Commentary Magazine


Posts For: June 3, 2008

Just Like They Said

As promised in the RNC conference call, we get our first glimpse of Hillary Clinton’s words being used against Barack Obama in this clip on YouTube. And will this (and a dozen more like it) make it less or more probable that she will push her way onto the ticket? One would think the last thing the Obama camp would want is having Hillary grilled at every appearance about her prior comments about Obama on everything from national security to payroll taxes to trade to his church. And let’s not even think about Bill back on the trail.

As promised in the RNC conference call, we get our first glimpse of Hillary Clinton’s words being used against Barack Obama in this clip on YouTube. And will this (and a dozen more like it) make it less or more probable that she will push her way onto the ticket? One would think the last thing the Obama camp would want is having Hillary grilled at every appearance about her prior comments about Obama on everything from national security to payroll taxes to trade to his church. And let’s not even think about Bill back on the trail.

Read Less

Gordon’s Debate

My CONTENTIONS colleague Gordon G. Change is engaged in a heated on-line debate over at the Economist. The proposition: “It was a mistake to award the Olympics to Beijing.” Gordon is arguing the pro side (that is was a mistake) against Charles W. Freeman III. As Gordon notes in his opening statement:

In order to put on the Olympics, the Party has resorted to old-time dictatorial tactics. It is, in addition to shutting down factories, relocating about 1.48 million people, many of them forcibly, to make way for Olympic venues and Olympics-related infrastructure; dividing the city into five districts and, without getting the permission of owners, painting each one a uniform colour; and decreeing dress codes for female cab-drivers (for example no big earrings). They have been systematically jailing citizens who question the hosting of the Games, severely restricting visas to foreigners, and withdrawing permission for academic conferences and other long-planned events to ensure complete control over society. In short, Chinese officials are employing mass mobilisation campaigns and reimposing strict social controls. As The Washington Post editorialised, the Olympics are becoming “a showcase for violent repression”.

Get over there and vote for the side of reason and justice.

My CONTENTIONS colleague Gordon G. Change is engaged in a heated on-line debate over at the Economist. The proposition: “It was a mistake to award the Olympics to Beijing.” Gordon is arguing the pro side (that is was a mistake) against Charles W. Freeman III. As Gordon notes in his opening statement:

In order to put on the Olympics, the Party has resorted to old-time dictatorial tactics. It is, in addition to shutting down factories, relocating about 1.48 million people, many of them forcibly, to make way for Olympic venues and Olympics-related infrastructure; dividing the city into five districts and, without getting the permission of owners, painting each one a uniform colour; and decreeing dress codes for female cab-drivers (for example no big earrings). They have been systematically jailing citizens who question the hosting of the Games, severely restricting visas to foreigners, and withdrawing permission for academic conferences and other long-planned events to ensure complete control over society. In short, Chinese officials are employing mass mobilisation campaigns and reimposing strict social controls. As The Washington Post editorialised, the Olympics are becoming “a showcase for violent repression”.

Get over there and vote for the side of reason and justice.

Read Less

Conceding What?

There appears to be some first-class hair-splitting as to what Hillary Clinton is planning to do tonight. Conceding he has the delegates is somehow different that conceding he is the nominee, I suppose. It sounds like she is suspending her campaign and wait around at the dance to be asked to be VP or get her health care plan on the agenda, or some such crumb of consolation.

Meanwhile, all is not as rosy for the Democrats as things appeared they would be in February when Obama was actually winning primaries and caucuses. In a conference call today, Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan and Deputy Chairman Frank Donatelli poured a little salt in the wounds.

Duncan deemed Obama the presumptive nominee “struggling to overcome deep disunity” due to concerns about Obama’s experience and judgment to be commander-in-chief. Donatelli tipped their hand a bit, suggesting that the words of Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and John Edwards questioning Obama’s “judgment and credentials” in the primary race would be used by the Republicans in the general election. He pointed to Obama’s problems with working class, Catholic, and rural voters.

I asked what McCain would do to appeal to potentially dissatisfied Democrats. They pointed to a list of issues: Second Amendment rights, cultural issues including abortion and terrorism which would make McCain an appealing choice for these voters. In terms of “process” he said that McCain would stress his record of working across the “partisan divide.”

In response to other questions the GOP officials said that unlike the Democrats McCain enjoyed support of “nearly 9 out of 10″ Republicans. They also made the analogy to McGovern, Kerry and Dukakis who put together a coalition of liberals and African Americans as Obama had to win the nomination but ultimately lost in the general election. And finally, they were adamant that the election be based on issues and not on race, and that the campaign would be “respectful.”

So bottom line: however Clinton phrases it, we are on to the general election where the GOP is going to look to pick off some of those 17 million Clinton voters.

There appears to be some first-class hair-splitting as to what Hillary Clinton is planning to do tonight. Conceding he has the delegates is somehow different that conceding he is the nominee, I suppose. It sounds like she is suspending her campaign and wait around at the dance to be asked to be VP or get her health care plan on the agenda, or some such crumb of consolation.

Meanwhile, all is not as rosy for the Democrats as things appeared they would be in February when Obama was actually winning primaries and caucuses. In a conference call today, Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan and Deputy Chairman Frank Donatelli poured a little salt in the wounds.

Duncan deemed Obama the presumptive nominee “struggling to overcome deep disunity” due to concerns about Obama’s experience and judgment to be commander-in-chief. Donatelli tipped their hand a bit, suggesting that the words of Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and John Edwards questioning Obama’s “judgment and credentials” in the primary race would be used by the Republicans in the general election. He pointed to Obama’s problems with working class, Catholic, and rural voters.

I asked what McCain would do to appeal to potentially dissatisfied Democrats. They pointed to a list of issues: Second Amendment rights, cultural issues including abortion and terrorism which would make McCain an appealing choice for these voters. In terms of “process” he said that McCain would stress his record of working across the “partisan divide.”

In response to other questions the GOP officials said that unlike the Democrats McCain enjoyed support of “nearly 9 out of 10″ Republicans. They also made the analogy to McGovern, Kerry and Dukakis who put together a coalition of liberals and African Americans as Obama had to win the nomination but ultimately lost in the general election. And finally, they were adamant that the election be based on issues and not on race, and that the campaign would be “respectful.”

So bottom line: however Clinton phrases it, we are on to the general election where the GOP is going to look to pick off some of those 17 million Clinton voters.

Read Less

A Positive Sign

If this report is accurate, and John McCain intends to set out a reform agenda and theme modeled on Yuval Levin’s recent piece, it is good news indeed for conservatives and his supporters more generally. I have not been alone in observing that McCain needs a unifying theme, a counterpoint to “Change.” A market-based, reform-minded vision which sets himself apart from the Bush administration and offers an alternative to Obama’s warmed-over liberalism would be welcomed by many conservatives. And it might appeal to many independents. (There was a guy named Clinton who once talked about ” a third way.”)

This may be a positive development for a broader reason. There has been a growing sense among many conservatives that McCain was hell-bent on running on his biography, that his campaign was not open to the diverse voices offering some intellectual grounding for his campaign. (William F. Buckley, Jr. in his final book recounts the tale of how Barry Goldwater locked the conservative intellectuals of his day out of the campaign and ran a much worse campaign than necessary as a result.) If he and his campaign are indeed “listening” to those outside his loyal band of campaign advisors, that fear may be lessened, and the campaign many benefit from the diverse and very smart voices (like Levin’s) outside of the campaign.

