Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 10, 2008

Try to Be Clear, Andrew

Andrew Sullivan recently ran a letter by an anonymous reader asking: “Is Max Boot completely loony?” Funny, I had the same question about Andrew after reading his response to my post on whether we should be concerned about Prime Minister Maliki’s vague demands for a timetable for an eventual U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. Andrew takes particular objection to my assertion that “U.S. forces will need to remain in Iraq for years to nurture this embattled democracy–and not so incidentally to protect our own interests in the region.” He writes:

Not so incidentally? The Iraq war was not sold on the basis of protecting US interests in the region. It was sold on protecting us from a massively over-stated threat, and then to allow for a post-Saddam democracy of sorts. If the Iraqis ask us to leave, we have no business staying. And posts like Boot’s today can only reinforce suspicions that the real motive for invading Iraq was rather different – not incidentally – from that given at the time.

I don’t understand what Andrew is saying, and that’s not just a figure of speech. I really don’t get it. His second sentence (“The Iraq war was not sold on the basis of protecting US interests in the region”) contradicts the third sentence (“It was sold on protecting us from a massively over-stated threat, and then to allow for a post-Saddam democracy of sorts”). Leave aside the false implication that the creation of an Iraqi democracy was an afterthought–a commonly heard assertion from critics of the war, which ignores President Bush’s numerous references in prewar speeches about his desire to create an Iraqi democracy. The main reason for the invasion, of course, was the conclusion of the CIA and every other intelligence agency in the world that Saddam was developing weapons of mass destruction in violation of United Nations sanctions. The threat, as we later found out, was over-stated, but, based on the best intelligence we had, it was natural that most Americans (including you, Andrew) concluded that Saddam’s regime did pose a threat to “US interests in the region.” The war was “sold” precisely on the basis that we would eradicate this threat.

In his last sentence Andrew hints that there was some deep, dark motive for invading Iraq that wasn’t stated at the time. Again, I literally have no idea what he is talking about. For a possible clue as to his meaning, I have to turn to a previous post of Andrew’s in which he also attacks me. He writes that he and other anti-war critics

just want a sane response as to what “winning” means – and preferably in line with the war-aims of 2003. If it means disarming and deposing and executing Saddam, we have won. But if it means a permanent occupation of Iraq until no possible threat from there could ever emerge, we will be there for ever. That, we now discover, was the goal. Quite why we do not fully know. It cannot be an end to terror: that comes from everywhere, democracies and autocracies alike. We are left with oil, a misguided belief that the West’s occupation of the Middle East will protect Israel, and, well, just because we can. None of these arguments is persuasive to me, when you factor in the enormous costs, drain on the military and absurdism of Iraqi political culture.

This is a little more revealing of Andrew’s thinking, although it’s so muddled that the more of it I see, the more confused I get. Let’s see if we can unravel this a bit.

He claims that if the goal was “disarming and deposing and executing Saddam, we have won.” That’s true. But it would be a very hollow victory indeed if, having deposed Saddam, we left chaos in his wake–chaos that would threaten our interests. That would be like someone in 1945 saying, “The goal of the war was to disarm and depose and kill Hitler, so we have won. Why keep troops in Germany?” The answer, of course, is that ending the previous regime is only part of the goal. If we remain satisfied with that narrow objective we risk repeating the mistake of 1919 when, having deposed Kaiser Wilhem II, the Allied powers failed to build a durable, democratic regime in Germany.

Sorry, Andrew; I know you don’t like analogies between Iraq and Germany, since, as you so astutely point out, there are differences between them. If you prefer, I could offer an analogy to our intervention in Haiti in 1994 when we put Jean Bertrand Aristide back into power but didn’t stick around long enough to midwife a lasting democracy. The result is that Haiti is no better off than it was before our intervention.

Perhaps you don’t like the Haiti analogy either. If so, perhaps you could provide some convincing evidence that the U.S. can invade a country, topple its regime, leave immediately–and expect a lasting, positive outcome. The best-case scenarios one could cite are probably Granada and Panama. But I would submit that the differences between Granada/Panama and Iraq are even greater than the differences between Iraq and Germany. Granada and Panama, after all, weren’t targets of subversion for hostile neighbors or international terrorist groups.

But back to your inquiry into our reasons for intervention. You write that we could not have gone into Iraq to put “an end to terror: that comes from everywhere, democracies and autocracies alike.” At the risk of another analogy to a period you’d rather not mention, that’s like saying we could not have gone into World War II to end militarism because that could arise from anywhere. True, but we did fight to end two particularly noxious strains of militarism emanating from Japan and Germany. Likewise, by deposing Saddam, we eliminated the well-documented threat he posed to the region. We also eliminated his connections to some terrorist groups. (For details, see this report commissioned by the U.S. Joint Forces Command and released last November.) No one ever claimed–and I mean no one–that deposing Saddam would result in the end of all terrorism.

Having knocked down that straw man, you proceed to list some other possible reasons for our intervention: “We are left with oil, a misguided belief that the West’s occupation of the Middle East will protect Israel, and, well, just because we can.”

