Commentary Magazine


Posts For: June 25, 2008

Re: Klein and Sullivan

I can only add a couple of brief points to Max’s analysis. First, Andrew Sullivan tries to put the best face possible on Joe Klein’s venom by stating that all Klein did was point out “the increasingly obvious fact that the Iraq war was in part launched to assist Israel (even though many Israelis were against it).” But of course that’s not what Klein did at all– he singled out Jews and accused them of not acting in their country’s interests but at the behest of a foreign power, Israel. What’s more, he didn’t have the intellectual honesty to say that he was making that accusation — it was just coming up, you see. You can dress it up any way you please or try to excuse it however you like, but it is the same anti-Semitic tripe that is recycled century after century. I’m disappointed that Andrew could not be more candid about Klein’s attack, not on those who launched the war (whom he agreed with at the time), but on Jews.

Second, I would note that the contrast in reaction to this incident between the Left and Right blogosphere is startling. It is clear from just a sample of views on the Right that anti-Semitism is beyond the pale among conservative commentators. The same is not true on the Left which is either silent or cheering Klein on. I would also urge readers to look at the comments which Klein’s postings have elicted — and note that the invitation to blame the Jews was warmly accepted by so many.

UPDATE:

After being read the Joe Klein comment about “divided loyalties” in a Hugh Hewitt interview John McCain deemed it “disgraceful” and “an old saw.”

Meanwhile, under the title, “TIME’s Joe Klein Makes Charges of ‘Divided Loyalties’ and Then is Shocked to be Attacked For It” the Institute for Public Affairs (the public policy arm of the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish organization) reviews Klein’s postings and comments:

Mr. Klein may not like the “unbalanced” views held by, presumably, a minority of American Jews, but that still does not entitle him to put forth the classic canard of dual loyalty for those with whom he disagrees.

I can only add a couple of brief points to Max’s analysis. First, Andrew Sullivan tries to put the best face possible on Joe Klein’s venom by stating that all Klein did was point out “the increasingly obvious fact that the Iraq war was in part launched to assist Israel (even though many Israelis were against it).” But of course that’s not what Klein did at all– he singled out Jews and accused them of not acting in their country’s interests but at the behest of a foreign power, Israel. What’s more, he didn’t have the intellectual honesty to say that he was making that accusation — it was just coming up, you see. You can dress it up any way you please or try to excuse it however you like, but it is the same anti-Semitic tripe that is recycled century after century. I’m disappointed that Andrew could not be more candid about Klein’s attack, not on those who launched the war (whom he agreed with at the time), but on Jews.

Second, I would note that the contrast in reaction to this incident between the Left and Right blogosphere is startling. It is clear from just a sample of views on the Right that anti-Semitism is beyond the pale among conservative commentators. The same is not true on the Left which is either silent or cheering Klein on. I would also urge readers to look at the comments which Klein’s postings have elicted — and note that the invitation to blame the Jews was warmly accepted by so many.

UPDATE:

After being read the Joe Klein comment about “divided loyalties” in a Hugh Hewitt interview John McCain deemed it “disgraceful” and “an old saw.”

Meanwhile, under the title, “TIME’s Joe Klein Makes Charges of ‘Divided Loyalties’ and Then is Shocked to be Attacked For It” the Institute for Public Affairs (the public policy arm of the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish organization) reviews Klein’s postings and comments:

Mr. Klein may not like the “unbalanced” views held by, presumably, a minority of American Jews, but that still does not entitle him to put forth the classic canard of dual loyalty for those with whom he disagrees.

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Outrageous

Yes, it’s only Ralph Nader. But his comments are utterly unacceptable. The only question is why the mainstream media treat him like a serious person.

On a truly serious issue, the Supreme Court finds that the government cannot impose the death penalty for raping a child. (Excellent analysis is here, here and here.) The central problem with the opinion, as is the case with so much constitutional jurisprudence, is that an impossibly open-ended and subjective “legal” analysis ( in this case, “evolving standards of decency”) really mask the Court’s efforts to superimpose its policy views on those of elected officials. There is no “objective” criteria by which the Court would seem to accept (e.g. polling, number of statutes allowing capital punishment for rapists of children) so it boils down to: What does Justice Kennedy think about this one.

McCain issued a statement expressing his disagreement with the decision. Barack Obama says he doesn’t like it either. But the methodology, if not the result, is one utterly in keeping with Obama’s judicial philosophy. (Really.) On this list of helpful things for McCain to do he should add: Explain to voters why Obama’s judges will impose social policy at odds with their values.

Yes, it’s only Ralph Nader. But his comments are utterly unacceptable. The only question is why the mainstream media treat him like a serious person.

On a truly serious issue, the Supreme Court finds that the government cannot impose the death penalty for raping a child. (Excellent analysis is here, here and here.) The central problem with the opinion, as is the case with so much constitutional jurisprudence, is that an impossibly open-ended and subjective “legal” analysis ( in this case, “evolving standards of decency”) really mask the Court’s efforts to superimpose its policy views on those of elected officials. There is no “objective” criteria by which the Court would seem to accept (e.g. polling, number of statutes allowing capital punishment for rapists of children) so it boils down to: What does Justice Kennedy think about this one.

McCain issued a statement expressing his disagreement with the decision. Barack Obama says he doesn’t like it either. But the methodology, if not the result, is one utterly in keeping with Obama’s judicial philosophy. (Really.) On this list of helpful things for McCain to do he should add: Explain to voters why Obama’s judges will impose social policy at odds with their values.

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Klein and Sullivan

Joe Klein and Andrew Sullivan, who used to be for the war before they were against it, are having conniptions over my suggestion, itself made in response to an intemperate posting by Klein, that we need to make

long-term commitment in Iraq–for 100 years if need be, as John McCain has said. That doesn’t mean 100 years of fighting; clearly, that would be unsustainable. It does mean a long-term troop presence designed to reassure Iraqis of our commitment to their security against an array of enemies.

Klein accuses me of being a “squealer” and demands disingenuously: “So anything less than 100 years is precipitous?” Sullivan writes in a more ominous vein in a post entitled “The Mask Slips.” He sneers:

Their security? Heh. In fifty years’ time, the Iraqis will not be able to defend themselves against Iran? Or Syria? Please. If they’ve managed this much progress in the last year, we could be almost out of there in the next president’s term of office. Even under Saddam, the Iraqis weren’t defeated by the Iranian mullahs. Notice also how a few months of relative calm are instantly deployed to justify a century of occupation. Can you imagine what the next platform for invasion will be? And on what planet does Boot live to think that permanent US troops in the heart of the Muslim Middle East will not require endless, endless fighting?

This obviously isn’t about Iraq, as we are fast discovering. It’s about an ever greater American entanglement in the Middle East in part to secure oil supplies we need to wean ourselves off and in part a foolish attempt to protect Israel.

I could just imagine an Andrew Sullivan of the 1940′s writing something similar about Harry Truman’s crazy idea to station troops in Germany and Japan without an exit strategy: “In fifty years’ time, the West Germans will not be able to defend themselves against the Soviet Union? Or East Germany? Please.” As it happens, the West Germans wouldn’t have been able to defend themselves against a broad array of enemies without a long-term American troop presence. That presence has served other important goals too, namely reassuring Germany’s neighbors that it would never threaten the peace of Europe again and fostering Germany’s internal democratic development. But just because we’ve had troops in Germany and Japan for 60 years–and in South Korea for more than 50 years–doesn’t mean we’re occupying those countries. We are there are the request of democratically elected governments.