If this report is accurate, and John McCain intends to set out a reform agenda and theme modeled on Yuval Levin’s recent piece, it is good news indeed for conservatives and his supporters more generally. I have not been alone in observing that McCain needs a unifying theme, a counterpoint to “Change.” A market-based, reform-minded vision which sets himself apart from the Bush administration and offers an alternative to Obama’s warmed-over liberalism would be welcomed by many conservatives. And it might appeal to many independents. (There was a guy named Clinton who once talked about ” a third way.”)

This may be a positive development for a broader reason. There has been a growing sense among many conservatives that McCain was hell-bent on running on his biography, that his campaign was not open to the diverse voices offering some intellectual grounding for his campaign. (William F. Buckley, Jr. in his final book recounts the tale of how Barry Goldwater locked the conservative intellectuals of his day out of the campaign and ran a much worse campaign than necessary as a result.) If he and his campaign are indeed “listening” to those outside his loyal band of campaign advisors, that fear may be lessened, and the campaign many benefit from the diverse and very smart voices (like Levin’s) outside of the campaign.

Read Less

Helping Vulnerable Islamists

In Britain, they’ve dispensed with the debate about whether or not Islamic terrorism is a criminal or military challenge. Today, in a new strategy document, the British government has announced that terrorism is really more of a social work challenge. Here the Guardian:

It cites the example of a community based programme in Leicester that is already mentoring “vulnerable individuals” using techniques including encouraging them to feel more valued and to eradicate myths and assumptions which have led to them becoming alienated and disempowered.

So: these vulnerable, alienated, and disempowered folks will be bombarded with £12.5 million of Oprahesque gobbledy-gook until rehabilitated into responsible British citizens. And throughout they need not worry about falling afoul of the law:

One potentially controversial element of the new document states that it is “an important assumption” of this diversionary work that vulnerable individuals involved will not face prosecution. “We do not want to put through the criminal justice system those who are vulnerable to, or are being drawn into, violent extremism unless they have clearly committed an offence,” the report says.

That is indeed “potentially controversial.” It’s also actively suicidal. The British system that has provided sanctuary and state benefits to terrorists and their multiple wives is now announcing that Islamists can forgo criminal prosecution by declaring their “vulnerability” to Islamism. And just what renders one vulnerable?

The profile includes those who have experienced trauma through migration or asylum; those who have gone through a personal crisis such as divorce, family estrangement or time spent in prison; and those frustrated by having a job way below their perceived skills or education.

Anything seem to be missing here?

In Britain, they’ve dispensed with the debate about whether or not Islamic terrorism is a criminal or military challenge. Today, in a new strategy document, the British government has announced that terrorism is really more of a social work challenge. Here the Guardian:

It cites the example of a community based programme in Leicester that is already mentoring “vulnerable individuals” using techniques including encouraging them to feel more valued and to eradicate myths and assumptions which have led to them becoming alienated and disempowered.

So: these vulnerable, alienated, and disempowered folks will be bombarded with £12.5 million of Oprahesque gobbledy-gook until rehabilitated into responsible British citizens. And throughout they need not worry about falling afoul of the law:

One potentially controversial element of the new document states that it is “an important assumption” of this diversionary work that vulnerable individuals involved will not face prosecution. “We do not want to put through the criminal justice system those who are vulnerable to, or are being drawn into, violent extremism unless they have clearly committed an offence,” the report says.

That is indeed “potentially controversial.” It’s also actively suicidal. The British system that has provided sanctuary and state benefits to terrorists and their multiple wives is now announcing that Islamists can forgo criminal prosecution by declaring their “vulnerability” to Islamism. And just what renders one vulnerable?

The profile includes those who have experienced trauma through migration or asylum; those who have gone through a personal crisis such as divorce, family estrangement or time spent in prison; and those frustrated by having a job way below their perceived skills or education.

Anything seem to be missing here?

Read Less

Justice for Grieving Parents in China

Today, Chinese riot police stopped a protest of more than a hundred parents who had lost children in a shoddily-constructed school that collapsed during last month’s devastating earthquake in Sichuan province. The parents, from Juyuan, were kneeling in front of a courthouse in nearby Dujiangyan when they were dragged away. Reporters were detained. The Communist Party’s fifth-ranked leader, Li Changchun, was touring Dujiangyan at the time of the incident.

Grieving parents pose the most delicate challenge to Beijing at this moment. Up to now, most of them have been left alone to talk to reporters and carry in public large photos of their dead children. Even three weeks after the quake, parents visit the site of the Juyuan school every day to burn paper money, a Chinese custom, or stand in silence. About 270 students died at the school, a concrete structure with almost no steel reinforcement. Parents want to know why construction was so poor, and they want to hold officials accountable.

As the shock of the disaster wears off, parents across Sichuan have become increasingly vocal in their demands, and small-scale protests have occurred in the areas affected by the quake. Said one Dujiangyan bureaucrat about the parents detained today, “The government will solve their problems.”

The sentiment is admirable, but it is hard to see what officials can do. They have issued apologies , given permission to grieving parents to have another child despite the one-child policy, and announced a token payment for children lost in the quake. Yet the one thing that will heal wounds is something beyond their power to provide. “Give me justice,” demanded a parent who had lost a son in a nearby city. She too was detained.

Justice? In this instance, justice demands the punishment of officials at all levels of government: lower-tier ones for stealing money allocated for reinforcing bars and higher level ones in Beijing who did not authorize sufficient funds for safe school construction in Sichuan’s unstable terrain. Premier Wen Jiabao, who received so much praise immediately after the quake for traveling to hard-hit areas, is a geologist by training. He had to know that his government’s policies, which deliberately starved education, would inevitably lead to thousands of children needlessly dying in a tremor. The Party’s monopoly on power means that it is ultimately responsible for whatever happens in China. In this case, tens of thousands of people did not have to perish, and there is no one else to blame.

The Chinese people know that. “Officials are black-hearted,” said Lin Hao, who lost a daughter in Juyuan. She tried to dig her child out of the rubble. “I heard her saying, ‘Mother, save me.’ “

Today, Chinese riot police stopped a protest of more than a hundred parents who had lost children in a shoddily-constructed school that collapsed during last month’s devastating earthquake in Sichuan province. The parents, from Juyuan, were kneeling in front of a courthouse in nearby Dujiangyan when they were dragged away. Reporters were detained. The Communist Party’s fifth-ranked leader, Li Changchun, was touring Dujiangyan at the time of the incident.

Grieving parents pose the most delicate challenge to Beijing at this moment. Up to now, most of them have been left alone to talk to reporters and carry in public large photos of their dead children. Even three weeks after the quake, parents visit the site of the Juyuan school every day to burn paper money, a Chinese custom, or stand in silence. About 270 students died at the school, a concrete structure with almost no steel reinforcement. Parents want to know why construction was so poor, and they want to hold officials accountable.

As the shock of the disaster wears off, parents across Sichuan have become increasingly vocal in their demands, and small-scale protests have occurred in the areas affected by the quake. Said one Dujiangyan bureaucrat about the parents detained today, “The government will solve their problems.”