I’ve already pointed out there is nothing illegitimate about protecting the flow of oil when the entire global economy depends on that precious commodity. As for protecting Israel, again there is nothing wrong with that, since Israel is our ally. But the protection of Israel is, at most, a very peripheral impact from our intervention in Iraq. Of more immediate concern is that we protect other allies much closer to Iraq, namely the Gulf states, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Turkey. Even more important, we need to protect ourselves: having Iraq turn into a setting for civil war, genocide, and international terrorism is hardly in our best interests.

I won’t bother responding to your final, juvenile taunt about “just because we can.” Instead, I will end on a note of concurrence. “If the Iraqis ask us to leave, we have no business staying,” you write. I agree. My point was that the Iraqis aren’t asking us to leave because, unlike you and other anti-war voices in the United States, they realize that the consequences of a an overly hasty American pullout would be catastrophic.

As for how will we know we’ve succeeded? That’s a matter of judgment but our objectives are fairly clear. Simply look at President Bush’s National Strategy for Victory in Iraq, released in 2005. It lists short-, medium-, and long-term goals. The long-term objective include an Iraq that “is peaceful, united, stable, and secure, well integrated into the international community, and a full partner in the global war on terrorism.” Thanks to the surge, which you opposed, we’re well on our way to achieving that goal, and as we do we can safely reduce troop levels even further. But a precipitous pullout still could undo the gains of the past year.

Andrew Sullivan recently ran a letter by an anonymous reader asking: “Is Max Boot completely loony?” Funny, I had the same question about Andrew after reading his response to my post on whether we should be concerned about Prime Minister Maliki’s vague demands for a timetable for an eventual U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. Andrew takes particular objection to my assertion that “U.S. forces will need to remain in Iraq for years to nurture this embattled democracy–and not so incidentally to protect our own interests in the region.” He writes:

Not so incidentally? The Iraq war was not sold on the basis of protecting US interests in the region. It was sold on protecting us from a massively over-stated threat, and then to allow for a post-Saddam democracy of sorts. If the Iraqis ask us to leave, we have no business staying. And posts like Boot’s today can only reinforce suspicions that the real motive for invading Iraq was rather different – not incidentally – from that given at the time.

I don’t understand what Andrew is saying, and that’s not just a figure of speech. I really don’t get it. His second sentence (“The Iraq war was not sold on the basis of protecting US interests in the region”) contradicts the third sentence (“It was sold on protecting us from a massively over-stated threat, and then to allow for a post-Saddam democracy of sorts”). Leave aside the false implication that the creation of an Iraqi democracy was an afterthought–a commonly heard assertion from critics of the war, which ignores President Bush’s numerous references in prewar speeches about his desire to create an Iraqi democracy. The main reason for the invasion, of course, was the conclusion of the CIA and every other intelligence agency in the world that Saddam was developing weapons of mass destruction in violation of United Nations sanctions. The threat, as we later found out, was over-stated, but, based on the best intelligence we had, it was natural that most Americans (including you, Andrew) concluded that Saddam’s regime did pose a threat to “US interests in the region.” The war was “sold” precisely on the basis that we would eradicate this threat.

In his last sentence Andrew hints that there was some deep, dark motive for invading Iraq that wasn’t stated at the time. Again, I literally have no idea what he is talking about. For a possible clue as to his meaning, I have to turn to a previous post of Andrew’s in which he also attacks me. He writes that he and other anti-war critics

just want a sane response as to what “winning” means – and preferably in line with the war-aims of 2003. If it means disarming and deposing and executing Saddam, we have won. But if it means a permanent occupation of Iraq until no possible threat from there could ever emerge, we will be there for ever. That, we now discover, was the goal. Quite why we do not fully know. It cannot be an end to terror: that comes from everywhere, democracies and autocracies alike. We are left with oil, a misguided belief that the West’s occupation of the Middle East will protect Israel, and, well, just because we can. None of these arguments is persuasive to me, when you factor in the enormous costs, drain on the military and absurdism of Iraqi political culture.

This is a little more revealing of Andrew’s thinking, although it’s so muddled that the more of it I see, the more confused I get. Let’s see if we can unravel this a bit.

He claims that if the goal was “disarming and deposing and executing Saddam, we have won.” That’s true. But it would be a very hollow victory indeed if, having deposed Saddam, we left chaos in his wake–chaos that would threaten our interests. That would be like someone in 1945 saying, “The goal of the war was to disarm and depose and kill Hitler, so we have won. Why keep troops in Germany?” The answer, of course, is that ending the previous regime is only part of the goal. If we remain satisfied with that narrow objective we risk repeating the mistake of 1919 when, having deposed Kaiser Wilhem II, the Allied powers failed to build a durable, democratic regime in Germany.

Sorry, Andrew; I know you don’t like analogies between Iraq and Germany, since, as you so astutely point out, there are differences between them. If you prefer, I could offer an analogy to our intervention in Haiti in 1994 when we put Jean Bertrand Aristide back into power but didn’t stick around long enough to midwife a lasting democracy. The result is that Haiti is no better off than it was before our intervention.

