

Ambassador John Bolton performs the invaluable service of explaining just what’s wrong with Barack Obama’s notion of unconditional talks with the world’s rogue state leaders. I will borrow the observation of my colleague Noah Pollak, who remarked to me that the average voter may not quite see what’s wrong with “talking to our enemies,” as Obama’s position is invariably and misleadingly phrased by mainstream media.

I share Bolton’s view that it is critical to explain why in certain exceptional cases, when no responsible negotiating partner is available and when the precious commodity of a presidential meeting is at issue, that the costs often outweigh the benefits of sitting down with leaders of terror-sponsoring states. But the logic of this position is hardly self-evident. Several of his prominent Democratic supporters don’t agree with Obama’s notion of unconditional, presidential talks with Ahmejinejad and other terror state leaders, but the mainstream media is loath to point that out or explain why even other liberal Democratic Senators don’t buy into his approach. It is therefore incumbent on John McCain to explain why this is so. McCain will need to articulate his own view, which, as Bolton puts it, is not “never talk to adversaries,” but rather “that negotiations should be used to resolve international disputes 99% of the time.” Bolton’s column seems an ideal starting point for that discussion.

Ambassador John Bolton performs the invaluable service of explaining just what’s wrong with Barack Obama’s notion of unconditional talks with the world’s rogue state leaders. I will borrow the observation of my colleague Noah Pollak, who remarked to me that the average voter may not quite see what’s wrong with “talking to our enemies,” as Obama’s position is invariably and misleadingly phrased by mainstream media.

I share Bolton’s view that it is critical to explain why in certain exceptional cases, when no responsible negotiating partner is available and when the precious commodity of a presidential meeting is at issue, that the costs often outweigh the benefits of sitting down with leaders of terror-sponsoring states. But the logic of this position is hardly self-evident. Several of his prominent Democratic supporters don’t agree with Obama’s notion of unconditional, presidential talks with Ahmejinejad and other terror state leaders, but the mainstream media is loath to point that out or explain why even other liberal Democratic Senators don’t buy into his approach. It is therefore incumbent on John McCain to explain why this is so. McCain will need to articulate his own view, which, as Bolton puts it, is not “never talk to adversaries,” but rather “that negotiations should be used to resolve international disputes 99% of the time.” Bolton’s column seems an ideal starting point for that discussion.

Read Less

A Nation That Affirms Life

The most fun use of statistics is when you take two seemingly irrelevant numbers and use their comparison as a basis of analyzing a country. About ten years ago, the Economist created a “hubris index” by dividing (a) the estimation of a country’s international competitiveness based on what business leaders of that country say, and (b) the actual competitiveness based on objective numbers. Israel on that scale came out among the most arrogant, second only to New Zealand. The U.S. came in as most humble of them all.

In the Asian Times, Spengler offers us an “index of life-preference,” in which we may gauge a country’s attitude towards life by combining suicide rates with fertility rates. Among Western countries, Israel blows everyone else out of the water, with both the highest in fertility and the second-lowest in suicides. As with any simple statistic, this has its limitations: Israel’s fertility rate is exaggerated by the contribution of its Arab minority, whose attitudes towards life are influenced at least as much by the Arab world as by the West. Yet even if we factor this out, Israel would still top the rankings among Western countries.

Children and resistance to suicide are not the only elements in the affirmation of life, but there is still something really interesting about looking at the creation of life and the refusal to end one’s own as indicators. When Hamas parliamentarian Fathi Hammad praised the Palestinian ethos of suicide bombing and using civilians as human shields, he said to Israelis, “We desire death like you desire life.” Now we have numbers to back that up

The most fun use of statistics is when you take two seemingly irrelevant numbers and use their comparison as a basis of analyzing a country. About ten years ago, the Economist created a “hubris index” by dividing (a) the estimation of a country’s international competitiveness based on what business leaders of that country say, and (b) the actual competitiveness based on objective numbers. Israel on that scale came out among the most arrogant, second only to New Zealand. The U.S. came in as most humble of them all.

In the Asian Times, Spengler offers us an “index of life-preference,” in which we may gauge a country’s attitude towards life by combining suicide rates with fertility rates. Among Western countries, Israel blows everyone else out of the water, with both the highest in fertility and the second-lowest in suicides. As with any simple statistic, this has its limitations: Israel’s fertility rate is exaggerated by the contribution of its Arab minority, whose attitudes towards life are influenced at least as much by the Arab world as by the West. Yet even if we factor this out, Israel would still top the rankings among Western countries.