The sentiment is admirable, but it is hard to see what officials can do. They have issued apologies , given permission to grieving parents to have another child despite the one-child policy, and announced a token payment for children lost in the quake. Yet the one thing that will heal wounds is something beyond their power to provide. “Give me justice,” demanded a parent who had lost a son in a nearby city. She too was detained.

Justice? In this instance, justice demands the punishment of officials at all levels of government: lower-tier ones for stealing money allocated for reinforcing bars and higher level ones in Beijing who did not authorize sufficient funds for safe school construction in Sichuan’s unstable terrain. Premier Wen Jiabao, who received so much praise immediately after the quake for traveling to hard-hit areas, is a geologist by training. He had to know that his government’s policies, which deliberately starved education, would inevitably lead to thousands of children needlessly dying in a tremor. The Party’s monopoly on power means that it is ultimately responsible for whatever happens in China. In this case, tens of thousands of people did not have to perish, and there is no one else to blame.

The Chinese people know that. “Officials are black-hearted,” said Lin Hao, who lost a daughter in Juyuan. She tried to dig her child out of the rubble. “I heard her saying, ‘Mother, save me.’ “

Read Less

Re: That Is What A Hero Looks And Sounds Like

At John’s prompting, I read the account of John McCain’s captivity. Aside from the jaw-dropping details and a reminder that we often skim over a term like “war hero” without appreciating what it really entails, three things struck me. First, no wonder McCain doesn’t give a darn what polls say or what political party establishment figures think, nor fear the political repercussions of unpopular stances. Losing a primary or even an election is small beans, no doubt, for him. Certainly, he did not survive years of horror, except by consulting his own and the military’s code of honor. This, by the way, is not an unalloyedly positive quality. While it makes for courageous decisions under political pressure, it also may make it nearly impossible to get him to do things he just doesn’t want to, but should.

Second, this is someone who has a fundamental understanding of totalitarian evil based on personal experience. After detailing the excruciating torture and sadistic treatment by his communist captors, he explains his reaction to the bombing of Hanoi which began in 1972:

We knew at that time that unless something very forceful was done that we were never going to get out of there. We had sat there for 31/2 years with no bombing going on–November of ’68 to May of ’72. We were fully aware that the only way that we were ever going to get out was for our Government to turn the screws on Hanoi. . .

The only reason why the North Vietnamese began negotiating in October, 1972, was because they could read the polls as well as you and I can, and they knew that Nixon was going to have an overwhelming victory in his re-election bid. So they wanted to negotiate a cease-fire before the elections.

I admire President Nixon’s courage. There may be criticism of him in certain areas—Watergate, for example. But he had to take the most unpopular decisions that I could imagine—the mining, the blockade, the bombing. I know it was very, very difficult for him to do that, but that was the thing that ended the war. I think the reason he understood this is that he has a long background in dealing with these people. He knows how to use the carrot and the stick. Obviously, his trip to China and the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty with Russia were based on the fact that we’re stronger than the Communists, so they were willing to negotiate. Force is what they understand. And that’s why it is difficult for me to understand now, when everybody knows that the bombing finally got a cease-fire agreement, why people are still criticizing his foreign policy—for example, the bombing in Cambodia.

This is a man who with every fiber of his being believes that totalitarian regimes only respond positively in negotiations when forced to do so. In short, he believes in leverage.

Finally, there is a matter-of-fact tone in his writing. And the story reveals an extraordinary ability to remain cool under the worst of circumstances. There are many people who have presence of mind and a reassuring unflappableness, but not many are stress-tested in this extreme way. Not a bad quality, and not one every candidate for office has had an opportunity to demonstrate.

So it it easy–ironic, because his tale is so extraordinary–to discount McCain’s POW experience. But maybe it has far more relevance than many imagine.

At John’s prompting, I read the account of John McCain’s captivity. Aside from the jaw-dropping details and a reminder that we often skim over a term like “war hero” without appreciating what it really entails, three things struck me. First, no wonder McCain doesn’t give a darn what polls say or what political party establishment figures think, nor fear the political repercussions of unpopular stances. Losing a primary or even an election is small beans, no doubt, for him. Certainly, he did not survive years of horror, except by consulting his own and the military’s code of honor. This, by the way, is not an unalloyedly positive quality. While it makes for courageous decisions under political pressure, it also may make it nearly impossible to get him to do things he just doesn’t want to, but should.

Second, this is someone who has a fundamental understanding of totalitarian evil based on personal experience. After detailing the excruciating torture and sadistic treatment by his communist captors, he explains his reaction to the bombing of Hanoi which began in 1972:

We knew at that time that unless something very forceful was done that we were never going to get out of there. We had sat there for 31/2 years with no bombing going on–November of ’68 to May of ’72. We were fully aware that the only way that we were ever going to get out was for our Government to turn the screws on Hanoi. . .

The only reason why the North Vietnamese began negotiating in October, 1972, was because they could read the polls as well as you and I can, and they knew that Nixon was going to have an overwhelming victory in his re-election bid. So they wanted to negotiate a cease-fire before the elections.

I admire President Nixon’s courage. There may be criticism of him in certain areas—Watergate, for example. But he had to take the most unpopular decisions that I could imagine—the mining, the blockade, the bombing. I know it was very, very difficult for him to do that, but that was the thing that ended the war. I think the reason he understood this is that he has a long background in dealing with these people. He knows how to use the carrot and the stick. Obviously, his trip to China and the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty with Russia were based on the fact that we’re stronger than the Communists, so they were willing to negotiate. Force is what they understand. And that’s why it is difficult for me to understand now, when everybody knows that the bombing finally got a cease-fire agreement, why people are still criticizing his foreign policy—for example, the bombing in Cambodia.

This is a man who with every fiber of his being believes that totalitarian regimes only respond positively in negotiations when forced to do so. In short, he believes in leverage.

Finally, there is a matter-of-fact tone in his writing. And the story reveals an extraordinary ability to remain cool under the worst of circumstances. There are many people who have presence of mind and a reassuring unflappableness, but not many are stress-tested in this extreme way. Not a bad quality, and not one every candidate for office has had an opportunity to demonstrate.

So it it easy–ironic, because his tale is so extraordinary–to discount McCain’s POW experience. But maybe it has far more relevance than many imagine.

Read Less

Talking Past Each Other

Who knows better what’s going on in Gaza: the U.S. State Department, or the Israeli defense minister? The Jerusalem Post reports that

[t]he State Department is likely to convey its unhappiness regarding Israel’s Gaza policy to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert when he arrives in Washington before dawn on Tuesday. His three-day visit will include a meeting with US President George W. Bush and a keynote address to the annual AIPAC policy conference.

“What we’re telling the Israelis is that the policy that was adopted after the summer [of June 2007] wasn’t working, of really closing the borders,” said a senior State Department official.

Yet Haaretz reports that

Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday said [to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee] that Israel has identified signs of distress coming from Hamas. According to the defense minister, some 70 Hamas fighters have been killed during the last two months, and more than 300 have been killed during the past six months.

“Hamas is very stressed. The most effective action is the siege,” Barak said, referring to the Israeli-imposed economic blockade on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

The explanation here must be that the State Department and the defense minister have different definitions of success: Barak wants to win; State wants . . . well, it’s probably better not to speculate.