Perhaps you don’t like the Haiti analogy either. If so, perhaps you could provide some convincing evidence that the U.S. can invade a country, topple its regime, leave immediately–and expect a lasting, positive outcome. The best-case scenarios one could cite are probably Granada and Panama. But I would submit that the differences between Granada/Panama and Iraq are even greater than the differences between Iraq and Germany. Granada and Panama, after all, weren’t targets of subversion for hostile neighbors or international terrorist groups.

But back to your inquiry into our reasons for intervention. You write that we could not have gone into Iraq to put “an end to terror: that comes from everywhere, democracies and autocracies alike.” At the risk of another analogy to a period you’d rather not mention, that’s like saying we could not have gone into World War II to end militarism because that could arise from anywhere. True, but we did fight to end two particularly noxious strains of militarism emanating from Japan and Germany. Likewise, by deposing Saddam, we eliminated the well-documented threat he posed to the region. We also eliminated his connections to some terrorist groups. (For details, see this report commissioned by the U.S. Joint Forces Command and released last November.) No one ever claimed–and I mean no one–that deposing Saddam would result in the end of all terrorism.

Having knocked down that straw man, you proceed to list some other possible reasons for our intervention: “We are left with oil, a misguided belief that the West’s occupation of the Middle East will protect Israel, and, well, just because we can.”

I’ve already pointed out there is nothing illegitimate about protecting the flow of oil when the entire global economy depends on that precious commodity. As for protecting Israel, again there is nothing wrong with that, since Israel is our ally. But the protection of Israel is, at most, a very peripheral impact from our intervention in Iraq. Of more immediate concern is that we protect other allies much closer to Iraq, namely the Gulf states, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Turkey. Even more important, we need to protect ourselves: having Iraq turn into a setting for civil war, genocide, and international terrorism is hardly in our best interests.

I won’t bother responding to your final, juvenile taunt about “just because we can.” Instead, I will end on a note of concurrence. “If the Iraqis ask us to leave, we have no business staying,” you write. I agree. My point was that the Iraqis aren’t asking us to leave because, unlike you and other anti-war voices in the United States, they realize that the consequences of a an overly hasty American pullout would be catastrophic.

As for how will we know we’ve succeeded? That’s a matter of judgment but our objectives are fairly clear. Simply look at President Bush’s National Strategy for Victory in Iraq, released in 2005. It lists short-, medium-, and long-term goals. The long-term objective include an Iraq that “is peaceful, united, stable, and secure, well integrated into the international community, and a full partner in the global war on terrorism.” Thanks to the surge, which you opposed, we’re well on our way to achieving that goal, and as we do we can safely reduce troop levels even further. But a precipitous pullout still could undo the gains of the past year.

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Cuban Americans Upset With Obama

It may not be his top concern, but Barack Obama is still having problems with Florida’s Cuban community. They are not thrilled by two advisors (including VP vetter Eric Holder) who participated in the Elian Gonzales episode and the ultimate decision to return the boy to Cuba.

On a broader issue, it is not clear where Obama is now on meeting with Raul Castro. Obama has spent much effort backpedaling on unconditional meetings with Ahmadinejad. But does he still favor such meetings with Raul Castro?

From the February Democratic debate:

BROWN: Senator Obama, just to follow up, you had said in a previous CNN debate that you would meet with the leaders of Cuban, Iran, North Korea, among others, so presumably you would be willing to meet with the new leader of Cuba.

OBAMA: That’s correct. Now, keep in mind that the starting point for our policy in Cuba should be the liberty of the Cuban people. And I think we recognize that that liberty has not existed throughout the Castro regime. And we now have an opportunity to potentially change the relationship between the United States and Cuba after over half a century. I would meet without preconditions, although Senator Clinton is right that there has to be preparation. It is very important for us to make sure that there was an agenda, and on that agenda was human rights, releasing of political prisoners, opening up the press. And that preparation might take some time. But I do think that it’s important for the United States not just to talk to its friends, but also to talk to its enemies. In fact, that’s where diplomacy makes the biggest difference.

Hillary Clinton later in that same debate had a different view:

Well, I agree, absolutely, that we should be willing to have diplomatic negotiations and processes with anyone. I’ve been a strong advocate of opening up such a diplomatic process with Iran, for a number of years. Because I think we should look for ways that we can possibly move countries that are adversarial to us, you know, toward the world community. It’s in our interests. It’s in the interests of the people in countries that, frankly, are oppressed, like Cuba, like Iran. But there has been this difference between us over when and whether the president should offer a meeting, without preconditions, with those with whom we do not have diplomatic relations. And it should be part of a process, but I don’t think it should be offered in the beginning. Because I think that undermines the capacity for us to actually take the measure of somebody like Raul Castro or Ahmadinejad and others.

Whether Obama is going to add this issue to his list of flips may depend on the degree to which he believes that Florida is in play. If it is, one can imagine that Obama will be sounding a lot more like Clinton on this one, and soon.

It may not be his top concern, but Barack Obama is still having problems with Florida’s Cuban community. They are not thrilled by two advisors (including VP vetter Eric Holder) who participated in the Elian Gonzales episode and the ultimate decision to return the boy to Cuba.