The same is true, whether Klein or Sullivan concede it or not, in the case of Iraq. The occupation of Iraq is over. Iraq has a sovereign government that, if it so desires, could tell us to get lost, and we would do it. At the moment the Iraqi government is giving us a hard time over the terms of future American commitment, but there is no denying that the government of Iraq does want and need an American troop commitment for the foreseeable future. Granted, the enemies that Iraq faces aren’t as formidable as the enemies that West Germany faced for so many decades, but Al Qaeda, Iran, and its various proxies are dangerous enough, and Iraq isn’t nearly as strong as West Germany was. In fact, Iraq is just now starting to recover from the early stages of a civil war–a civil war that would still be consuming countless lives if Sullivan and Klein had had their way and the surge (and related strategy changes) had never occurred.

Notwithstanding the surge’s success (which I am glad to see Klein is willing to concede), it will take many, many years before Iraq is strong enough to completely control its own territory without any outside help. And even then lots of Iraqis may well want an American presence to reassure competing sectarian groups that their historical enemies will not slaughter them. That is essentially the role that NATO troops still play in Kosovo and Bosnia, years after the end of the conflicts that brought them there. That is the kind of role I envision American troops playing in Iraq.

That does not mean that I think anything less than a commitment lasting a century is inadequate. Obviously when I (or John McCain) refers to “100 years” that is a figure of speech meaning “a long time,” or more accurately “however long it takes.” McCain has talked about his desire to substantially reduce the U.S. troops presence during his first term in office, and, if progress continues at the rate we’ve seen in the past year, there is no doubt we can pull out a lot of our troops. But that doesn’t mean that we can safely carry out the Barack Obama plan–all brigade combat teams out within 16 months. That would be a course of action likely to send Iraq back to the brink of civil war, if not over the edge entirely.

Such a misguided policy would have many consequences. It might well ignite genocide in Iraq, destabilize its neighbors, export terrorism—and, yes, endanger the world’s supply of oil. What is wrong with trying to protect the world’s oil supply especially at a time when demand is as tight as it is? How does Sullivan get from Washington to his vacation hangout in Provincetown, Massachusetts? Does he walk? Bicycle? Ride a donkey? I am guessing he goes by car or airplane–rather important transportation devices that just happen to run on oil, not on carrot juice or granola. I too would love to make oil irrelevant, but that isn’t likely to happen anytime soon. In the meantime, oil remains vital to the world’s economic well being, and the Middle East remains the world’s leading depository of the stuff. Therefore, it makes perfect sense for the U.S. to play a central role in safeguarding the security of the Middle East. That will require a long-term military commitment of the kind we’ve long made in numerous countries such as Qatar and Turkey and that we are now making in the case of Iraq.

Please note that I am not endorsing the half-baked conspiracy theories which hold that the U.S. went to Iraq to grab its oil. Not surprisingly, we have done nothing of the sort; the government of Iraq is collecting its own oil revenues, not the United States. We don’t even get to fill up our Humvees–which are there to safeguard the people of Iraq–for free. But preserving the flow of oil is one of many objectives the U.S. has in Iraq. And the problem with that is . . . what precisely?

I don’t have much to say about Klein’s gobsmacking accusation, which Sullivan endorses, that American Jews who supported the Iraq War or now support firm action against Iran are putting Israel’s interests ahead of America’s. Like Jennifer Rubin, I am simply astounded to hear the old “divided loyalties” canard hauled out by commentators not named John Mearsheimer, Steven Walt, Pat Buchanan, or David Duke.


Joe Klein and Andrew Sullivan, who used to be for the war before they were against it, are having conniptions over my suggestion, itself made in response to an intemperate posting by Klein, that we need to make

long-term commitment in Iraq–for 100 years if need be, as John McCain has said. That doesn’t mean 100 years of fighting; clearly, that would be unsustainable. It does mean a long-term troop presence designed to reassure Iraqis of our commitment to their security against an array of enemies.

Klein accuses me of being a “squealer” and demands disingenuously: “So anything less than 100 years is precipitous?” Sullivan writes in a more ominous vein in a post entitled “The Mask Slips.” He sneers:

Their security? Heh. In fifty years’ time, the Iraqis will not be able to defend themselves against Iran? Or Syria? Please. If they’ve managed this much progress in the last year, we could be almost out of there in the next president’s term of office. Even under Saddam, the Iraqis weren’t defeated by the Iranian mullahs. Notice also how a few months of relative calm are instantly deployed to justify a century of occupation. Can you imagine what the next platform for invasion will be? And on what planet does Boot live to think that permanent US troops in the heart of the Muslim Middle East will not require endless, endless fighting?

This obviously isn’t about Iraq, as we are fast discovering. It’s about an ever greater American entanglement in the Middle East in part to secure oil supplies we need to wean ourselves off and in part a foolish attempt to protect Israel.

I could just imagine an Andrew Sullivan of the 1940′s writing something similar about Harry Truman’s crazy idea to station troops in Germany and Japan without an exit strategy: “In fifty years’ time, the West Germans will not be able to defend themselves against the Soviet Union? Or East Germany? Please.” As it happens, the West Germans wouldn’t have been able to defend themselves against a broad array of enemies without a long-term American troop presence. That presence has served other important goals too, namely reassuring Germany’s neighbors that it would never threaten the peace of Europe again and fostering Germany’s internal democratic development. But just because we’ve had troops in Germany and Japan for 60 years–and in South Korea for more than 50 years–doesn’t mean we’re occupying those countries. We are there are the request of democratically elected governments.

The same is true, whether Klein or Sullivan concede it or not, in the case of Iraq. The occupation of Iraq is over. Iraq has a sovereign government that, if it so desires, could tell us to get lost, and we would do it. At the moment the Iraqi government is giving us a hard time over the terms of future American commitment, but there is no denying that the government of Iraq does want and need an American troop commitment for the foreseeable future. Granted, the enemies that Iraq faces aren’t as formidable as the enemies that West Germany faced for so many decades, but Al Qaeda, Iran, and its various proxies are dangerous enough, and Iraq isn’t nearly as strong as West Germany was. In fact, Iraq is just now starting to recover from the early stages of a civil war–a civil war that would still be consuming countless lives if Sullivan and Klein had had their way and the surge (and related strategy changes) had never occurred.

Notwithstanding the surge’s success (which I am glad to see Klein is willing to concede), it will take many, many years before Iraq is strong enough to completely control its own territory without any outside help. And even then lots of Iraqis may well want an American presence to reassure competing sectarian groups that their historical enemies will not slaughter them. That is essentially the role that NATO troops still play in Kosovo and Bosnia, years after the end of the conflicts that brought them there. That is the kind of role I envision American troops playing in Iraq.

That does not mean that I think anything less than a commitment lasting a century is inadequate. Obviously when I (or John McCain) refers to “100 years” that is a figure of speech meaning “a long time,” or more accurately “however long it takes.” McCain has talked about his desire to substantially reduce the U.S. troops presence during his first term in office, and, if progress continues at the rate we’ve seen in the past year, there is no doubt we can pull out a lot of our troops. But that doesn’t mean that we can safely carry out the Barack Obama plan–all brigade combat teams out within 16 months. That would be a course of action likely to send Iraq back to the brink of civil war, if not over the edge entirely.

Such a misguided policy would have many consequences. It might well ignite genocide in Iraq, destabilize its neighbors, export terrorism—and, yes, endanger the world’s supply of oil. What is wrong with trying to protect the world’s oil supply especially at a time when demand is as tight as it is? How does Sullivan get from Washington to his vacation hangout in Provincetown, Massachusetts? Does he walk? Bicycle? Ride a donkey? I am guessing he goes by car or airplane–rather important transportation devices that just happen to run on oil, not on carrot juice or granola. I too would love to make oil irrelevant, but that isn’t likely to happen anytime soon. In the meantime, oil remains vital to the world’s economic well being, and the Middle East remains the world’s leading depository of the stuff. Therefore, it makes perfect sense for the U.S. to play a central role in safeguarding the security of the Middle East. That will require a long-term military commitment of the kind we’ve long made in numerous countries such as Qatar and Turkey and that we are now making in the case of Iraq.