Children and resistance to suicide are not the only elements in the affirmation of life, but there is still something really interesting about looking at the creation of life and the refusal to end one’s own as indicators. When Hamas parliamentarian Fathi Hammad praised the Palestinian ethos of suicide bombing and using civilians as human shields, he said to Israelis, “We desire death like you desire life.” Now we have numbers to back that up

Read Less

More Academic Mobbery at AUC

Every few months or so, I’ve been reporting about another incident at the American University in Cairo (AUC) concerning calls for boycotting Israeli academics and universities. Until now, this has been a mostly student-led campaign, with students threatening to hold strikes and sit-ins in response to rumors that Israeli professors would be attending conferences on campus. On November 1st, a group of students made national news after storming a faculty senate meeting at which the issue was being discussed, forcing its adjournment. Meanwhile, the administration has issued a series of gutless statements, refusing to tackle the bigotry inherent in the students’ actions head-on, while claiming that “security concerns” have prevented it from bringing Israeli scholars to campus.

Well, it’s no longer just the students engaging in this shameful charade of intolerance. Last week, the AUC faculty senate passed a resolution discouraging the “normalization” of relations with Israeli institutions of higher education. Although the resolution stops short of banning individual Israeli academics outright–senate chairman Fred Perry acknowledged that banning individuals would be “against human rights law”–it virtually ensures that the severe vitriol fling at Israel by Egypt’s finest institution of higher learning will go unchallenged for many years to come.

But beyond providing yet another expression of AUC’s inhospitality towards Israelis, the circumstances surrounding the faculty’s resolution reveal a disturbing trend: the involvement of American students in fanning the flames of anti-Israel hostilities while studying abroad. Kate Dannies, a student involved in AUC’s pro-Palestinian al-Quds Club is a case in point. Ms. Dannies, who was among thirty al-Quds Club members to attend the faculty’s final vote, called the anti-normalization decision a “feel-good resolution,” dismissing objections from certain sectors of the student body that such a resolution might jeopardize American funding. “If we lose funding from American institutions, maybe we can gain it from Arab ones,” she said.

I, for one, interested in putting Ms. Dannies’ ideology-over-funding priorities to the test. Back in 2004, Ms. Dannies won a $1,000 scholarship from the United States Institute of Peace for a national peace essay contest. Having risen to the forefront of a campaign to undermine Egyptian-Israeli peace by protesting Egyptian-Israeli people-to-people exchanges, it seems only fair that the USIP demand that its congressionally funded scholarship be returned.

Every few months or so, I’ve been reporting about another incident at the American University in Cairo (AUC) concerning calls for boycotting Israeli academics and universities. Until now, this has been a mostly student-led campaign, with students threatening to hold strikes and sit-ins in response to rumors that Israeli professors would be attending conferences on campus. On November 1st, a group of students made national news after storming a faculty senate meeting at which the issue was being discussed, forcing its adjournment. Meanwhile, the administration has issued a series of gutless statements, refusing to tackle the bigotry inherent in the students’ actions head-on, while claiming that “security concerns” have prevented it from bringing Israeli scholars to campus.

Well, it’s no longer just the students engaging in this shameful charade of intolerance. Last week, the AUC faculty senate passed a resolution discouraging the “normalization” of relations with Israeli institutions of higher education. Although the resolution stops short of banning individual Israeli academics outright–senate chairman Fred Perry acknowledged that banning individuals would be “against human rights law”–it virtually ensures that the severe vitriol fling at Israel by Egypt’s finest institution of higher learning will go unchallenged for many years to come.

But beyond providing yet another expression of AUC’s inhospitality towards Israelis, the circumstances surrounding the faculty’s resolution reveal a disturbing trend: the involvement of American students in fanning the flames of anti-Israel hostilities while studying abroad. Kate Dannies, a student involved in AUC’s pro-Palestinian al-Quds Club is a case in point. Ms. Dannies, who was among thirty al-Quds Club members to attend the faculty’s final vote, called the anti-normalization decision a “feel-good resolution,” dismissing objections from certain sectors of the student body that such a resolution might jeopardize American funding. “If we lose funding from American institutions, maybe we can gain it from Arab ones,” she said.