On a broader issue, it is not clear where Obama is now on meeting with Raul Castro. Obama has spent much effort backpedaling on unconditional meetings with Ahmadinejad. But does he still favor such meetings with Raul Castro?

From the February Democratic debate:

BROWN: Senator Obama, just to follow up, you had said in a previous CNN debate that you would meet with the leaders of Cuban, Iran, North Korea, among others, so presumably you would be willing to meet with the new leader of Cuba.

OBAMA: That’s correct. Now, keep in mind that the starting point for our policy in Cuba should be the liberty of the Cuban people. And I think we recognize that that liberty has not existed throughout the Castro regime. And we now have an opportunity to potentially change the relationship between the United States and Cuba after over half a century. I would meet without preconditions, although Senator Clinton is right that there has to be preparation. It is very important for us to make sure that there was an agenda, and on that agenda was human rights, releasing of political prisoners, opening up the press. And that preparation might take some time. But I do think that it’s important for the United States not just to talk to its friends, but also to talk to its enemies. In fact, that’s where diplomacy makes the biggest difference.

Hillary Clinton later in that same debate had a different view:

Well, I agree, absolutely, that we should be willing to have diplomatic negotiations and processes with anyone. I’ve been a strong advocate of opening up such a diplomatic process with Iran, for a number of years. Because I think we should look for ways that we can possibly move countries that are adversarial to us, you know, toward the world community. It’s in our interests. It’s in the interests of the people in countries that, frankly, are oppressed, like Cuba, like Iran. But there has been this difference between us over when and whether the president should offer a meeting, without preconditions, with those with whom we do not have diplomatic relations. And it should be part of a process, but I don’t think it should be offered in the beginning. Because I think that undermines the capacity for us to actually take the measure of somebody like Raul Castro or Ahmadinejad and others.

Whether Obama is going to add this issue to his list of flips may depend on the degree to which he believes that Florida is in play. If it is, one can imagine that Obama will be sounding a lot more like Clinton on this one, and soon.

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Now He’s Gone And Done It

Of all the things that could have caused Andrew Sullivan to blow his top about Barack Obama, it’s the charming “Access Hollywood” interview with the whole Obama clan that did it:

I can barely credit that Michelle Obama agreed to this and that Barack Obama went along with it–it’s not what they would have done a few months ago. One great aspect of the Obama marriage has been the way in which they appear to have brought up their daughters as very regular girls, down-to-earth, normal and sane. Displaying them in this way was bad judgment and poor parenting. Fame is a toxin. Children deserve to be protected from it as much as they would from lead paint.

Oh, please. Could you tone down the sanctimony a smidgen? There’s a pretty basic, universally-agreed-upon first step in protecting your child from fame’s toxic effects: Don’t run for the most powerful office in the world. Not doing Access Hollywood is, of course, second. And can someone check the lead paint readings at the Atlantic offices?

Of all the things that could have caused Andrew Sullivan to blow his top about Barack Obama, it’s the charming “Access Hollywood” interview with the whole Obama clan that did it:

I can barely credit that Michelle Obama agreed to this and that Barack Obama went along with it–it’s not what they would have done a few months ago. One great aspect of the Obama marriage has been the way in which they appear to have brought up their daughters as very regular girls, down-to-earth, normal and sane. Displaying them in this way was bad judgment and poor parenting. Fame is a toxin. Children deserve to be protected from it as much as they would from lead paint.

Oh, please. Could you tone down the sanctimony a smidgen? There’s a pretty basic, universally-agreed-upon first step in protecting your child from fame’s toxic effects: Don’t run for the most powerful office in the world. Not doing Access Hollywood is, of course, second. And can someone check the lead paint readings at the Atlantic offices?

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Re: What’s Spanish For “Hypocrite”?

Aside from the condescension and hypocrisy of Barack Obama’s directive for Americans to learn Spanish, there was another part of his remarks that is more serious and troubling. As Roger Clegg points out, Obama doesn’t seem to put much importance on teaching immigrants English. “Oh, they’ll learn English,” he says. But they haven’t been, at least at a rate which satisfies the children’s own parents. Hence, we have state and local efforts to overthrow the educational status quo, abandon the failed bilingual language programs and adopt English immersion.

This seems to be just the type of “dumb-avoidance” that Obama should favor. Instead, he races past discussion of increasing English proficiency (as he did in the debate in Texas ) to lecture Americans to learn other languages. While the latter is helpful and important the two are not of equal weight. Moreover, by invoking the latter, he seems to be engaged in a major pander, in essence saying “Until you all learn Spanish don’t be fussing about them not speaking English.”

But, of course, both from the perspective of the immigrants who will never be successful and integrate into the American economy without English and from the perspective of the country as a whole the real priority is getting everyone in this country to speak a common language, English.

So the next time Obama feels the need to give a fauxtough talk” to a group perhaps he should give a real dose of strong medicine (to educators, for example) about the absolute primacy of learning English.

Aside from the condescension and hypocrisy of Barack Obama’s directive for Americans to learn Spanish, there was another part of his remarks that is more serious and troubling. As Roger Clegg points out, Obama doesn’t seem to put much importance on teaching immigrants English. “Oh, they’ll learn English,” he says. But they haven’t been, at least at a rate which satisfies the children’s own parents. Hence, we have state and local efforts to overthrow the educational status quo, abandon the failed bilingual language programs and adopt English immersion.