Please note that I am not endorsing the half-baked conspiracy theories which hold that the U.S. went to Iraq to grab its oil. Not surprisingly, we have done nothing of the sort; the government of Iraq is collecting its own oil revenues, not the United States. We don’t even get to fill up our Humvees–which are there to safeguard the people of Iraq–for free. But preserving the flow of oil is one of many objectives the U.S. has in Iraq. And the problem with that is . . . what precisely?

I don’t have much to say about Klein’s gobsmacking accusation, which Sullivan endorses, that American Jews who supported the Iraq War or now support firm action against Iran are putting Israel’s interests ahead of America’s. Like Jennifer Rubin, I am simply astounded to hear the old “divided loyalties” canard hauled out by commentators not named John Mearsheimer, Steven Walt, Pat Buchanan, or David Duke.


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An Energetic McCain

With a tongue-in-cheek ad and nonstop speeches, John McCain is making an effort–perhaps his most concerted to date–to focus on a domestic issue–energy security–albeit one with foreign policy implications. The issue is not a bad one for McCain who, in one of the more striking role-reversals of the new general election, seems more proactive and engaged on a bread-and-butter issue than his opponent. Most importantly, it is something voters care about, so his ability to break through the media chatter may be greater than it is on earmarks or entitlement security reform. Those, after all, lack the immediacy of $4 or $5 a gallon gas.

With a tongue-in-cheek ad and nonstop speeches, John McCain is making an effort–perhaps his most concerted to date–to focus on a domestic issue–energy security–albeit one with foreign policy implications. The issue is not a bad one for McCain who, in one of the more striking role-reversals of the new general election, seems more proactive and engaged on a bread-and-butter issue than his opponent. Most importantly, it is something voters care about, so his ability to break through the media chatter may be greater than it is on earmarks or entitlement security reform. Those, after all, lack the immediacy of $4 or $5 a gallon gas.

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No Peace in Lebanon

You aren’t hearing about it in the Western media, but the truce agreement reached last month in Doha, Qatar, between the Lebanese government and the Hezbollah-led opposition is no more operative than the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

Fighting broke out in the northern city of Tripoli between Sunni supporters of the “March 14” majority bloc in parliament and gunmen from the Alawite sect loyal to the Syrian Baath regime and Hezbollah. We’re not talking about street brawling here. Machine guns, mortars, and rocket-propelled grenades were deployed. Several houses and a gas station were burned to the ground. Ten people were killed and at least 52 people were wounded.

One of Lebanon’s few pro-Syrian Sunni leaders, Omar Karami (he was prime minister during the Syrian occupation), said the Doha agreement was only a “temporary truce because historical grudges still exist.” [Emphasis added.] He is right about that much, at least. Historical grudges most certainly do still exist, even if the ceasefire doesn’t.

Rifaat Eid, who represents Lebanese Alawites, claims radical Sunni remnants from the terrorist group Fatah al Islam were involved. “Armed groups from outside the region come to Bab al-Tabbaneh, open fire in our direction and leave,” he said. “The fighting was premeditated given the kind of weapons, their quantity, and the Islamic extremist factions that are joining the fighters . . . Is Fatah al Islam gone? I doubt it.”

Eid is a somewhat dubious source, and there’s a lot of smoke and mirrors in Lebanese politics. Fatah al Islam is a tool of the Syrians, as is Eid. But Fatah al Islam does still exist, and this is exactly the kind of thing that should be expected of them.

According to the Kuwaiti newspaper Alseyassah, “unnamed sources” claim Syrian officers led the battle on the Alawite side. Maybe it’s true and maybe it isn’t. Unnamed sources can’t be trusted in Western newspapers, let alone in less professional newspapers in the Arab world, but there’s a chance this is actually true. Many Lebanese Alawites really are supporters of the Syrian Baath regime, which itself is dominated by the minority Alawite sect. Allegations of direct cooperation may be untrue, but the idea isn’t crazy.

Eid is right to doubt that Fatah al Islam is gone. And just because they’re a tool of the Syrian state doesn’t mean they side with Hezbollah. This is a gang of radical Sunnis who adhere to the political ideology of Osama bin Laden. Al Qaeda really does despise Shias along with Jews, Americans, and everyone else on their hate list. Fatah al Islam is based in Lebanon, but most members are not even Lebanese. Their leader Shaker al Abssi is Palestinian, and its ranks are made up of Arab radicals from all over the place.

Abssi just released a message describing Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah as a “mini Khomeini.” “If the war against the Jews has begun,” he said, “as the head of the devil’s party, the mini Khomeini, claims – why did he forbid those who do not belong to his party from participating in the July War?”

Tripoli isn’t the only city in Lebanon that is still deeply troubled. “Sectarianism is the highest I have ever seen it,” Charles Malik wrote from Beirut at the Lebanese Political Journal. “Many older residents of Beirut believe the discord between Lebanese sects is the greatest they have ever seen in their lifetimes.”

And as it turns out, no one dares take down some of the posters placed in Beirut by Hezbollah and their allies in Amal and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party. “In some of the areas that witnessed clashes,” Abu Kais wrote at From Beirut to the Beltway, “giant posters of rival clan leaders mark territories invaded. The faces of Hassan Nasrallah and Nabih Berri are everywhere Amal and Hizbullah planted a flag during the May assault. Their posters are offensive, and so are their politics, which if you care to follow, makes you want to never set foot in the city again… How do you go to what used to be your favorite gadget store when it sits in the shadow of a huge Nasrallah banner?”

When I first started visiting Lebanon, in the twilight of the Syrian occupation, it was a place full of optimism and hope. The Prague Spring must have felt something like that before it was crushed under the treads of Soviet tanks.

You aren’t hearing about it in the Western media, but the truce agreement reached last month in Doha, Qatar, between the Lebanese government and the Hezbollah-led opposition is no more operative than the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

Fighting broke out in the northern city of Tripoli between Sunni supporters of the “March 14” majority bloc in parliament and gunmen from the Alawite sect loyal to the Syrian Baath regime and Hezbollah. We’re not talking about street brawling here. Machine guns, mortars, and rocket-propelled grenades were deployed. Several houses and a gas station were burned to the ground. Ten people were killed and at least 52 people were wounded.

One of Lebanon’s few pro-Syrian Sunni leaders, Omar Karami (he was prime minister during the Syrian occupation), said the Doha agreement was only a “temporary truce because historical grudges still exist.” [Emphasis added.] He is right about that much, at least. Historical grudges most certainly do still exist, even if the ceasefire doesn’t.

Rifaat Eid, who represents Lebanese Alawites, claims radical Sunni remnants from the terrorist group Fatah al Islam were involved. “Armed groups from outside the region come to Bab al-Tabbaneh, open fire in our direction and leave,” he said. “The fighting was premeditated given the kind of weapons, their quantity, and the Islamic extremist factions that are joining the fighters . . . Is Fatah al Islam gone? I doubt it.”

Eid is a somewhat dubious source, and there’s a lot of smoke and mirrors in Lebanese politics. Fatah al Islam is a tool of the Syrians, as is Eid. But Fatah al Islam does still exist, and this is exactly the kind of thing that should be expected of them.

According to the Kuwaiti newspaper Alseyassah, “unnamed sources” claim Syrian officers led the battle on the Alawite side. Maybe it’s true and maybe it isn’t. Unnamed sources can’t be trusted in Western newspapers, let alone in less professional newspapers in the Arab world, but there’s a chance this is actually true. Many Lebanese Alawites really are supporters of the Syrian Baath regime, which itself is dominated by the minority Alawite sect. Allegations of direct cooperation may be untrue, but the idea isn’t crazy.