Who knows better what’s going on in Gaza: the U.S. State Department, or the Israeli defense minister? The Jerusalem Post reports that

[t]he State Department is likely to convey its unhappiness regarding Israel’s Gaza policy to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert when he arrives in Washington before dawn on Tuesday. His three-day visit will include a meeting with US President George W. Bush and a keynote address to the annual AIPAC policy conference.

“What we’re telling the Israelis is that the policy that was adopted after the summer [of June 2007] wasn’t working, of really closing the borders,” said a senior State Department official.

Yet Haaretz reports that

Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday said [to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee] that Israel has identified signs of distress coming from Hamas. According to the defense minister, some 70 Hamas fighters have been killed during the last two months, and more than 300 have been killed during the past six months.

“Hamas is very stressed. The most effective action is the siege,” Barak said, referring to the Israeli-imposed economic blockade on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

The explanation here must be that the State Department and the defense minister have different definitions of success: Barak wants to win; State wants . . . well, it’s probably better not to speculate.

Read Less

This Makes Sense

With all of those very aggrieved Hillary Clinton supporters out there, it makes sense for John McCain’s most prominent female spokesperson, Carly Fiorina, to say things like this:

Yes. I think women in positions of power are treated differently, and the treatment of her demonstrates that . . . I have a lot of sympathy for what she’s gone through. A lot of women recognize she’s been treated differently, whether they’re Democrats or Republicans.

And if McCain really thinks he has a shot at those women voters he’ll say more nice things about Clinton. As soon as she exits the race I suspect there will be more compliments paid to Clinton than we’ve heard in eighteen months of campaigning. Like funerals, withdrawals from political races tend to bring out only nice memories.

With all of those very aggrieved Hillary Clinton supporters out there, it makes sense for John McCain’s most prominent female spokesperson, Carly Fiorina, to say things like this:

Yes. I think women in positions of power are treated differently, and the treatment of her demonstrates that . . . I have a lot of sympathy for what she’s gone through. A lot of women recognize she’s been treated differently, whether they’re Democrats or Republicans.

And if McCain really thinks he has a shot at those women voters he’ll say more nice things about Clinton. As soon as she exits the race I suspect there will be more compliments paid to Clinton than we’ve heard in eighteen months of campaigning. Like funerals, withdrawals from political races tend to bring out only nice memories.

Read Less

McGinnis’s Medal of Honor

President Bush yesterday awarded a Medal of Honor to Army Specialist Ross McGinnis for awe-inspiring courage during the Iraq War. In 2006 a grenade was thrown into McGinnis’s Humvee and instead of escaping, he jumped on the explosive, thus saving his fellow crew members but sacrificing his own life. He is the fifth soldier to receive a Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. What do they all have in common other than their display of bravery far above and beyond the call of duty? Like McGinnis, all of the other medal recipients died in the course of their actions.

This is passing strange. Can it be the case that the only soldiers worthy of the nation’s highest honor are dead? Are there no living heroes? Actually, there are plenty of them. For instance, David Bellavia, who as a staff sergeant during the second battle of Fallujah in November 2004 single-handedly killed five insurgents and thereby saved the lives of there squads from his platoon. He received the Silver Star and the Bronze Star and he has been nominated for the Medal of Honor and the second-highest decoration as well, the Distinguished Service Cross. You can read his Medal of Honor nomination here, or you can read his memoir. Notwithstanding his superhuman feats of courage, Bellavia faces a tough obstacle in trying to get the Medal of Honor–the fact that he survived his ordeal.

It used to be fairly common for the Medal of Honor to go to living heroes, but the last time that happened was during the Vietnam War. A hundred and five recipients are still alive, dating from Vietnam, Korea and World War II. Since then all seven of the medals have been awarded posthumously. (In addition to the five in Iraq and Afghanistan, two went for the Black Hawk Down incident in Somalia in 1993.)

For some reason the award criteria have been redefined in such a way as to exclude many possible recipients. It’s right and proper to make this honor hard to get, and it is true that in the distant past the medal was often given out indiscriminately. Thus the highest number of Medals of Honor ever given for one engagement–a whopping total of 56–were handed out after the minor takeover of Vera Cruz, Mexico, in 1914. Even Rear Admiral Frank Friday Fletcher, the commander of the operation, received a Medal of Honor, although his citation does not list a single example of “gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty” (the current medal criteria). From giving out the medal too freely, we now seem to have swung to the other extreme, of extreme parsimony.

It would make good sense to relax the criteria a bit. That would not only deliver justice for a number of heroes but would also create goodwill ambassadors on behalf of the armed forces. Many commentators (see, e.g., this Robert Kaplan article) have noticed that we don’t pay as much attention as we once did to military heroes. But might the armed forces themselves be partially at fault because they are no longer anointing living veterans with the nation’s highest honor, and the only one that most ordinary citizens will have heard of?

President Bush yesterday awarded a Medal of Honor to Army Specialist Ross McGinnis for awe-inspiring courage during the Iraq War. In 2006 a grenade was thrown into McGinnis’s Humvee and instead of escaping, he jumped on the explosive, thus saving his fellow crew members but sacrificing his own life. He is the fifth soldier to receive a Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. What do they all have in common other than their display of bravery far above and beyond the call of duty? Like McGinnis, all of the other medal recipients died in the course of their actions.

This is passing strange. Can it be the case that the only soldiers worthy of the nation’s highest honor are dead? Are there no living heroes? Actually, there are plenty of them. For instance, David Bellavia, who as a staff sergeant during the second battle of Fallujah in November 2004 single-handedly killed five insurgents and thereby saved the lives of there squads from his platoon. He received the Silver Star and the Bronze Star and he has been nominated for the Medal of Honor and the second-highest decoration as well, the Distinguished Service Cross. You can read his Medal of Honor nomination here, or you can read his memoir. Notwithstanding his superhuman feats of courage, Bellavia faces a tough obstacle in trying to get the Medal of Honor–the fact that he survived his ordeal.

It used to be fairly common for the Medal of Honor to go to living heroes, but the last time that happened was during the Vietnam War. A hundred and five recipients are still alive, dating from Vietnam, Korea and World War II. Since then all seven of the medals have been awarded posthumously. (In addition to the five in Iraq and Afghanistan, two went for the Black Hawk Down incident in Somalia in 1993.)

For some reason the award criteria have been redefined in such a way as to exclude many possible recipients. It’s right and proper to make this honor hard to get, and it is true that in the distant past the medal was often given out indiscriminately. Thus the highest number of Medals of Honor ever given for one engagement–a whopping total of 56–were handed out after the minor takeover of Vera Cruz, Mexico, in 1914. Even Rear Admiral Frank Friday Fletcher, the commander of the operation, received a Medal of Honor, although his citation does not list a single example of “gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty” (the current medal criteria). From giving out the medal too freely, we now seem to have swung to the other extreme, of extreme parsimony.

It would make good sense to relax the criteria a bit. That would not only deliver justice for a number of heroes but would also create goodwill ambassadors on behalf of the armed forces. Many commentators (see, e.g., this Robert Kaplan article) have noticed that we don’t pay as much attention as we once did to military heroes. But might the armed forces themselves be partially at fault because they are no longer anointing living veterans with the nation’s highest honor, and the only one that most ordinary citizens will have heard of?