This seems to be just the type of “dumb-avoidance” that Obama should favor. Instead, he races past discussion of increasing English proficiency (as he did in the debate in Texas ) to lecture Americans to learn other languages. While the latter is helpful and important the two are not of equal weight. Moreover, by invoking the latter, he seems to be engaged in a major pander, in essence saying “Until you all learn Spanish don’t be fussing about them not speaking English.”

But, of course, both from the perspective of the immigrants who will never be successful and integrate into the American economy without English and from the perspective of the country as a whole the real priority is getting everyone in this country to speak a common language, English.

So the next time Obama feels the need to give a fauxtough talk” to a group perhaps he should give a real dose of strong medicine (to educators, for example) about the absolute primacy of learning English.

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Will This Be Next?

John McCain yesterday focused criticism of Barack Obama on his response to Iran’s missile tests on two grounds. First, McCain says that “threatening” Iran with unilateral U.S. talks is counterproductive. Second, Obama has opposed measures like Kyl-Lieberman (which identified the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terror organization and makes way for sanctions ) as well as development of missile defense. It is unlikely Obama is going to give up on his “that’ll show ‘em — give them U.S. negotiators” talk.

But he has already tried to flip on Kyl-Lieberman. Could missile defense be next? After all, he could meet with commanders and scientists, declare he’s open to learning new things, and decide a missile defense system for the U.S. and our allies is a good idea.

Since he is in need of some new material and is so enamored of negotiations he might want to brush up on his Cold War history. He might learn how developing both defensive and offensive capabilities impacts our adversaries. It’s called getting leverage. As Thomas Friedman put it, “When you don’t have leverage, get some. Then talk.” But in Obama’s world, where words work magic — on audiences of college students and the media, primarily — such a notion is alien. Putting “aggressive” as an adjective before “negotiations” doesn’t increase the likelihood that meetings with be productive.

Still, I won’t give up hope. (And, in fact, there’s some evidence that he has already created some ambiguity on his position.) If Iran went from a “tiny” threat to a “grave” threat, maybe Obama would be amenable to changing his policy from “cut defensive capabilities” to “enhance our defensive capabilities.” I am sure he can explain that it is really no change at all and he’s always been open to listening to experts on national security.

John McCain yesterday focused criticism of Barack Obama on his response to Iran’s missile tests on two grounds. First, McCain says that “threatening” Iran with unilateral U.S. talks is counterproductive. Second, Obama has opposed measures like Kyl-Lieberman (which identified the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terror organization and makes way for sanctions ) as well as development of missile defense. It is unlikely Obama is going to give up on his “that’ll show ‘em — give them U.S. negotiators” talk.

But he has already tried to flip on Kyl-Lieberman. Could missile defense be next? After all, he could meet with commanders and scientists, declare he’s open to learning new things, and decide a missile defense system for the U.S. and our allies is a good idea.

Since he is in need of some new material and is so enamored of negotiations he might want to brush up on his Cold War history. He might learn how developing both defensive and offensive capabilities impacts our adversaries. It’s called getting leverage. As Thomas Friedman put it, “When you don’t have leverage, get some. Then talk.” But in Obama’s world, where words work magic — on audiences of college students and the media, primarily — such a notion is alien. Putting “aggressive” as an adjective before “negotiations” doesn’t increase the likelihood that meetings with be productive.

Still, I won’t give up hope. (And, in fact, there’s some evidence that he has already created some ambiguity on his position.) If Iran went from a “tiny” threat to a “grave” threat, maybe Obama would be amenable to changing his policy from “cut defensive capabilities” to “enhance our defensive capabilities.” I am sure he can explain that it is really no change at all and he’s always been open to listening to experts on national security.

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MSM Hits Rock Bottom

Mark Eichenlaub of regimeofterror.com directed me toward this masterpiece of irresponsible speculation and anti-Bush psychosis written by Massimo Calabresi in Time magazine. Here is the first paragraph:

George W. Bush and the Iranians are locked in a diplomatic game of “Who’s crazier?” With six months left in office, no political capital at home or abroad, and a uniformed military ready to rebel at the first talk of a new war, the Bush administration is left with simply the threat of military strikes, kept eternally “on the table” in hopes of bluffing Tehran into a compromise on its nuclear program.

Well, at least Calabresi admits that Bush is being “diplomatic,” right? As for the “who’s crazier” question: It might be of interest to Calebresi (though, it probably isn’t) that writing about Ahmadinejad in this manner could get him executed in Iran. Pretty “crazy,” huh, Massimo? Putting aside Calabresi’s moral ineptitude in equating a proponent of democracy with a proponent of genocide, just where does this journalist get his groundbreaking information from? The U.S. military is on the verge of rebellion? This is Time magazine, after all. Such assertions can’t make it to publication without rigorous fact-checking, can they? I, for one, would like to see the evidence for this deeply troubling claim.