Eid is right to doubt that Fatah al Islam is gone. And just because they’re a tool of the Syrian state doesn’t mean they side with Hezbollah. This is a gang of radical Sunnis who adhere to the political ideology of Osama bin Laden. Al Qaeda really does despise Shias along with Jews, Americans, and everyone else on their hate list. Fatah al Islam is based in Lebanon, but most members are not even Lebanese. Their leader Shaker al Abssi is Palestinian, and its ranks are made up of Arab radicals from all over the place.

Abssi just released a message describing Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah as a “mini Khomeini.” “If the war against the Jews has begun,” he said, “as the head of the devil’s party, the mini Khomeini, claims – why did he forbid those who do not belong to his party from participating in the July War?”

Tripoli isn’t the only city in Lebanon that is still deeply troubled. “Sectarianism is the highest I have ever seen it,” Charles Malik wrote from Beirut at the Lebanese Political Journal. “Many older residents of Beirut believe the discord between Lebanese sects is the greatest they have ever seen in their lifetimes.”

And as it turns out, no one dares take down some of the posters placed in Beirut by Hezbollah and their allies in Amal and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party. “In some of the areas that witnessed clashes,” Abu Kais wrote at From Beirut to the Beltway, “giant posters of rival clan leaders mark territories invaded. The faces of Hassan Nasrallah and Nabih Berri are everywhere Amal and Hizbullah planted a flag during the May assault. Their posters are offensive, and so are their politics, which if you care to follow, makes you want to never set foot in the city again… How do you go to what used to be your favorite gadget store when it sits in the shadow of a huge Nasrallah banner?”

When I first started visiting Lebanon, in the twilight of the Syrian occupation, it was a place full of optimism and hope. The Prague Spring must have felt something like that before it was crushed under the treads of Soviet tanks.

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Re: Worth It?

As you note, Jennifer, Thomas Friedman argues in his New York Times column today that Iraqis, in the wake of their liberation of Basra, Amara, and Sadr City from both Mahdi Army militiamen and pro-Iranian death squads, “now have their own narrative of self-liberation.” This, in turn, has created self-confidence and legitimacy for the Maliki government and the Iraqi military. And there is, I think, a lot to Friedman’s analysis–and, it should be pointed out, it is an insight that General Petraeus has long had. It is one of the pillars of his effort to create “sustainable security” for Iraq.

There is, though, a paragraph from Friedman’s column that I wanted to take issue with:

We may one day look back on this [the success in Basra, Sadr City, and Amara] as Iraq’s real war of liberation. The one we led five years ago didn’t count.

For one thing, American troops, as John Burns of the Times has pointed out, were greeted as liberators. The problem is that shortly after the fall of Baghdad in April 2003, those sentiments evaporated as violence and disorder and a rising insurgency began to engulf Iraq.

Second, Iraq’s “real war of liberation” would have been impossible without the first war of liberation. If Operation Iraqi Freedom had not commenced, Saddam Hussein–a genocidal tyrant and the most destabilizing figure in the Middle East– would still be in power. And, once he finally left the scene, his malevolent sons Uday and Qusay would have taken the reigns of power. No subsequent steps toward liberation could have occurred in Iraq without overthrowing Saddam.

Third, the presence of the U.S. military, particularly post-surge, has allowed the breathing space for the Iraqi Security Forces to be trained well enough (by us) to spearhead the efforts in Basra, Sadr City, and elsewhere.

The war five years ago in fact did count, and it counted for quite a lot. The liberation didn’t happen all at once, and we have incurred enormous costs in terms of blood and treasure. But what the United States did a half-decade ago was noble and generous. It was, in Fouad Ajami’s phrase, “the foreigner’s gift.” And now it appears as if the people of Iraqi–so acquainted with pain and cruelty, tears and the night–have accepted the gift. They now have a chance to build, with our help, what no other Arab nation can claim to be: a stable, peaceful, and liberated country. If America turns out to be the midwife of that new Iraq, then it will one day rank among our most benevolent acts.

As you note, Jennifer, Thomas Friedman argues in his New York Times column today that Iraqis, in the wake of their liberation of Basra, Amara, and Sadr City from both Mahdi Army militiamen and pro-Iranian death squads, “now have their own narrative of self-liberation.” This, in turn, has created self-confidence and legitimacy for the Maliki government and the Iraqi military. And there is, I think, a lot to Friedman’s analysis–and, it should be pointed out, it is an insight that General Petraeus has long had. It is one of the pillars of his effort to create “sustainable security” for Iraq.

There is, though, a paragraph from Friedman’s column that I wanted to take issue with:

We may one day look back on this [the success in Basra, Sadr City, and Amara] as Iraq’s real war of liberation. The one we led five years ago didn’t count.

For one thing, American troops, as John Burns of the Times has pointed out, were greeted as liberators. The problem is that shortly after the fall of Baghdad in April 2003, those sentiments evaporated as violence and disorder and a rising insurgency began to engulf Iraq.

Second, Iraq’s “real war of liberation” would have been impossible without the first war of liberation. If Operation Iraqi Freedom had not commenced, Saddam Hussein–a genocidal tyrant and the most destabilizing figure in the Middle East– would still be in power. And, once he finally left the scene, his malevolent sons Uday and Qusay would have taken the reigns of power. No subsequent steps toward liberation could have occurred in Iraq without overthrowing Saddam.

Third, the presence of the U.S. military, particularly post-surge, has allowed the breathing space for the Iraqi Security Forces to be trained well enough (by us) to spearhead the efforts in Basra, Sadr City, and elsewhere.

The war five years ago in fact did count, and it counted for quite a lot. The liberation didn’t happen all at once, and we have incurred enormous costs in terms of blood and treasure. But what the United States did a half-decade ago was noble and generous. It was, in Fouad Ajami’s phrase, “the foreigner’s gift.” And now it appears as if the people of Iraqi–so acquainted with pain and cruelty, tears and the night–have accepted the gift. They now have a chance to build, with our help, what no other Arab nation can claim to be: a stable, peaceful, and liberated country. If America turns out to be the midwife of that new Iraq, then it will one day rank among our most benevolent acts.

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India’s Blowing The Nuclear Deal

We all know the line about George W. Bush and his go-it-alone manner, and how that’s isolated the U.S. and put us at a disadvantage in an ever more globalized world, etc. In reality, the President’s cooperative approach toward allies has been a distinguishing feature of his two terms. In particular, his 2005 agreement to share nuclear technology and fuel with India was a landmark event for both the U.S. and India. Perhaps Bush was even unreasonably generous in this case. As it turns out, India’s government is in a near crisis over the nuclear deal. From the Christian Science Monitor:

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is battling his coalition government’s Communist allies over a long-delayed deal on nuclear power and technology that he agreed to with President Bush in 2005.

On Wednesday, Mr. Singh’s government, which is led by the Congress Party, held a make-or-break meeting with its communist allies. Foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee emerged from the talks to tell reporters the two sides would meet again in a fortnight, thus making passage of the nuclear deal increasingly unlikely.

The nuclear agreement, which would give India access to US nuclear fuel and technology even though it has not signed the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, is at the heart of a new strategic partnership between India and the US.

It is opposed by the Communists who object to close ties with the US on ideological grounds and who argue that it will weaken India’s foreign policy and independence.

Singh, however, believes that while the issue is hardly a vote winner, the deal is of seismic importance to India, where an energy shortage threatens to curtail economic growth.

This is not just another case of Communism’s debilitating effects on progress and technology, but a symptomatic indication of a larger problem with India’s government. As the entrepreneurship of the Indian citizenry grows in leaps and bounds, the subcontinent’s government remains unable to get out of the way of success. While India currently witnesses the world’s fastest of increase in number of millionaires, its wary and fractured government fears the “invisible hand” of global trade.