Read Less

Shameful Schumer

Charles Schumer has a plan to deal with Iran: To enlist Russia’s help, the U.S. must lie prostrate before Vladimir Putin, recognize “Russia’s traditional role in the [Caspian Sea] region” and renege on our prior NATO commitment to erect a missile shield protecting our Eastern European allies. In today’s Wall Street Journal, Senator Schumer writes:

Two years ago, under NATO auspices, Poland, the Czech Republic and Romania agreed to build an antimissile defense site to thwart the threat of a nuclear missile attack by Iran. The threat is hypothetical and remote, and the Bush administration’s emphasis on pursuing the antimissile system, without Russia’s cooperation, still baffles many national security experts.

It also drives Mr. Putin to apoplexy. The antimissile system strengthens the relationship between Eastern Europe and NATO, with real troops and equipment on the ground. It mocks Mr. Putin’s dream of eventually restoring Russian hegemony over Eastern Europe. [Emphasis added.]

Senator Schumer would have us encourage this dream?

After it became clear that George Bush misread what he saw when he looked into Putin’s “soul,” galvanizing pro-American NATO opinion in opposition to Russia became a critical goal. In fact, Max Boot has lamented in CONTENTIONS that we did not go far enough in achieving this end during April’s NATO summit. It is stunning that as Putin and his successor continue to shut down freedoms and intimidate neighbors, an American Senator would call for support for an increasingly autocratic regime.

As for the “hypothetical and remote” threat of an Iranian missile attack, the missiles are real, not imaginary, and the threat is both audible and on repeat play. Just yesterday Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared “I tell you that with the unity and awareness of all the Islamic countries all the satanic powers will soon be destroyed.”

Schumer is correct that we need stricter sanctions on Iran, but giving up our national values and selling out our allies in return for Russia’s assistance is hardly the way to go about it.

Charles Schumer has a plan to deal with Iran: To enlist Russia’s help, the U.S. must lie prostrate before Vladimir Putin, recognize “Russia’s traditional role in the [Caspian Sea] region” and renege on our prior NATO commitment to erect a missile shield protecting our Eastern European allies. In today’s Wall Street Journal, Senator Schumer writes:

Two years ago, under NATO auspices, Poland, the Czech Republic and Romania agreed to build an antimissile defense site to thwart the threat of a nuclear missile attack by Iran. The threat is hypothetical and remote, and the Bush administration’s emphasis on pursuing the antimissile system, without Russia’s cooperation, still baffles many national security experts.

It also drives Mr. Putin to apoplexy. The antimissile system strengthens the relationship between Eastern Europe and NATO, with real troops and equipment on the ground. It mocks Mr. Putin’s dream of eventually restoring Russian hegemony over Eastern Europe. [Emphasis added.]

Senator Schumer would have us encourage this dream?

After it became clear that George Bush misread what he saw when he looked into Putin’s “soul,” galvanizing pro-American NATO opinion in opposition to Russia became a critical goal. In fact, Max Boot has lamented in CONTENTIONS that we did not go far enough in achieving this end during April’s NATO summit. It is stunning that as Putin and his successor continue to shut down freedoms and intimidate neighbors, an American Senator would call for support for an increasingly autocratic regime.

As for the “hypothetical and remote” threat of an Iranian missile attack, the missiles are real, not imaginary, and the threat is both audible and on repeat play. Just yesterday Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared “I tell you that with the unity and awareness of all the Islamic countries all the satanic powers will soon be destroyed.”

Schumer is correct that we need stricter sanctions on Iran, but giving up our national values and selling out our allies in return for Russia’s assistance is hardly the way to go about it.

Read Less

Debating Walter Pincus

I won’t be posting anything here until Friday because I am going down to Washington DC, there to engage in a debate with Walter Pincus of the Washington Post. Here’s the proposition that will be under discussion.

RESOLVED: That in a free society the people need to know what their government is doing, so the media should have discretion in deciding whether or not to publish “leaked” classified national security information.

Pincus will be making the case for the proposition, and I am supposed to make the case against. I hope that Pincus does not read my blog, because I am going to tip my hand here with a surprising admission.

I also favor the proposition. If that is how the issue is framed, there won’t be much debate. Given the huge amount of material the government classifies but which it shouldn’t classify, it would be hard to argue otherwise. Here, for example, is a link to a recently declassified photograph of a handgun. Why it was classified in the first place is a mystery. If Walter Pincus has published this picture, back when it was stamped secret, on the front page of his newspaper, I would not have been troubled in the least.

But that said, I also believe — and here is where I imagine I will part company with Pincus — that if the press is to enjoy discretion in this area, prosecutors should also enjoy discretion of their own.

They should remain free to investigate damaging leaks by subpoenaing journalists and compelling them, under pain of contempt citations, to disgorge their confidential sources. On some rarer occasions, when the press itself violates statutes governing the publication of classified information, journalists themselves should be vulnerable to prosecution.

I have made this case in COMMENTARY and in a series of articles (here and here and here and here) in the Weekly Standard. I hope Pincus hasn’t read any of these so I can ambush him with the arsenal of arguments I’ve been accumulating.

I won’t be posting anything here until Friday because I am going down to Washington DC, there to engage in a debate with Walter Pincus of the Washington Post. Here’s the proposition that will be under discussion.

RESOLVED: That in a free society the people need to know what their government is doing, so the media should have discretion in deciding whether or not to publish “leaked” classified national security information.

Pincus will be making the case for the proposition, and I am supposed to make the case against. I hope that Pincus does not read my blog, because I am going to tip my hand here with a surprising admission.

I also favor the proposition. If that is how the issue is framed, there won’t be much debate. Given the huge amount of material the government classifies but which it shouldn’t classify, it would be hard to argue otherwise. Here, for example, is a link to a recently declassified photograph of a handgun. Why it was classified in the first place is a mystery. If Walter Pincus has published this picture, back when it was stamped secret, on the front page of his newspaper, I would not have been troubled in the least.

But that said, I also believe — and here is where I imagine I will part company with Pincus — that if the press is to enjoy discretion in this area, prosecutors should also enjoy discretion of their own.

They should remain free to investigate damaging leaks by subpoenaing journalists and compelling them, under pain of contempt citations, to disgorge their confidential sources. On some rarer occasions, when the press itself violates statutes governing the publication of classified information, journalists themselves should be vulnerable to prosecution.

I have made this case in COMMENTARY and in a series of articles (here and here and here and here) in the Weekly Standard. I hope Pincus hasn’t read any of these so I can ambush him with the arsenal of arguments I’ve been accumulating.

Read Less

Obama Spins and Spins on Iran

The New York Sun‘s Eli Lake, who is perhaps the best foreign-affairs reporter in American journalism, has a fascinating story today about Barack Obama’s effort to shift his position on Iran:

Senator Obama’s campaign, in advance of the candidate’s speech to America’s largest pro-Israel lobby, is highlighting the candidate’s support for designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guard forces as a foreign terrorist organization. Senator McCain…criticized Mr. Obama for opposing a nonbinding resolution designating Iran’s primary military organization as terrorists. The Obama campaign responded that their problem with that resolution, sponsored by senators Kyl and Lieberman, had not been the designation of the Iranian guard as a terrorist group, but the idea that it committed American troops in Iraq to countering Iranian influence.