The rest of the piece is equally rich in laughable assertions and ethical abjection, and represents a new low in mainstream media. Looking into Calebresi’s background, yielded this piece from the Yale Daily News about a visit Massimo made to his alma mater last year. The highlights in this article are just as amusing as Massimo’s own Kos-esque rant. In the article, Naina Saligram observed:

In one of the more pointed moments of the evening, Calabresi suggested the world outside Yale is full of people with a “very low level of analytical skill.”

[...]

Some audience members interviewed said they were struck by Calabresi’s candidness.

“I was surprised to hear what Calabresi said about interacting with the public after leaving Yale,” said Paul Broomfield, father of Liz Broomfield ‘08. “Basically, he was saying that outside Yale, everyone is pretty stupid.”

Others interviewed at the talk said they were surprised by Calabresi’s criticism of the state of American politics.

“It was interesting that he had not one positive thing to say about the Bush administration,” Erica Newland ‘08 said.

Great job, Time. Keep the quality up.

Mark Eichenlaub of regimeofterror.com directed me toward this masterpiece of irresponsible speculation and anti-Bush psychosis written by Massimo Calabresi in Time magazine. Here is the first paragraph:

George W. Bush and the Iranians are locked in a diplomatic game of “Who’s crazier?” With six months left in office, no political capital at home or abroad, and a uniformed military ready to rebel at the first talk of a new war, the Bush administration is left with simply the threat of military strikes, kept eternally “on the table” in hopes of bluffing Tehran into a compromise on its nuclear program.

Well, at least Calabresi admits that Bush is being “diplomatic,” right? As for the “who’s crazier” question: It might be of interest to Calebresi (though, it probably isn’t) that writing about Ahmadinejad in this manner could get him executed in Iran. Pretty “crazy,” huh, Massimo? Putting aside Calabresi’s moral ineptitude in equating a proponent of democracy with a proponent of genocide, just where does this journalist get his groundbreaking information from? The U.S. military is on the verge of rebellion? This is Time magazine, after all. Such assertions can’t make it to publication without rigorous fact-checking, can they? I, for one, would like to see the evidence for this deeply troubling claim.

The rest of the piece is equally rich in laughable assertions and ethical abjection, and represents a new low in mainstream media. Looking into Calebresi’s background, yielded this piece from the Yale Daily News about a visit Massimo made to his alma mater last year. The highlights in this article are just as amusing as Massimo’s own Kos-esque rant. In the article, Naina Saligram observed:

In one of the more pointed moments of the evening, Calabresi suggested the world outside Yale is full of people with a “very low level of analytical skill.”

[...]

Some audience members interviewed said they were struck by Calabresi’s candidness.

“I was surprised to hear what Calabresi said about interacting with the public after leaving Yale,” said Paul Broomfield, father of Liz Broomfield ‘08. “Basically, he was saying that outside Yale, everyone is pretty stupid.”

Others interviewed at the talk said they were surprised by Calabresi’s criticism of the state of American politics.

“It was interesting that he had not one positive thing to say about the Bush administration,” Erica Newland ‘08 said.

Great job, Time. Keep the quality up.

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Enjoy Minsk, Phil Gramm

Phil Gramm, John McCain’s best friend and one of his closest advisers, told the Washington Times that the current economic circumstances constitute a “mental recession” and that we’ve become a “nation of whiners.” Barack Obama, wittily, just said this country doesn’t need another “Dr. Phil.” Quickly following him, John McCain spoke with quiet fury about Gramm’s remarks, and then attemped a harsh joke by saying that the only job Gramm is now up for in his administration is ambassador to Belarus. He then managed a very strong ad-lib using Obama’s words against him by declaring Obama “Dr. No” when it comes to any effort to boost energy production inside the United States.

McCain acted quickly, but Gramm’s remarks constitute exactly the kind of unforced error that seems to characterize political campaigns in trouble — just as Jesse Jackson’s sneering, nasty, vicious words against Barack Obama are a gift to a Democratic nominee for whom everything seems to be falling into place.

Phil Gramm, John McCain’s best friend and one of his closest advisers, told the Washington Times that the current economic circumstances constitute a “mental recession” and that we’ve become a “nation of whiners.” Barack Obama, wittily, just said this country doesn’t need another “Dr. Phil.” Quickly following him, John McCain spoke with quiet fury about Gramm’s remarks, and then attemped a harsh joke by saying that the only job Gramm is now up for in his administration is ambassador to Belarus. He then managed a very strong ad-lib using Obama’s words against him by declaring Obama “Dr. No” when it comes to any effort to boost energy production inside the United States.

McCain acted quickly, but Gramm’s remarks constitute exactly the kind of unforced error that seems to characterize political campaigns in trouble — just as Jesse Jackson’s sneering, nasty, vicious words against Barack Obama are a gift to a Democratic nominee for whom everything seems to be falling into place.

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Abortion Confusion

Barack Obama’s muddle on abortion hasn’t gotten a ton of coverage. And in fairness to the mainstream media they have had a lot more critical and dramatic flip-flops to cover (e.g. Iraq and FISA). But as this story shows, Obama has flummoxed his pro-choice supporters. Did he mean to undercut the legal underpinnings for Roe v. Wade? They don’t think so. But if not, what was he up to? Pro-choice advocates are concerned: “that kind of statement [undercutting the mental health justification] really feeds into the wingnut argument that women have abortions because they are frivolous about that decision, because we are having a bad hair day.”