The Communists are threatening to pull out of the government if the deal goes through, and the prime minister is threatening to quit if it does not. As both sides struggle to keep things together, the clock may run down on the nuclear deal completely. That is, it’s starting to seem unlikely that various international bodies will still have time to review the details of the agreement before George W. Bush leaves office. It is this sluggish pace of negotiations and calcified penchant for quibbling that make partnerships with developing nations so difficult to establish. Never mind the supposed threat posed by new free markets. It’s hard enough just to help them.

We all know the line about George W. Bush and his go-it-alone manner, and how that’s isolated the U.S. and put us at a disadvantage in an ever more globalized world, etc. In reality, the President’s cooperative approach toward allies has been a distinguishing feature of his two terms. In particular, his 2005 agreement to share nuclear technology and fuel with India was a landmark event for both the U.S. and India. Perhaps Bush was even unreasonably generous in this case. As it turns out, India’s government is in a near crisis over the nuclear deal. From the Christian Science Monitor:

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is battling his coalition government’s Communist allies over a long-delayed deal on nuclear power and technology that he agreed to with President Bush in 2005.

On Wednesday, Mr. Singh’s government, which is led by the Congress Party, held a make-or-break meeting with its communist allies. Foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee emerged from the talks to tell reporters the two sides would meet again in a fortnight, thus making passage of the nuclear deal increasingly unlikely.

The nuclear agreement, which would give India access to US nuclear fuel and technology even though it has not signed the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, is at the heart of a new strategic partnership between India and the US.

It is opposed by the Communists who object to close ties with the US on ideological grounds and who argue that it will weaken India’s foreign policy and independence.

Singh, however, believes that while the issue is hardly a vote winner, the deal is of seismic importance to India, where an energy shortage threatens to curtail economic growth.

This is not just another case of Communism’s debilitating effects on progress and technology, but a symptomatic indication of a larger problem with India’s government. As the entrepreneurship of the Indian citizenry grows in leaps and bounds, the subcontinent’s government remains unable to get out of the way of success. While India currently witnesses the world’s fastest of increase in number of millionaires, its wary and fractured government fears the “invisible hand” of global trade.

The Communists are threatening to pull out of the government if the deal goes through, and the prime minister is threatening to quit if it does not. As both sides struggle to keep things together, the clock may run down on the nuclear deal completely. That is, it’s starting to seem unlikely that various international bodies will still have time to review the details of the agreement before George W. Bush leaves office. It is this sluggish pace of negotiations and calcified penchant for quibbling that make partnerships with developing nations so difficult to establish. Never mind the supposed threat posed by new free markets. It’s hard enough just to help them.

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Notice Who Stopped Harping On The Gaffe?

Charlie Black’s gaffe lives on and on. After initially feigning outrage (the Obama camp said nothing when Hillary Clinton said the same thing and many Democrats agree it’s true), the Obama team has stopped making a fuss about Black’s comment that a terror incident would help John McCain. I think it’s obvious why: the last thing the Obama camp wants to do is have voters be thinking, “Gee, who do I want to be president in a national security crisis?”

Some may argue that there is limited upside on this front for McCain, since voters care so much more about domestic issues. While true that more voters are concerned about domestic issues the presidential candidate still needs to “clear the bar” — Hillary’s point of raising the 3 a.m. issue — before voters will feel comfortable putting him in the Oval Office. Moreover, the gaffe stirred the pot, reminding voters that they should be more interested in this issue. All the more reason for the Obama camp to pipe down mighty fast about Black’s remark.

Charlie Black’s gaffe lives on and on. After initially feigning outrage (the Obama camp said nothing when Hillary Clinton said the same thing and many Democrats agree it’s true), the Obama team has stopped making a fuss about Black’s comment that a terror incident would help John McCain. I think it’s obvious why: the last thing the Obama camp wants to do is have voters be thinking, “Gee, who do I want to be president in a national security crisis?”

Some may argue that there is limited upside on this front for McCain, since voters care so much more about domestic issues. While true that more voters are concerned about domestic issues the presidential candidate still needs to “clear the bar” — Hillary’s point of raising the 3 a.m. issue — before voters will feel comfortable putting him in the Oval Office. Moreover, the gaffe stirred the pot, reminding voters that they should be more interested in this issue. All the more reason for the Obama camp to pipe down mighty fast about Black’s remark.

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There’s the Rub

The McCain team sent out a memo from its polling firm, Public Opinion Strategies, taking issue with the methodology in the recent Bloomberg/L.A. Times poll which showed a gap in party identification of 22 percent GOP and 39 percent Republican, which is substantially greater than that used in other recent polling. The McCain polling gurus conclude:

If party identification on the L.A. Times survey is recalculated to just down by ten (29 percent GOP / 39 percent Dem / 27 percent Ind / 5 percent Don’t Know/Refused), the ballot would be 40 percent McCain – 47 percent Obama.

(They also highlight the Gallup tracking poll showing the candidates are tied.)

A seven point gap is still not good, of course. But the larger issue is, it seems, just how badly GOP identification, enthusiasm and turnout has been and will be depressed in comparison to prior years. Maybe the L.A. Times overshot the mark but we really don’t know what the new “correct” number for party identification is. Therefore, I suspect there will be wide variation in polls and polling methodology. All that said, McCain isn’t ahead and he needs to think what he can do to change that.

All normal caveats should apply (e.g. it’s an electoral not a national election, early polling means relatively little, people aren’t totally tuned into the race yet.) Nevertheless, the fact that the McCain team felt compelled to put out this poll-debunking indicates they are concerned about how polls shape media coverage (that’s another problem) and become a self-fulfilling prophesy when they effect fundraising and volunteer efforts.

The McCain team sent out a memo from its polling firm, Public Opinion Strategies, taking issue with the methodology in the recent Bloomberg/L.A. Times poll which showed a gap in party identification of 22 percent GOP and 39 percent Republican, which is substantially greater than that used in other recent polling. The McCain polling gurus conclude:

If party identification on the L.A. Times survey is recalculated to just down by ten (29 percent GOP / 39 percent Dem / 27 percent Ind / 5 percent Don’t Know/Refused), the ballot would be 40 percent McCain – 47 percent Obama.

(They also highlight the Gallup tracking poll showing the candidates are tied.)

A seven point gap is still not good, of course. But the larger issue is, it seems, just how badly GOP identification, enthusiasm and turnout has been and will be depressed in comparison to prior years. Maybe the L.A. Times overshot the mark but we really don’t know what the new “correct” number for party identification is. Therefore, I suspect there will be wide variation in polls and polling methodology. All that said, McCain isn’t ahead and he needs to think what he can do to change that.

All normal caveats should apply (e.g. it’s an electoral not a national election, early polling means relatively little, people aren’t totally tuned into the race yet.) Nevertheless, the fact that the McCain team felt compelled to put out this poll-debunking indicates they are concerned about how polls shape media coverage (that’s another problem) and become a self-fulfilling prophesy when they effect fundraising and volunteer efforts.

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Re: North Korean Uranium

Gordon has already noted the Bush administration’s delinquency in regard to North Korea’s disclosure of its nuclear program. On the heels of this sham declaration agreement comes some deeply troubling news. If the Washington Note is to be believed, the Bush administration will be asking Congress to take North Korea off of the terrorism watch list. Here’s Steve Clemons:

During the day today, I spoke with officials from the State Department, the CIA, the Department of Defense, President Bush’s staff, and the Office of the Vice President — and several sources from these departments confirmed that the administration was moving forward on formally asking Congress to remove North Korea from the controversial watch list — which is seen as a key confidence building step by North Korea and China in moving towards North Korea’s eventual return to the nuclear non-proliferation club.

Having shown zero indication of their willingness to sever dangerous ties or amend roguish policies, North Korea hops off the list. George W. Bush is pretending that Kim Jon Il’s government is not a terrorist regime in hopes of being able to pretend it is not a nuclear regime?