One should not look a gift horse in the mouth, so if Barack Obama has come onboard with the need to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization – a critical matter in interdicting and freezing the money the elite, 125,000-member Corps has to spend on training and equipping Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iraqi insurgents — he should be welcomed into the fold, however late. Nonetheless, what his campaign says about the Lieberman-Kyl resolution — that it, in the words of Obama foreign policy director Denis McDonough, gave “the soldiers an additional mission in Iraq” is preposterous on its face.

The relevant section of the Kyl-Lieberman “resolution reads:

[I]t should be the policy of the United States to combat, contain, and roll back the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, its foreign facilitators such as Lebanese Hezbollah, and its indigenous Iraqi proxies; [and] to support the prudent and calibrated use of all instruments of United States national power in Iraq, including diplomatic, economic, intelligence, and military instruments, in support of the policy…with respect to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its proxies.

Nowhere in this language do we find that it gives U.S. troops “an additional mission.” The mission being described here is properly understood as part and parcel of the mission the military already has, which is to win in Iraq. If anything, the additional mission being assigned is to the “diplomatic, economic, and intelligence” branches of the government.

As spin goes, it’s good. As truth and fact go, it’s bad. 

The New York Sun‘s Eli Lake, who is perhaps the best foreign-affairs reporter in American journalism, has a fascinating story today about Barack Obama’s effort to shift his position on Iran:

Senator Obama’s campaign, in advance of the candidate’s speech to America’s largest pro-Israel lobby, is highlighting the candidate’s support for designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guard forces as a foreign terrorist organization. Senator McCain…criticized Mr. Obama for opposing a nonbinding resolution designating Iran’s primary military organization as terrorists. The Obama campaign responded that their problem with that resolution, sponsored by senators Kyl and Lieberman, had not been the designation of the Iranian guard as a terrorist group, but the idea that it committed American troops in Iraq to countering Iranian influence.

One should not look a gift horse in the mouth, so if Barack Obama has come onboard with the need to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization – a critical matter in interdicting and freezing the money the elite, 125,000-member Corps has to spend on training and equipping Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iraqi insurgents — he should be welcomed into the fold, however late. Nonetheless, what his campaign says about the Lieberman-Kyl resolution — that it, in the words of Obama foreign policy director Denis McDonough, gave “the soldiers an additional mission in Iraq” is preposterous on its face.

The relevant section of the Kyl-Lieberman “resolution reads:

[I]t should be the policy of the United States to combat, contain, and roll back the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, its foreign facilitators such as Lebanese Hezbollah, and its indigenous Iraqi proxies; [and] to support the prudent and calibrated use of all instruments of United States national power in Iraq, including diplomatic, economic, intelligence, and military instruments, in support of the policy…with respect to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its proxies.

Nowhere in this language do we find that it gives U.S. troops “an additional mission.” The mission being described here is properly understood as part and parcel of the mission the military already has, which is to win in Iraq. If anything, the additional mission being assigned is to the “diplomatic, economic, and intelligence” branches of the government.

As spin goes, it’s good. As truth and fact go, it’s bad. 

Read Less

A Thought Experiment

One of the most prominent tort lawyers in the country, Melvyn Weiss, was sentenced yesterday to 30 months in federal jail after pleading guilty to paying plaintiffs to file class-action suits. He must report by August 28th. His former partner Bill Lerach, equally well known, is already in jail for the same crime, serving two years.

Richard Scruggs, perhaps the most famous and certainly one of the richest tort lawyers in the country (he made hundreds of million in the tobacco settlement case), recently pled guilty to the attempted bribery of a judge. He will be sentenced July 2nd and faces up to five years.

To be sure, these stories have all been covered in the mainstream media, usually on page 12. But they have been treated as separate stories, with no dots connected. But let’s do a simple thought experiment. Suppose that the CEO’s of three very well-known Wall Street financial firms had pled guilty to major felonies with regard to the conduct of their businesses over the course of six months and were all headed to the slammer or already checked in at Club Fed. Do you think that the New York Times et al. would have handled the matter in the same way? Or would there have been no end of “news analyses” and chin-pulling editorials about the ethical swamp that Wall Street has become as its denizens shamelessly lust after Mammon?

The same experiment, of course, might be run regarding Congress. Committee chairmen (at least when Democrats control Congress) love to drag the likes of oil company executives and bank chairmen before the cameras to explain themselves and be lectured to by their self-appointed moral superiors in Congress. (No sniggering, please.) But there hasn’t been a peep out of Capital Hill over a trio of nationally famous and felonious tort lawyers.

Just a wild guess, but I suspect the fact that tort lawyers are one of the top two funding sources for Democratic candidates might have something to do with this.

One of the most prominent tort lawyers in the country, Melvyn Weiss, was sentenced yesterday to 30 months in federal jail after pleading guilty to paying plaintiffs to file class-action suits. He must report by August 28th. His former partner Bill Lerach, equally well known, is already in jail for the same crime, serving two years.

Richard Scruggs, perhaps the most famous and certainly one of the richest tort lawyers in the country (he made hundreds of million in the tobacco settlement case), recently pled guilty to the attempted bribery of a judge. He will be sentenced July 2nd and faces up to five years.

To be sure, these stories have all been covered in the mainstream media, usually on page 12. But they have been treated as separate stories, with no dots connected. But let’s do a simple thought experiment. Suppose that the CEO’s of three very well-known Wall Street financial firms had pled guilty to major felonies with regard to the conduct of their businesses over the course of six months and were all headed to the slammer or already checked in at Club Fed. Do you think that the New York Times et al. would have handled the matter in the same way? Or would there have been no end of “news analyses” and chin-pulling editorials about the ethical swamp that Wall Street has become as its denizens shamelessly lust after Mammon?

The same experiment, of course, might be run regarding Congress. Committee chairmen (at least when Democrats control Congress) love to drag the likes of oil company executives and bank chairmen before the cameras to explain themselves and be lectured to by their self-appointed moral superiors in Congress. (No sniggering, please.) But there hasn’t been a peep out of Capital Hill over a trio of nationally famous and felonious tort lawyers.

Just a wild guess, but I suspect the fact that tort lawyers are one of the top two funding sources for Democratic candidates might have something to do with this.

Read Less

Gloomy

Bob Herbert is emblematic of liberal pundits when he concludes that “The Democrats have done far more damage to themselves than the G.O.P. could ever have inflicted.” It may be fashionable to blame Hillary (and even Bill) Clinton for Democratic woes, but, as Herbert points out, the efforts to counterattack were “all-but-completely undermined by the incredible shrieking pastors from the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, a place that might be good for the soul but is potentially ruinous for a presidential aspirant.” Most critically, the rationale for Obama’s candidacy–and he needs one, since he can boast of no accomplishment of Presidential timbre–has been severely undermined. Herbert writes:

As for Senator Obama, he’s been mired in a series of problems of his own — problems that have done serious damage to the very idea that brought him to national prominence in the first place: that he was a new breed of political leader, a unifying candidate who could begin to narrow the partisan divides of race, class and even, to some extent, political persuasion.

And if his other selling point, his superior judgment, is undermined by a failure to acknowledge, support, and embrace the benefits of the surge, what is left? Well, he does get to run against the Republican label.