Let me help: 1) He was trying to give meaningless rhetorical comfort to value voters; 2) he didn’t realize that questioning the mental health justification for late-term abortions was a fundamental no-no for pro-choice absolutists; 3) when he tried to correct his error, his explanation didn’t make any sense either; and 4) He’s going to appoint as many Ruth Bader Ginsburgs as he can find to fill vacancies, so they needn’t worry. I think that covers it.

In short, there is no need for anyone to worry that Obama has gone wobbly on abortion. They can worry, however, that they are dealing with someone whose legal acumen is vastly overrated and who says things that will make healing the breach with Hillary Clinton supporters that much more difficult. They can join the growing and long line of disappointed and disillusioned Obama supporters. Hey, if they wanted a knowledgeable, experienced hand who understood all the intricacies of abortion law and politics, they should have supported Hillary.

Barack Obama’s muddle on abortion hasn’t gotten a ton of coverage. And in fairness to the mainstream media they have had a lot more critical and dramatic flip-flops to cover (e.g. Iraq and FISA). But as this story shows, Obama has flummoxed his pro-choice supporters. Did he mean to undercut the legal underpinnings for Roe v. Wade? They don’t think so. But if not, what was he up to? Pro-choice advocates are concerned: “that kind of statement [undercutting the mental health justification] really feeds into the wingnut argument that women have abortions because they are frivolous about that decision, because we are having a bad hair day.”

Let me help: 1) He was trying to give meaningless rhetorical comfort to value voters; 2) he didn’t realize that questioning the mental health justification for late-term abortions was a fundamental no-no for pro-choice absolutists; 3) when he tried to correct his error, his explanation didn’t make any sense either; and 4) He’s going to appoint as many Ruth Bader Ginsburgs as he can find to fill vacancies, so they needn’t worry. I think that covers it.

In short, there is no need for anyone to worry that Obama has gone wobbly on abortion. They can worry, however, that they are dealing with someone whose legal acumen is vastly overrated and who says things that will make healing the breach with Hillary Clinton supporters that much more difficult. They can join the growing and long line of disappointed and disillusioned Obama supporters. Hey, if they wanted a knowledgeable, experienced hand who understood all the intricacies of abortion law and politics, they should have supported Hillary.

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China’s “Gold Standard”

The theme song for the Beijing Olympics, now 28 days away, is “We Are Ready.”

The International Olympic Committee, which just completed the last formal inspection of the preparations for the Games, agrees. “Here in the Chinese capital you can now really sense the excitement and anticipation,” said IOC Coordination Chairman Hein Verbruggen as he wound up a two-day visit this week. “The quality of preparation, the readiness of the venues and the attention to operational detail for these Games have set a gold standard for the future.”

Of course. The Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games has worked feverishly for years to build a magnificent site in the Chinese capital for the global event, and the six co-host cities–Shanghai, Shenyang, Hong Kong, Qingdao, Qinhuangdao, and Tianjin–have made sure that their Olympic venues will also be in top form. The Chinese central government has constructed the supporting infrastructure and mobilized the population with techniques reminiscent of its Maoist past. At this moment, officials all over the country are attending to their July tasks, including rounding up dissidents, deporting foreigners, and intimidating journalists. Most everyone expected Chinese officials to implement a crackdown prior to the Olympics, but no observer expected them to go to such obsessive lengths. The repressive measures, however, have created a sullen mood across many segments of China’s normally lively populace.

Chinese officials have proved that, at least over a limited period, they can successfully manipulate a population in order to stage an extravaganza. Yet they are having a harder time against another adversary. An algae bloom has choked about a third of the course for the sailing events in Qingdao, and tens of thousands of soldiers and volunteers are hauling thick green vegetation out of the water. In Beijing, the challenge is more complex. When I was there last week I saw the sun once. Over the course of three days it was visible only for a few moments through the petrochemical haze when my wife and I left for the airport. During the weekend the oppressive smog and cloud lifted after a heavy downpour, but the relief was temporary as the heavy pollution returned Monday. And in a story that could only come out of the Bible, locusts, carried by winds from the north, threaten the Chinese capital next month.

The final days leading to the opening ceremony on August 8 will witness a heroic battle between humankind, represented by Chinese officialdom, and Mother Nature. There is too much national prestige at stake for the modern Chinese state to fail, so we can expect the dictators and their technocrats to overcome especially challenging difficulties. They will gas the locusts, cart away the algae, and somehow cleanse the air. Environmental degradation in China is by now irreversible, but the government can still marshal its considerable resources to win temporary victories.

After the athletes and tourists go home, many will undoubtedly say that the success of the Beijing Olympics proves the viability of authoritarianism in the 21st century. It will be more precise to say that Chinese authoritarians are able to stage awe-inspiring spectacles but that their tactics are not sustainable in the long-run.

The theme song for the Beijing Olympics, now 28 days away, is “We Are Ready.”