According to Clemons, Dick Cheney’s is a dissenting voice. Let’s hope that all those theories about our wildly influential Vice President have a kernel of truth to them.

Gordon has already noted the Bush administration’s delinquency in regard to North Korea’s disclosure of its nuclear program. On the heels of this sham declaration agreement comes some deeply troubling news. If the Washington Note is to be believed, the Bush administration will be asking Congress to take North Korea off of the terrorism watch list. Here’s Steve Clemons:

During the day today, I spoke with officials from the State Department, the CIA, the Department of Defense, President Bush’s staff, and the Office of the Vice President — and several sources from these departments confirmed that the administration was moving forward on formally asking Congress to remove North Korea from the controversial watch list — which is seen as a key confidence building step by North Korea and China in moving towards North Korea’s eventual return to the nuclear non-proliferation club.

Having shown zero indication of their willingness to sever dangerous ties or amend roguish policies, North Korea hops off the list. George W. Bush is pretending that Kim Jon Il’s government is not a terrorist regime in hopes of being able to pretend it is not a nuclear regime?

According to Clemons, Dick Cheney’s is a dissenting voice. Let’s hope that all those theories about our wildly influential Vice President have a kernel of truth to them.

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No Child Pays Off

The Washington Post today reports a bit of good news about the Bush Administration’s “No Child Left Behind” law. Despite years of carping, mostly by the teachers unions and other educrats, it turns out that “teaching to the test”–the major gripe of interest groups that have opposed accountability in education–has actually paid off.

Students are performing better on state reading and math tests since enactment of the landmark No Child Left Behind law six years ago, according to an independent study released yesterday.

The report by the District-based Center on Education Policy also found that black and low-income students have made gains on those exams, frequently narrowing performance gaps with white and middle-income peers.

The authors were quick to caution that the good results couldn’t be entirely linked to the federal law, since many states and local jurisdictions also enacted reforms that may have contributed to rising test scores. But, of course, those reforms were sparked, at least in part, by what was happening at the federal level.

Teaching to the test may not be the most creative way to impart knowledge, but at least parents can have confidence that their children learned something sitting in their desks six hours a day. Before No Child, many schools, especially those with large minority populations, seemed more interested in improving kids’ self-esteem than teaching them anything worth knowing.

The study couldn’t come at a more propitious time. Congress has stalled its reauthorization of the bill, and the two presidential candidates have very different positions. McCain generally supports the bill (though the Post notes that the campaign wants to “give more flexibility to struggling schools”); but Obama, predictably,

has been more critical of the law and its emphasis on test scores.

Bush’s best line ever on a domestic issue was “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” This is one Bush position McCain should embrace as his own.

The Washington Post today reports a bit of good news about the Bush Administration’s “No Child Left Behind” law. Despite years of carping, mostly by the teachers unions and other educrats, it turns out that “teaching to the test”–the major gripe of interest groups that have opposed accountability in education–has actually paid off.

Students are performing better on state reading and math tests since enactment of the landmark No Child Left Behind law six years ago, according to an independent study released yesterday.

The report by the District-based Center on Education Policy also found that black and low-income students have made gains on those exams, frequently narrowing performance gaps with white and middle-income peers.

The authors were quick to caution that the good results couldn’t be entirely linked to the federal law, since many states and local jurisdictions also enacted reforms that may have contributed to rising test scores. But, of course, those reforms were sparked, at least in part, by what was happening at the federal level.

Teaching to the test may not be the most creative way to impart knowledge, but at least parents can have confidence that their children learned something sitting in their desks six hours a day. Before No Child, many schools, especially those with large minority populations, seemed more interested in improving kids’ self-esteem than teaching them anything worth knowing.

The study couldn’t come at a more propitious time. Congress has stalled its reauthorization of the bill, and the two presidential candidates have very different positions. McCain generally supports the bill (though the Post notes that the campaign wants to “give more flexibility to struggling schools”); but Obama, predictably,

has been more critical of the law and its emphasis on test scores.

Bush’s best line ever on a domestic issue was “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” This is one Bush position McCain should embrace as his own.

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Obama’s Social Security

This helpful but troubling piece suggests that Barack Obama has not done much detailed analysis on social security. If he did, he would have discovered that his plan to lift the earnings cap would return us to pre-Reagan era effective marginal rates on incomes (e.g. 60% at least), not raise enough revenue to make a difference, and affect adversely lots of not-very-wealthy people.

But the lack of economic rigor is equally applicable to many of Obama’s policy ideas. We don’t know what capital gains tax rate he has in mind. We don’t know what revenue he’s going to collect by jacking up rates, he says, on those making $250,000 or more while giving “middle class” voters more tax cuts. We don’t know how much everything in his domestic portfolio costs.

This is hardly surprising: raising taxes on the “rich” and giving tons of goodies to everyone usually doesn’t allow you to balance the books. So lots of politicians like to keep things vague. What is surprising is that Obama has gotten to this point without the media or the McCain camp grilling him on any of these details.

This helpful but troubling piece suggests that Barack Obama has not done much detailed analysis on social security. If he did, he would have discovered that his plan to lift the earnings cap would return us to pre-Reagan era effective marginal rates on incomes (e.g. 60% at least), not raise enough revenue to make a difference, and affect adversely lots of not-very-wealthy people.

But the lack of economic rigor is equally applicable to many of Obama’s policy ideas. We don’t know what capital gains tax rate he has in mind. We don’t know what revenue he’s going to collect by jacking up rates, he says, on those making $250,000 or more while giving “middle class” voters more tax cuts. We don’t know how much everything in his domestic portfolio costs.

This is hardly surprising: raising taxes on the “rich” and giving tons of goodies to everyone usually doesn’t allow you to balance the books. So lots of politicians like to keep things vague. What is surprising is that Obama has gotten to this point without the media or the McCain camp grilling him on any of these details.

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Here We Go Again

The concurrence of several developments in the Middle East has breathed new life into one of the oldest and ugliest slanders about the Iraq War. The success of the troop surge, the ongoing status of forces negotiations, and the Israeli preparations for an attack on Iran have reignited the “it was all for Israel” line of argument.

After being labeled an unprecedented blunder for the better part of five years, the Iraq War is now conceived of as phase one in some ingeniously orchestrated grand plan to make the region safe for the Jewish state. “I fear they want a permanent presence in Iraq to reassure Israel,” wrote Andrew Sullivan recently. And yesterday he disingenuously claimed that I cited this aim as the initial rationale for invading Iraq. Yesterday, too, Joe Klein wrote that “an even more foolish assault on Iran, raise[s] the question of divided loyalties” among Jewish neoconservatives. Here we go again.

When the Iraq War goes badly, the critics talk about the lack of planning, the lack of exit strategy, and the general sense of hubris visited upon the endeavor. But once things look brighter, it’s straight back to the Jews.

Never mind the countless arguments made by neoconservatives, (Jewish and otherwise) about the need to stand on the side of liberation in conflicts ranging from the Balkans to Burma–places less than pivotal to Israel’s security. And never mind the fact that a true “Israel first” policy would have bypassed Iraq altogether and seen the U.S. bring shock and awe directly to Iran. All that’s needed to formulate this interpretation is the surge’s success, talk of bases, and Israeli preparedness.

Among those who’ve supported the war it has long been speculated on how the anti-war crowd would absorb good news from Iraq. Personally, I counted on the denial; I expected (and respect) the “it wasn’t worth it” take; but I did not anticipate the old slanderous standby. It’s worth noting that the sting of the charge is no milder for being made in the wake of progress. And its ability to distort the national discussion is shameful.

The concurrence of several developments in the Middle East has breathed new life into one of the oldest and ugliest slanders about the Iraq War. The success of the troop surge, the ongoing status of forces negotiations, and the Israeli preparations for an attack on Iran have reignited the “it was all for Israel” line of argument.