I, for one, interested in putting Ms. Dannies’ ideology-over-funding priorities to the test. Back in 2004, Ms. Dannies won a $1,000 scholarship from the United States Institute of Peace for a national peace essay contest. Having risen to the forefront of a campaign to undermine Egyptian-Israeli peace by protesting Egyptian-Israeli people-to-people exchanges, it seems only fair that the USIP demand that its congressionally funded scholarship be returned.

Read Less

Oral Transmission

Walter Pincus reports in the Washington Post on a new secrecy policy the Bush administration is introducing. It creates a protected category called “Controlled Unclassified Information” that replaces the confusing “Sensitive but Unclassified.”

The new category is designed to safeguard information that doesn’t rise to the level of “secret” or “top-secret,” but should be kept out of the public domain nonetheless. Things like blueprints for tunnels and bridges that might be of use to terrorists fall under its rubric.

One novel feature of the new regulation is the requirement that, as Pincus explains, “one government official talking to another about information on terrorists will have to begin by saying: ‘What I am about to tell you is controlled unclassified information enhanced with specified dissemination.’”

This is a curious turn that intersects interestingly with the ongoing prosecution of two employees of AIPAC, facing charges of illicitly receiving and transmitting classified information. One of the issues in the case revolves around the fact that no documents changed hands. All of the allegedly classified information the defendants received was conveyed to them in conversation. The defense is claiming that they had no way of knowing what, if anything, was classified in what was given to them.

The new secrecy policy tightens up the secrecy regulations to deal precisely with that kind of situation. It left me wondering whether the step was taken in response to the gap revealed by the AIPAC case.

Pincus says nothing about this. Instead, quite predictably, he quotes two experts mocking the new policy.

Michael Clark, a contributing editor to the blog Daily Kos, who first wrote about the Bush memorandum, said the White House “seems to have used the crafting of new rules as an opportunity to expand the range of government secrecy.” Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy, described it as a “not even half-baked” exercise in policymaking.

Also predictably, Pincus quotes no experts from the government or on the side of the government explaining the timing and significance of the new policy.

Connecting the Dots is left wanting to know more — yet another subject to dig into.

Walter Pincus reports in the Washington Post on a new secrecy policy the Bush administration is introducing. It creates a protected category called “Controlled Unclassified Information” that replaces the confusing “Sensitive but Unclassified.”

The new category is designed to safeguard information that doesn’t rise to the level of “secret” or “top-secret,” but should be kept out of the public domain nonetheless. Things like blueprints for tunnels and bridges that might be of use to terrorists fall under its rubric.

One novel feature of the new regulation is the requirement that, as Pincus explains, “one government official talking to another about information on terrorists will have to begin by saying: ‘What I am about to tell you is controlled unclassified information enhanced with specified dissemination.’”

This is a curious turn that intersects interestingly with the ongoing prosecution of two employees of AIPAC, facing charges of illicitly receiving and transmitting classified information. One of the issues in the case revolves around the fact that no documents changed hands. All of the allegedly classified information the defendants received was conveyed to them in conversation. The defense is claiming that they had no way of knowing what, if anything, was classified in what was given to them.

The new secrecy policy tightens up the secrecy regulations to deal precisely with that kind of situation. It left me wondering whether the step was taken in response to the gap revealed by the AIPAC case.

Pincus says nothing about this. Instead, quite predictably, he quotes two experts mocking the new policy.

Michael Clark, a contributing editor to the blog Daily Kos, who first wrote about the Bush memorandum, said the White House “seems to have used the crafting of new rules as an opportunity to expand the range of government secrecy.” Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy, described it as a “not even half-baked” exercise in policymaking.

Also predictably, Pincus quotes no experts from the government or on the side of the government explaining the timing and significance of the new policy.

Connecting the Dots is left wanting to know more — yet another subject to dig into.

Read Less

A Narrative for McCain

My Ethics and Public Policy Center colleague Yuval Levin has a significant essay in the new issue of The Weekly Standard. It puts forward a policy narrative for the McCain campaign–one that is forward-looking, comfortably fits McCain’s personality and record, and which responds to the real concerns of voters.

The essay argues that McCain is (so far) missing a coherent campaign narrative and an organizing principle. Yuval suggests “a comprehensive reform agenda, which frame[s] America’s challenge in terms of revitalizing and reimagining its core public institutions.” Conservatives have a chance to “fundamentally alter some of the assumptions behind our large public agencies of regulation, governance, and welfare,” according to Levin. The goal should be to “plant in the architecture of our largest public institutions, the conservative commitment to individual freedom and initiative, to the centrality of parenthood and the family, and to the cause of American strength in the world.”