Bob Herbert is emblematic of liberal pundits when he concludes that “The Democrats have done far more damage to themselves than the G.O.P. could ever have inflicted.” It may be fashionable to blame Hillary (and even Bill) Clinton for Democratic woes, but, as Herbert points out, the efforts to counterattack were “all-but-completely undermined by the incredible shrieking pastors from the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, a place that might be good for the soul but is potentially ruinous for a presidential aspirant.” Most critically, the rationale for Obama’s candidacy–and he needs one, since he can boast of no accomplishment of Presidential timbre–has been severely undermined. Herbert writes:

As for Senator Obama, he’s been mired in a series of problems of his own — problems that have done serious damage to the very idea that brought him to national prominence in the first place: that he was a new breed of political leader, a unifying candidate who could begin to narrow the partisan divides of race, class and even, to some extent, political persuasion.

And if his other selling point, his superior judgment, is undermined by a failure to acknowledge, support, and embrace the benefits of the surge, what is left? Well, he does get to run against the Republican label.

Read Less

The Axis Gains in Lebanon

Last month’s Doha agreement-which ended an occasionally violent six-month standoff between the nominally pro-western March 14th coalition and the Hezbollah-led opposition-was already a boon for the Hezbollah-Iran-Syria axis. After all, the agreement granted Hezbollah its long-desired veto power within the Lebanese cabinet; ordered the crafting of a new elections law by next year, in which Hezbollah will play a major role; and granted the presidency to pro-Syrian-leaning General Michel Suleiman. Disappointingly, western states have embraced the Doha agreement–a stunning about-face from the immense pressure that they have placed on the Hezbollah-Iran-Syria axis in virtually every previous context.

This has given the axis ample opportunity to consolidate its gains in recent days. On Sunday, in a meeting with German Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Suleiman restated his inaugural pledge to pursue diplomatic relations with Syria, calling Syrian Prime Minister Walid Moallem’s presence at the parliament’s presidential election session “a clear indicator of brotherly relations between the two states” (Steinmeier responded approvingly). Suleiman further requested German support for “restoring the Sheba Farms and Kfar Shuba hills” to Lebanese control, which suggests that he has quickly embraced Hezbollah’s rationale for maintaining its arms as policy. Hezbollah’s spokespersons added to this argument, with political council head Mahmoud Qamati interpreting the Doha agreement as opening a dialogue with the Lebanese army regarding “its role in the strategy of liberating and defending the south.”

Meanwhile, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has used the goodwill that the Doha agreement has generated for his regime to reach out to pro-western Arab leaders. This weekend, Abu Dhabi leader Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahayan welcomed Assad calling for broader Arab unity, and Assad later visited Dubai and Kuwait. (Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki’s recent statement on Lebanon suggests that Iran will similarly use the Doha agreement to cozy up to these regimes in the near future.)

Given the Bush administration’s unfortunate refusal to become more involved in Lebanon earlier this year, it has few good options at its disposal vis-à-vis the Hezbollah-Iran-Syria axis. Yet it deserves credit for one important strategic decision thus far: it has correctly refused to jump on the Israeli-Syrian peace bandwagon-a hopeless diplomatic enterprise that becomes increasingly laughable with each new Syrian diplomatic initiative-instead prioritizing the outcome of the Hariri investigation, in which Syria will likely be implicated. Hopefully, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s visit to Washington this week-which should be his last pre-indictment-won’t change the administration’s clarity on this issue.

Last month’s Doha agreement-which ended an occasionally violent six-month standoff between the nominally pro-western March 14th coalition and the Hezbollah-led opposition-was already a boon for the Hezbollah-Iran-Syria axis. After all, the agreement granted Hezbollah its long-desired veto power within the Lebanese cabinet; ordered the crafting of a new elections law by next year, in which Hezbollah will play a major role; and granted the presidency to pro-Syrian-leaning General Michel Suleiman. Disappointingly, western states have embraced the Doha agreement–a stunning about-face from the immense pressure that they have placed on the Hezbollah-Iran-Syria axis in virtually every previous context.

This has given the axis ample opportunity to consolidate its gains in recent days. On Sunday, in a meeting with German Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Suleiman restated his inaugural pledge to pursue diplomatic relations with Syria, calling Syrian Prime Minister Walid Moallem’s presence at the parliament’s presidential election session “a clear indicator of brotherly relations between the two states” (Steinmeier responded approvingly). Suleiman further requested German support for “restoring the Sheba Farms and Kfar Shuba hills” to Lebanese control, which suggests that he has quickly embraced Hezbollah’s rationale for maintaining its arms as policy. Hezbollah’s spokespersons added to this argument, with political council head Mahmoud Qamati interpreting the Doha agreement as opening a dialogue with the Lebanese army regarding “its role in the strategy of liberating and defending the south.”

Meanwhile, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has used the goodwill that the Doha agreement has generated for his regime to reach out to pro-western Arab leaders. This weekend, Abu Dhabi leader Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahayan welcomed Assad calling for broader Arab unity, and Assad later visited Dubai and Kuwait. (Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki’s recent statement on Lebanon suggests that Iran will similarly use the Doha agreement to cozy up to these regimes in the near future.)

Given the Bush administration’s unfortunate refusal to become more involved in Lebanon earlier this year, it has few good options at its disposal vis-à-vis the Hezbollah-Iran-Syria axis. Yet it deserves credit for one important strategic decision thus far: it has correctly refused to jump on the Israeli-Syrian peace bandwagon-a hopeless diplomatic enterprise that becomes increasingly laughable with each new Syrian diplomatic initiative-instead prioritizing the outcome of the Hariri investigation, in which Syria will likely be implicated. Hopefully, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s visit to Washington this week-which should be his last pre-indictment-won’t change the administration’s clarity on this issue.

Read Less

Israel Derangement Syndrome

The basic formula of IDS is that almost any negative consequences which derive from Arab attacks on Israel are blamed by enlightened elites not on the attackers themselves, but on Israel, especially when the Jewish state’s response to being assaulted does not take the form of absolute and total moral perfection as defined by the UN and the Guardian‘s editorial board. IDS in its more subtle forms is so pervasive it largely escapes notice. But it’s still worth noting, once in a while. Here are a couple of examples from recent days:

1. Reporting on a conversation in which Joschka Fischer claimed that Israel would attack Iran’s nuclear facilities before the end of the year, Nouriel Roubini, an NYU business professor, declared that

if such action were to be taken by Israel the consequences outlined above would be the clear outcome: a major global recession, wars throughout the Middle East (Iran, Iraq, Gaza, Lebanon, Israel, etc.) and a major increase in geopolitical instability.

In other words, a litany of catastrophes would befall the world not because Iran is in violation of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and three UN Security Council resolutions, is developing nuclear weapons, waging war against America, Israel, and Lebanon through proxy forces, and has repeatedly threatened to annihilate the state of Israel. None of those items inform the moral calculus. No, Roubini’s argument runs, Israel is to blame, because not allowing itself to be destroyed would upset global harmony. Nice.

2. The Gaza Fulbright scholars. Reports ABC News:

Seven Palestinian scholars may lose their prized Fulbright scholarships to attend American universities because Israel won’t let them out of the Gaza Strip.

So Israel is now responsible for ensuring the educational opportunities of Gaza students? The young soldiers of the IDF, according to this logic, must be put in harm’s way at the crossing points of Gaza — which are Hamas’ favorite ambush and attack sites — so that seven people may leave a territory into and out of which they would be able to freely travel any day they wished if Hamas was not engaged in a terror war against Israel. The point is not that limitations on Palestinian educational opportunities are a good thing; it is that such hardships have their origins not in Israeli cruelty, but in Palestinian violence. As someone once said, the Jewish state is expected to act like the only Christian nation in the world.