After being labeled an unprecedented blunder for the better part of five years, the Iraq War is now conceived of as phase one in some ingeniously orchestrated grand plan to make the region safe for the Jewish state. “I fear they want a permanent presence in Iraq to reassure Israel,” wrote Andrew Sullivan recently. And yesterday he disingenuously claimed that I cited this aim as the initial rationale for invading Iraq. Yesterday, too, Joe Klein wrote that “an even more foolish assault on Iran, raise[s] the question of divided loyalties” among Jewish neoconservatives. Here we go again.

When the Iraq War goes badly, the critics talk about the lack of planning, the lack of exit strategy, and the general sense of hubris visited upon the endeavor. But once things look brighter, it’s straight back to the Jews.

Never mind the countless arguments made by neoconservatives, (Jewish and otherwise) about the need to stand on the side of liberation in conflicts ranging from the Balkans to Burma–places less than pivotal to Israel’s security. And never mind the fact that a true “Israel first” policy would have bypassed Iraq altogether and seen the U.S. bring shock and awe directly to Iran. All that’s needed to formulate this interpretation is the surge’s success, talk of bases, and Israeli preparedness.

Among those who’ve supported the war it has long been speculated on how the anti-war crowd would absorb good news from Iraq. Personally, I counted on the denial; I expected (and respect) the “it wasn’t worth it” take; but I did not anticipate the old slanderous standby. It’s worth noting that the sting of the charge is no milder for being made in the wake of progress. And its ability to distort the national discussion is shameful.

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You Don’t Say

Ruth Marcus is the latest liberal pundit to figure out that Barack Obama is full of himself. She writes:

The Obama campaign likes to point out that 93 percent of its 3 million contributions have been $200 or less; nearly half have been $25 or less. Those numbers are impressive, and they reflect a healthier mix of small donors than the McCain and Clinton campaigns. But they are also misleading. One-third of Obama’s cash has come in the form of contributions of $1,000 or more. Even in the age of the Internet, those don’t tend to arrive courtesy of the Check Fairy. Bundlers help.I don’t take issue with Obama’s decision to opt entirely out of the public financing system. That was bound to happen eventually. Obama is smart to exploit his fundraising advantage over McCain. The political price of his about-face will be negligible. Likewise, I don’t begrudge Obama his bundlers — or Clinton’s bundlers, for that matter. What’s galling is Obama’s effort to portray himself through this entire episode as somehow different from, and purer than, the ordinary politician.

Now really, isn’t that the entire premise of Obama’s campaign? All the oceans subsiding, all the New Politics, all the “we are the change that we have been waiting for,” and all the stuff about stopping good ideas from dying in Washington – it is all built on the cultish belief that he is going to deliver us from the mere mortals who run politics today. The mainstream media is only now, after following him for over a year, figuring this out? Didn’t they notice that this was the cudgel he took up to bash the Clintons, the quintessential politicians?

It seems remarkable we have gotten this far. Maybe next they’ll remark how odd it is that someone with no military, national security, or executive experience got the nomination.

Ruth Marcus is the latest liberal pundit to figure out that Barack Obama is full of himself. She writes:

The Obama campaign likes to point out that 93 percent of its 3 million contributions have been $200 or less; nearly half have been $25 or less. Those numbers are impressive, and they reflect a healthier mix of small donors than the McCain and Clinton campaigns. But they are also misleading. One-third of Obama’s cash has come in the form of contributions of $1,000 or more. Even in the age of the Internet, those don’t tend to arrive courtesy of the Check Fairy. Bundlers help.I don’t take issue with Obama’s decision to opt entirely out of the public financing system. That was bound to happen eventually. Obama is smart to exploit his fundraising advantage over McCain. The political price of his about-face will be negligible. Likewise, I don’t begrudge Obama his bundlers — or Clinton’s bundlers, for that matter. What’s galling is Obama’s effort to portray himself through this entire episode as somehow different from, and purer than, the ordinary politician.

Now really, isn’t that the entire premise of Obama’s campaign? All the oceans subsiding, all the New Politics, all the “we are the change that we have been waiting for,” and all the stuff about stopping good ideas from dying in Washington – it is all built on the cultish belief that he is going to deliver us from the mere mortals who run politics today. The mainstream media is only now, after following him for over a year, figuring this out? Didn’t they notice that this was the cudgel he took up to bash the Clintons, the quintessential politicians?

It seems remarkable we have gotten this far. Maybe next they’ll remark how odd it is that someone with no military, national security, or executive experience got the nomination.

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Worth It?

Tony Blankley has a thoughtful examination of whether the Iraq war was “worth it.” I would add a few thoughts. If Iraq was the battleground on which Al Qaeda lost its toehold in the Middle East, then the answer may be “yes.” As Thomas Friedman observes today, “It helped that Al Qaeda and Iran both went too far. I’ve always believed that there is only one good thing about extremists: They don’t know when to stop. ”

But we won’t know that within the next few months. Nor will we really see what government takes shape and how the establishment of a stable Iraq — if that in fact can be achieved — will affect the region. In other words, the jury is out and the trial hasn’t even concluded.

However, it is clear that, had the surge not succeeded to the extent that it has and had Iraq descended into unrecoverable chaos, the answer to Blankley’s question most certainly would be “no.” Friedman again:

What seems to have happened in Iraq in the last few months is that the Iraqi mainstream has finally done some liberating of itself. With the help of the troop surge ordered by President Bush, the mainstream Sunni tribes have liberated themselves from the grip of Al Qaeda in their provinces. And the Shiite mainstream — represented by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and the Iraqi Army — liberated Basra, Amara and Sadr City in Baghdad from both Mahdi Army militiamen and pro-Iranian death squads. . . And because Iraqis now have their own narrative of self-liberation, it appears to be giving more legitimacy and self-confidence to the Shiite-dominated Iraqi Army and the Maliki regime.

It is only because of our efforts to transform the military and political situation that we can even consider whether the effort “was worth it.”

And that perhaps explains much of the opposition to the surge and the denial of reality for so long from Democrats and sympathetic media outlets. It just can’t be that anything positive came from George W. Bush’s war, they are convinced. The potential for success, however limited, upsets that entire, very certain world view. But the surge, as David Brooks has pointed out, shows once again that “life is complicated.” And those that have written off the war and an entire presidency as a result should, just as proponents of the war and supporters of the surge have learned to do, keep that in mind.

Tony Blankley has a thoughtful examination of whether the Iraq war was “worth it.” I would add a few thoughts. If Iraq was the battleground on which Al Qaeda lost its toehold in the Middle East, then the answer may be “yes.” As Thomas Friedman observes today, “It helped that Al Qaeda and Iran both went too far. I’ve always believed that there is only one good thing about extremists: They don’t know when to stop. ”

But we won’t know that within the next few months. Nor will we really see what government takes shape and how the establishment of a stable Iraq — if that in fact can be achieved — will affect the region. In other words, the jury is out and the trial hasn’t even concluded.

However, it is clear that, had the surge not succeeded to the extent that it has and had Iraq descended into unrecoverable chaos, the answer to Blankley’s question most certainly would be “no.” Friedman again:

What seems to have happened in Iraq in the last few months is that the Iraqi mainstream has finally done some liberating of itself. With the help of the troop surge ordered by President Bush, the mainstream Sunni tribes have liberated themselves from the grip of Al Qaeda in their provinces. And the Shiite mainstream — represented by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and the Iraqi Army — liberated Basra, Amara and Sadr City in Baghdad from both Mahdi Army militiamen and pro-Iranian death squads. . . And because Iraqis now have their own narrative of self-liberation, it appears to be giving more legitimacy and self-confidence to the Shiite-dominated Iraqi Army and the Maliki regime.

It is only because of our efforts to transform the military and political situation that we can even consider whether the effort “was worth it.”