Rather than offering only thematic advice, Levin provides specific areas ripe for conservative reform–from health care, entitlements, education, taxes, credit markets and corporate governance to immigration, regulatory agencies, the budget process, and national security. McCain has done some of this, but much more can be done–and needs to be placed under a governing banner.

“[B]y advancing an ambitious agenda–one that if anything is too heavy on specifics,” according to Levin, “McCain could provide a sensible and coherent explanation for the generalized anxiety of the American public today and a road map toward addressing it head on.”

John McCain is a man with an impressive, and in parts awe-inspiring, biography. He has the capacity to appeal to large numbers of the American people. And lately real weaknesses have emerged in Barack Obama’s candidacy. He is a completely orthodox liberal–and, it appears, a thin-skinned one as well. He faces demographic hurdles that appear to be quite high, and his past associations have created questions about both his judgment and character. But Obama is blessed with real skills and talent. In addition, he has built an extremely impressive political operation. And it’s hard to overstate how bad the current political environment is for Republicans.

Senator McCain therefore needs to supplement his character and persona with a compelling, policy-specific agenda, one he can present in a way that captivates the public imagination. He now has an excellent one to employ, courtesy of Yuval Levin. John McCain should use it, and soon.

My Ethics and Public Policy Center colleague Yuval Levin has a significant essay in the new issue of The Weekly Standard. It puts forward a policy narrative for the McCain campaign–one that is forward-looking, comfortably fits McCain’s personality and record, and which responds to the real concerns of voters.

The essay argues that McCain is (so far) missing a coherent campaign narrative and an organizing principle. Yuval suggests “a comprehensive reform agenda, which frame[s] America’s challenge in terms of revitalizing and reimagining its core public institutions.” Conservatives have a chance to “fundamentally alter some of the assumptions behind our large public agencies of regulation, governance, and welfare,” according to Levin. The goal should be to “plant in the architecture of our largest public institutions, the conservative commitment to individual freedom and initiative, to the centrality of parenthood and the family, and to the cause of American strength in the world.”

Rather than offering only thematic advice, Levin provides specific areas ripe for conservative reform–from health care, entitlements, education, taxes, credit markets and corporate governance to immigration, regulatory agencies, the budget process, and national security. McCain has done some of this, but much more can be done–and needs to be placed under a governing banner.

“[B]y advancing an ambitious agenda–one that if anything is too heavy on specifics,” according to Levin, “McCain could provide a sensible and coherent explanation for the generalized anxiety of the American public today and a road map toward addressing it head on.”

John McCain is a man with an impressive, and in parts awe-inspiring, biography. He has the capacity to appeal to large numbers of the American people. And lately real weaknesses have emerged in Barack Obama’s candidacy. He is a completely orthodox liberal–and, it appears, a thin-skinned one as well. He faces demographic hurdles that appear to be quite high, and his past associations have created questions about both his judgment and character. But Obama is blessed with real skills and talent. In addition, he has built an extremely impressive political operation. And it’s hard to overstate how bad the current political environment is for Republicans.

Senator McCain therefore needs to supplement his character and persona with a compelling, policy-specific agenda, one he can present in a way that captivates the public imagination. He now has an excellent one to employ, courtesy of Yuval Levin. John McCain should use it, and soon.

Read Less

No Indigenous Enrichment

Writing in yesterday’s Washington Post, Ray Takeyh attacks the Bush Administration’s decision to support a new incentive package for Iran. According to Takeyh,

As President Bush addressed the Israeli parliament last week, denouncing negotiations with recalcitrant regimes as the “false comfort of appeasement,” his diplomats, in conjunction with their European counterparts, offered Iran another incentive package to stop enriching uranium. Even though they are making another effort to disarm Iran through mediation, the administration’s approach is hopelessly defective. Beyond insisting on onerous conditions that are unlikely to be met by any Iranian government, the United States and its allies still hope that Tehran will trade its enrichment rights for inducements. If Washington is going to mitigate the Iranian nuclear danger, it must discard the formula of exchanging commercial contracts for nuclear rights and seek more imaginative solutions.