There are dozens more examples. But there is a group of people on whose behalf anything is rarely said. They are the Palestinians who detest the manner in which Hamas has imprisoned them in Gaza. These people have no spokesmen, not even among the western reporters who derive so much smug satisfaction in imagining themselves the champions of the voiceless. By falsely incriminating Israel and thereby apologizing for Hamas, such journalists only prolong the suffering of Palestinians. IDS hurts Arabs, too.

The basic formula of IDS is that almost any negative consequences which derive from Arab attacks on Israel are blamed by enlightened elites not on the attackers themselves, but on Israel, especially when the Jewish state’s response to being assaulted does not take the form of absolute and total moral perfection as defined by the UN and the Guardian‘s editorial board. IDS in its more subtle forms is so pervasive it largely escapes notice. But it’s still worth noting, once in a while. Here are a couple of examples from recent days:

1. Reporting on a conversation in which Joschka Fischer claimed that Israel would attack Iran’s nuclear facilities before the end of the year, Nouriel Roubini, an NYU business professor, declared that

if such action were to be taken by Israel the consequences outlined above would be the clear outcome: a major global recession, wars throughout the Middle East (Iran, Iraq, Gaza, Lebanon, Israel, etc.) and a major increase in geopolitical instability.

In other words, a litany of catastrophes would befall the world not because Iran is in violation of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and three UN Security Council resolutions, is developing nuclear weapons, waging war against America, Israel, and Lebanon through proxy forces, and has repeatedly threatened to annihilate the state of Israel. None of those items inform the moral calculus. No, Roubini’s argument runs, Israel is to blame, because not allowing itself to be destroyed would upset global harmony. Nice.

2. The Gaza Fulbright scholars. Reports ABC News:

Seven Palestinian scholars may lose their prized Fulbright scholarships to attend American universities because Israel won’t let them out of the Gaza Strip.

So Israel is now responsible for ensuring the educational opportunities of Gaza students? The young soldiers of the IDF, according to this logic, must be put in harm’s way at the crossing points of Gaza — which are Hamas’ favorite ambush and attack sites — so that seven people may leave a territory into and out of which they would be able to freely travel any day they wished if Hamas was not engaged in a terror war against Israel. The point is not that limitations on Palestinian educational opportunities are a good thing; it is that such hardships have their origins not in Israeli cruelty, but in Palestinian violence. As someone once said, the Jewish state is expected to act like the only Christian nation in the world.

There are dozens more examples. But there is a group of people on whose behalf anything is rarely said. They are the Palestinians who detest the manner in which Hamas has imprisoned them in Gaza. These people have no spokesmen, not even among the western reporters who derive so much smug satisfaction in imagining themselves the champions of the voiceless. By falsely incriminating Israel and thereby apologizing for Hamas, such journalists only prolong the suffering of Palestinians. IDS hurts Arabs, too.

Read Less

This Is What a Hero Looks and Sounds Like

Stunning. Here’s a photo; here’s McCain’s staggering contemporaneous account of his captivity.

Stunning. Here’s a photo; here’s McCain’s staggering contemporaneous account of his captivity.

Read Less

George Bush In Reverse

In response to my post, Andrew Sullivan responds:

But, yes, if Obama blindly insists nothing has changed, has no interest in reality on the ground, refuses to hear dissent, and does not acknowledge the surprising progress that has occurred there recently . . . he would be George W. Bush in reverse. I see no reason to believe he is, but share Jen’s hope that he isn’t.

Hope can spring eternal, but I think all the evidence to date indicates that the “George W. Bush in reverse” formulation is fairly accurate. The simplest first: he has disclaimed interest in facts on the ground. He has declined to meet with General Petraeus and, when he was bludgeoned by McCain into considering a possibility of an Iraq trip, it was not for the purpose of re-evaluating his position but to plot the immediate withdrawal.

As for the changed situation (both with regard to Iraq itself and Al Qaeda more generally), he has to date offered no indication he has read or agrees with any official or media report acknowledging progress in Iraq, whether political or military. Likewise, he has not uttered any words indicating that Al Qaeda has been severly damaged. To the contrary, his formulation in his speeches, debates and in interviews is identical to what it has been since the campaign began: he will immediately begin a troop withdrawal to be completed in 16 months. (His rationale–that progress against Al Qaeda is not possible without ending the war–in Iraq, seems in tact as well.)

In short, he still promises to end the war, he often repeats his pledge for an immediate withdrawal of forces and his campaign regularly confirms that he is adhering to his position for withdrawal of forces because the surge has not brought about the expected results.

Now, if he has changed his view and has come to recognize that McCain was correct in supporting the surge strategy, or even if he is open to soliciting facts that would confirm this is the case, this would be a remarkable turn of events and news to the entire country, the Democratic primary electorate in particular. No one would be happier than I to see a return to bipartisan agreement on national security starting from mutual acceptance of realities on the ground. But I just see no evidence, not a shred, that Obama has come around and reversed his views. He could clear it up right now in an interview or speech, explain the error of his ways and–with the same graciousness as Andrew–praise McCain’s foresightedness. But he hasn’t done this. So I would love to be as optimistic as Andrew, I just have no basis to be so.

In response to my post, Andrew Sullivan responds:

But, yes, if Obama blindly insists nothing has changed, has no interest in reality on the ground, refuses to hear dissent, and does not acknowledge the surprising progress that has occurred there recently . . . he would be George W. Bush in reverse. I see no reason to believe he is, but share Jen’s hope that he isn’t.

Hope can spring eternal, but I think all the evidence to date indicates that the “George W. Bush in reverse” formulation is fairly accurate. The simplest first: he has disclaimed interest in facts on the ground. He has declined to meet with General Petraeus and, when he was bludgeoned by McCain into considering a possibility of an Iraq trip, it was not for the purpose of re-evaluating his position but to plot the immediate withdrawal.

As for the changed situation (both with regard to Iraq itself and Al Qaeda more generally), he has to date offered no indication he has read or agrees with any official or media report acknowledging progress in Iraq, whether political or military. Likewise, he has not uttered any words indicating that Al Qaeda has been severly damaged. To the contrary, his formulation in his speeches, debates and in interviews is identical to what it has been since the campaign began: he will immediately begin a troop withdrawal to be completed in 16 months. (His rationale–that progress against Al Qaeda is not possible without ending the war–in Iraq, seems in tact as well.)

In short, he still promises to end the war, he often repeats his pledge for an immediate withdrawal of forces and his campaign regularly confirms that he is adhering to his position for withdrawal of forces because the surge has not brought about the expected results.

Now, if he has changed his view and has come to recognize that McCain was correct in supporting the surge strategy, or even if he is open to soliciting facts that would confirm this is the case, this would be a remarkable turn of events and news to the entire country, the Democratic primary electorate in particular. No one would be happier than I to see a return to bipartisan agreement on national security starting from mutual acceptance of realities on the ground. But I just see no evidence, not a shred, that Obama has come around and reversed his views. He could clear it up right now in an interview or speech, explain the error of his ways and–with the same graciousness as Andrew–praise McCain’s foresightedness. But he hasn’t done this. So I would love to be as optimistic as Andrew, I just have no basis to be so.

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.