And that perhaps explains much of the opposition to the surge and the denial of reality for so long from Democrats and sympathetic media outlets. It just can’t be that anything positive came from George W. Bush’s war, they are convinced. The potential for success, however limited, upsets that entire, very certain world view. But the surge, as David Brooks has pointed out, shows once again that “life is complicated.” And those that have written off the war and an entire presidency as a result should, just as proponents of the war and supporters of the surge have learned to do, keep that in mind.

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News of the Weird

David Ignatius, who regularly demonstrates that you can write about something for a living without understanding it, in today’s Washington Post:

Oddly enough, [Israel's air strike on a suspected Syrian nuclear site] may have helped the peace talks. The Israelis felt that their decisive action helped restore the credibility of their deterrence policy.

Oddly enough!

In other news, crime keeps on falling, but prisons keep on filling.

David Ignatius, who regularly demonstrates that you can write about something for a living without understanding it, in today’s Washington Post:

Oddly enough, [Israel's air strike on a suspected Syrian nuclear site] may have helped the peace talks. The Israelis felt that their decisive action helped restore the credibility of their deterrence policy.

Oddly enough!

In other news, crime keeps on falling, but prisons keep on filling.

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North Korean Uranium

Tomorrow, North Korea is expected to hand over to China, in its role as sponsor of the six-party talks, the long-delayed declaration of its nuclear activities. Pyongyang had promised in October 2007 to deliver this crucial document by the end of last year. No one expects the tardy declaration to be complete. Chief American negotiator Christopher Hill, in what may be a brilliant tactic but is more likely an abject surrender, has apparently agreed to let the North Koreans disclose only a part of their nuke program in the long-awaited declaration. Hill, an assistant secretary of state, apparently contemplates that there will be a series of supplemental declarations in the indefinite future.

The Korea-watching community expects tomorrow’s declaration to be made public at the next meeting of the six-party talks, which could take place as early as the end of this month. Until that happens, outside observers will be left guessing as to the nature and extent of the numerous side deals that Hill has reportedly made with his North Korean counterparts.

There are numerous side-deal issues that complicate the declaration process, but the most intriguing of them relate to Saturday’s revelation that traces of highly enriched uranium were found on the 18,000 pages of documentation that North Korea turned over to the State Department’s Sung Kim, the Korea desk chief, last month. The traces do not appear to come from Pakistan, North Korea’s covert source of enrichment equipment. Therefore, the startling finding suggests that North Korea has maintained a secret uranium enrichment program. The influential Nelson Report, the newsletter of Washington goings-on, suggested yesterday that an official contaminated the papers as he shuttled back and forth between Yongbyon, the North’s now-shuttered plutonium reactor, and a secret site housing uranium enrichment activities.

North Korea has long denied that it had attempted to enrich uranium, and it has so far refused to make any declaration about its activities in this regard. It is reported that Hill is willing to let Pyongyang off the hook and not demand that it disclose its uranium program. The recent disclosure of the uranium contamination and the North Korean refusal to discuss the matter, therefore, show that Kim Jong Il still has not made the critical decision to disarm. And they also prove that the North Korean leader is, once again, outmaneuvering the United States on a matter that is critical to its security and the security of its most important allies in Asia.

It’s understandable that the North Koreans are doing all they can to hold on to their bomb program. It is not understandable that the Bush administration appears to be letting them do that.

Tomorrow, North Korea is expected to hand over to China, in its role as sponsor of the six-party talks, the long-delayed declaration of its nuclear activities. Pyongyang had promised in October 2007 to deliver this crucial document by the end of last year. No one expects the tardy declaration to be complete. Chief American negotiator Christopher Hill, in what may be a brilliant tactic but is more likely an abject surrender, has apparently agreed to let the North Koreans disclose only a part of their nuke program in the long-awaited declaration. Hill, an assistant secretary of state, apparently contemplates that there will be a series of supplemental declarations in the indefinite future.

The Korea-watching community expects tomorrow’s declaration to be made public at the next meeting of the six-party talks, which could take place as early as the end of this month. Until that happens, outside observers will be left guessing as to the nature and extent of the numerous side deals that Hill has reportedly made with his North Korean counterparts.

There are numerous side-deal issues that complicate the declaration process, but the most intriguing of them relate to Saturday’s revelation that traces of highly enriched uranium were found on the 18,000 pages of documentation that North Korea turned over to the State Department’s Sung Kim, the Korea desk chief, last month. The traces do not appear to come from Pakistan, North Korea’s covert source of enrichment equipment. Therefore, the startling finding suggests that North Korea has maintained a secret uranium enrichment program. The influential Nelson Report, the newsletter of Washington goings-on, suggested yesterday that an official contaminated the papers as he shuttled back and forth between Yongbyon, the North’s now-shuttered plutonium reactor, and a secret site housing uranium enrichment activities.

North Korea has long denied that it had attempted to enrich uranium, and it has so far refused to make any declaration about its activities in this regard. It is reported that Hill is willing to let Pyongyang off the hook and not demand that it disclose its uranium program. The recent disclosure of the uranium contamination and the North Korean refusal to discuss the matter, therefore, show that Kim Jong Il still has not made the critical decision to disarm. And they also prove that the North Korean leader is, once again, outmaneuvering the United States on a matter that is critical to its security and the security of its most important allies in Asia.

It’s understandable that the North Koreans are doing all they can to hold on to their bomb program. It is not understandable that the Bush administration appears to be letting them do that.

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What Can I Say?

Try as I might to formulate a further response to Joe Klein’s rant, I cannot. One can argue facts, one can differ on interpretation of events, or one can discuss policy. But one cannot debate raging venom.

Sadly, Klein seems to have proven (in more vivid terms that I could have imagined) Peter Wehner’s point that he has become “a man who cannot control his anger and even hatred toward those with whom he has policy disagreements.” I could not have dreamed that a nationally known mainstream columnist would seriously argue that Jews who offered views which differed from his (oh, but they didn’t really) were motivated by “dual loyalties.”

But what is more disconcerting than Klein’s raving is that the canard of Jewish disloyalty has now apparently found a home at a major MSM publication.

Try as I might to formulate a further response to Joe Klein’s rant, I cannot. One can argue facts, one can differ on interpretation of events, or one can discuss policy. But one cannot debate raging venom.

Sadly, Klein seems to have proven (in more vivid terms that I could have imagined) Peter Wehner’s point that he has become “a man who cannot control his anger and even hatred toward those with whom he has policy disagreements.” I could not have dreamed that a nationally known mainstream columnist would seriously argue that Jews who offered views which differed from his (oh, but they didn’t really) were motivated by “dual loyalties.”

But what is more disconcerting than Klein’s raving is that the canard of Jewish disloyalty has now apparently found a home at a major MSM publication.

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Could He Get More Than 30%?

Here is a column speculating that John McCain could get 30% or more of a group of voters (many of whom were Hillary Clinton supporters) who traditionally have been in the Democrats’ corner, in part because of concerns about Barack Obama’s competence and integrity. And it’s not Jews.

I think it’s fair to say that Hillary Clinton voters in general were older, more impressed with experience, more concerned with national security and less amenable to soaring rhetoric. In other words, on paper at least, they are the type of voters, regardless of demographic specifics, who might be inclined to at least consider McCain. How many there are (and whether McCain can close the deal with these voters) remain to be seen.

Here is a column speculating that John McCain could get 30% or more of a group of voters (many of whom were Hillary Clinton supporters) who traditionally have been in the Democrats’ corner, in part because of concerns about Barack Obama’s competence and integrity. And it’s not Jews.

I think it’s fair to say that Hillary Clinton voters in general were older, more impressed with experience, more concerned with national security and less amenable to soaring rhetoric. In other words, on paper at least, they are the type of voters, regardless of demographic specifics, who might be inclined to at least consider McCain. How many there are (and whether McCain can close the deal with these voters) remain to be seen.

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