There may be plenty of good reasons to criticize the new incentive package–though its exact details are not yet known–and there are obvious partisan reasons, in the midst of an electoral campaign, for Takeyh to accuse the administration of hypocrisy. The fact is, the U.S. administration has agreed to enhance the incentives package because Europeans have so persistently claimed that Iran will concede on enrichment only if there are solid U.S. incentives on the table (an oblique admission of failure on Europe’s part, after six years of dialogue with Iran). But the U.S. is not only offering incentives in the delusional hope that somehow Iran will relent under a mixture of pressure and temptation. The U.S. and its European allies assume that the offer will be presented and either accepted or rejected before the IAEA releases its expected report–due by June 3. A further Iranian rejection–which Takeyh himself anticipates, given statements by Iran’s Supreme Leader to this extent–will provide grounds for additional consensus-based sanctions at the UN level, or at least at the EU level. It may not be much of a strategy, but it is something, and it is hardly appeasement–given that the incentives, once trumped by Iran, will make it easier to tighten sanctions.

What’s the alternative?

Takeyh says that ‘it is time to discard the formula of “suspension for incentives” for one that trades “enrichment for transparency.” He is proposing, in other words, indigenous enrichment, but under tight international control–something along the lines recently suggested by William Luers, Thomas Pickering, and Jim Walsh in the New York Review of Books.

There is no ideal solution to the nuclear standoff with Iran. But to suggest that, because Iran got away with its violations of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and is set to cross the nuclear threshold sometimes soon, we have no choice but to concede and hope for the best, does not seem to be the preferred alternative to the current course. After all, there is no tight control regime. Iran may have several undeclared clandestine facilities at work. Iran’s history of nuclear deception makes it harder to believe that what we see is what we have–we may concede on enrichment and transfer of technology and still get an Iranian nuclear bomb.

But beyond the risks of letting enrichment happen in Iran’s specific case, the lesson learned from this debacle would be for other countries to trump the NPT as Iran did and go along the path of nuclearization. Iran would be rewarded for violating the NPT and for ignoring successive UN Security Council resolutions. We would forego our principles and handsomely reward bad behavior–a practice that, according to the Merriam Webster dictionary, may well be called “appeasement”: “to buy off (an aggressor) by concessions usually at the sacrifice of principles.”

Writing in yesterday’s Washington Post, Ray Takeyh attacks the Bush Administration’s decision to support a new incentive package for Iran. According to Takeyh,

As President Bush addressed the Israeli parliament last week, denouncing negotiations with recalcitrant regimes as the “false comfort of appeasement,” his diplomats, in conjunction with their European counterparts, offered Iran another incentive package to stop enriching uranium. Even though they are making another effort to disarm Iran through mediation, the administration’s approach is hopelessly defective. Beyond insisting on onerous conditions that are unlikely to be met by any Iranian government, the United States and its allies still hope that Tehran will trade its enrichment rights for inducements. If Washington is going to mitigate the Iranian nuclear danger, it must discard the formula of exchanging commercial contracts for nuclear rights and seek more imaginative solutions.

There may be plenty of good reasons to criticize the new incentive package–though its exact details are not yet known–and there are obvious partisan reasons, in the midst of an electoral campaign, for Takeyh to accuse the administration of hypocrisy. The fact is, the U.S. administration has agreed to enhance the incentives package because Europeans have so persistently claimed that Iran will concede on enrichment only if there are solid U.S. incentives on the table (an oblique admission of failure on Europe’s part, after six years of dialogue with Iran). But the U.S. is not only offering incentives in the delusional hope that somehow Iran will relent under a mixture of pressure and temptation. The U.S. and its European allies assume that the offer will be presented and either accepted or rejected before the IAEA releases its expected report–due by June 3. A further Iranian rejection–which Takeyh himself anticipates, given statements by Iran’s Supreme Leader to this extent–will provide grounds for additional consensus-based sanctions at the UN level, or at least at the EU level. It may not be much of a strategy, but it is something, and it is hardly appeasement–given that the incentives, once trumped by Iran, will make it easier to tighten sanctions.

What’s the alternative?

Takeyh says that ‘it is time to discard the formula of “suspension for incentives” for one that trades “enrichment for transparency.” He is proposing, in other words, indigenous enrichment, but under tight international control–something along the lines recently suggested by William Luers, Thomas Pickering, and Jim Walsh in the New York Review of Books.

There is no ideal solution to the nuclear standoff with Iran. But to suggest that, because Iran got away with its violations of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and is set to cross the nuclear threshold sometimes soon, we have no choice but to concede and hope for the best, does not seem to be the preferred alternative to the current course. After all, there is no tight control regime. Iran may have several undeclared clandestine facilities at work. Iran’s history of nuclear deception makes it harder to believe that what we see is what we have–we may concede on enrichment and transfer of technology and still get an Iranian nuclear bomb.

But beyond the risks of letting enrichment happen in Iran’s specific case, the lesson learned from this debacle would be for other countries to trump the NPT as Iran did and go along the path of nuclearization. Iran would be rewarded for violating the NPT and for ignoring successive UN Security Council resolutions. We would forego our principles and handsomely reward bad behavior–a practice that, according to the Merriam Webster dictionary, may well be called “appeasement”: “to buy off (an aggressor) by concessions usually at the sacrifice of principles.”

Read Less

Not A Serious Threat

This remarkable bit of footage from Barack Obama’s appearance in Oregon last night is now floating around on YouTube. It might be useful as an undergraduate course exam: how many errors can you spot? Obama apparently believes that Iran and other rogues states (he lists Iran, Cuba and Venezuela) “don’t pose a serious threat to the U.S.” Iran, specifically, he tells us spends so little on defense relative to us that if Iran “tried to pose a serious threat to us they wouldn’t . . . they wouldn’t stand a chance.”

So, taken literally, he seems not much concerned about Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons, its sponsorship of terrorist organizations, its commitment to eradicate Israel, its current actions in supplying weapons that have killed hundreds of Americans in Iraq, and its role in eroding Lebanon’s sovereignty through its client Hezbollah.

And then there is is unbridled faith in diplomacy, unaffected by the lessons of history. Was it presidential visits with the Soviet Union that brought down the Berlin Wall? Or was it the 40 year history of bipartisan military deterrence, the willingness of Ronald Reagan to walk away from Reykjavik summit, the resulting bankruptcy of the Soviet Empire, the support of dissidents and freedom fighters in the war against tyranny, and the willingness to identify Communism as a center of evil in the late 20th century?

You can understand why every attempt by John McCain to discuss global threats is labeled “fear-mongering” by Obama. In his world this is all a fantasy and we are not at risk. All perfectly logical . . . if you divorce yourself from reality.

This remarkable bit of footage from Barack Obama’s appearance in Oregon last night is now floating around on YouTube. It might be useful as an undergraduate course exam: how many errors can you spot? Obama apparently believes that Iran and other rogues states (he lists Iran, Cuba and Venezuela) “don’t pose a serious threat to the U.S.” Iran, specifically, he tells us spends so little on defense relative to us that if Iran “tried to pose a serious threat to us they wouldn’t . . . they wouldn’t stand a chance.”

So, taken literally, he seems not much concerned about Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons, its sponsorship of terrorist organizations, its commitment to eradicate Israel, its current actions in supplying weapons that have killed hundreds of Americans in Iraq, and its role in eroding Lebanon’s sovereignty through its client Hezbollah.

And then there is is unbridled faith in diplomacy, unaffected by the lessons of history. Was it presidential visits with the Soviet Union that brought down the Berlin Wall? Or was it the 40 year history of bipartisan military deterrence, the willingness of Ronald Reagan to walk away from Reykjavik summit, the resulting bankruptcy of the Soviet Empire, the support of dissidents and freedom fighters in the war against tyranny, and the willingness to identify Communism as a center of evil in the late 20th century?

You can understand why every attempt by John McCain to discuss global threats is labeled “fear-mongering” by Obama. In his world this is all a fantasy and we are not at risk. All perfectly logical . . . if you divorce yourself from reality.

Read Less

No Second Naqba

I’ve just always been astonished by how quickly Palestinian leaders hijack the most current Western political lingo for their narrative of oppression. It was only days after we started hearing about ethnic cleansing in the Balkans that Yasser Arafat started using the same expression about the Palestinians. Now we have Kamal Khatib of Israel’s Islamic Movement declaring that “there will not be a second naqba.” Assuming he does not read Charles Krauthammer’s columns, we should assume he ripped this from John McCain. Give them credit for staying up-to-date.

I’ve just always been astonished by how quickly Palestinian leaders hijack the most current Western political lingo for their narrative of oppression. It was only days after we started hearing about ethnic cleansing in the Balkans that Yasser Arafat started using the same expression about the Palestinians. Now we have Kamal Khatib of Israel’s Islamic Movement declaring that “there will not be a second naqba.” Assuming he does not read Charles Krauthammer’s columns, we should assume he ripped this from John McCain. Give them credit for staying up-to-date.

Read Less




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

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

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

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

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