The International Olympic Committee, which just completed the last formal inspection of the preparations for the Games, agrees. “Here in the Chinese capital you can now really sense the excitement and anticipation,” said IOC Coordination Chairman Hein Verbruggen as he wound up a two-day visit this week. “The quality of preparation, the readiness of the venues and the attention to operational detail for these Games have set a gold standard for the future.”

Of course. The Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games has worked feverishly for years to build a magnificent site in the Chinese capital for the global event, and the six co-host cities–Shanghai, Shenyang, Hong Kong, Qingdao, Qinhuangdao, and Tianjin–have made sure that their Olympic venues will also be in top form. The Chinese central government has constructed the supporting infrastructure and mobilized the population with techniques reminiscent of its Maoist past. At this moment, officials all over the country are attending to their July tasks, including rounding up dissidents, deporting foreigners, and intimidating journalists. Most everyone expected Chinese officials to implement a crackdown prior to the Olympics, but no observer expected them to go to such obsessive lengths. The repressive measures, however, have created a sullen mood across many segments of China’s normally lively populace.

Chinese officials have proved that, at least over a limited period, they can successfully manipulate a population in order to stage an extravaganza. Yet they are having a harder time against another adversary. An algae bloom has choked about a third of the course for the sailing events in Qingdao, and tens of thousands of soldiers and volunteers are hauling thick green vegetation out of the water. In Beijing, the challenge is more complex. When I was there last week I saw the sun once. Over the course of three days it was visible only for a few moments through the petrochemical haze when my wife and I left for the airport. During the weekend the oppressive smog and cloud lifted after a heavy downpour, but the relief was temporary as the heavy pollution returned Monday. And in a story that could only come out of the Bible, locusts, carried by winds from the north, threaten the Chinese capital next month.

The final days leading to the opening ceremony on August 8 will witness a heroic battle between humankind, represented by Chinese officialdom, and Mother Nature. There is too much national prestige at stake for the modern Chinese state to fail, so we can expect the dictators and their technocrats to overcome especially challenging difficulties. They will gas the locusts, cart away the algae, and somehow cleanse the air. Environmental degradation in China is by now irreversible, but the government can still marshal its considerable resources to win temporary victories.

After the athletes and tourists go home, many will undoubtedly say that the success of the Beijing Olympics proves the viability of authoritarianism in the 21st century. It will be more precise to say that Chinese authoritarians are able to stage awe-inspiring spectacles but that their tactics are not sustainable in the long-run.

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Kristof, the UN, Darfur, and Iraq

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times has written an intelligent column on Darfur, an issue he has been admirably fixated on over the years. Kristof argues that the G-8 has not done enough to stop genocide in Darfur. Kristof’s interpretation of the (flawed) mindset of the G-8 goes like this: genocide is bad, but it ought not be a priority. Little can be done, after all, so we ought to focus our efforts elsewhere, on issues like malaria and global AIDS, where the chances of progress are better.

Read the rest of the COMMENTARY web exclusive here.

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times has written an intelligent column on Darfur, an issue he has been admirably fixated on over the years. Kristof argues that the G-8 has not done enough to stop genocide in Darfur. Kristof’s interpretation of the (flawed) mindset of the G-8 goes like this: genocide is bad, but it ought not be a priority. Little can be done, after all, so we ought to focus our efforts elsewhere, on issues like malaria and global AIDS, where the chances of progress are better.

Read the rest of the COMMENTARY web exclusive here.

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It’s All The Same Enemy

Barack Obama likes to peddle the notion that the U.S. stopped fighting the real enemy in Afghanistan in order to chase Iraqi bogeymen. As recently as June 18, Obama gave a speech in which he said:

We had al Qaeda and the Taliban on the run back in 2002. But then we diverted military, intelligence, financial, and diplomatic resources to Iraq. And yet Senator McCain has said as recently as this April that, “Afghanistan is not in trouble because of our diversion to Iraq.” I think that just shows a dangerous misjudgment of the facts, and a stubborn determination to ignore the need to finish the fight in Afghanistan.

But it is Obama’s dangerous misjudgment that’s manifest in such statements. The fight in Afghanistan was never compromised by Iraq. Indeed, coalition efforts in Iraq ultimately took down a lethal wing of the very same enemy forces faced in Kabul and Tora Bora. A story in today’s New York Times makes that crystal clear. The Times reports that foreign fighters have recently been flocking to Pakistan’s tribal area to help wage jihad against coalition forces. Here’s the most relevant part:

According to the American officials, many of the fighters making their way to the tribal areas are Uzbeks, North Africans and Arabs from Persian Gulf states American intelligence officials say that some jihadist Web sites have been encouraging foreign militants to go to Pakistan and Afghanistan, which is considered a “winning fight,” compared with the insurgency in Iraq, which has suffered sharp setbacks recently.

Wherever the U.S. fights militant Islam, foreign jihadists will come and pick up arms against American forces. What Obama, and every last leading Democrat, fails to understand is that the enemy is not a static body fighting from a fixed location, and that the U.S.’s having dealt a spectacular blow to al-Qaeda in Iraq was every bit as valuable as would have been a similar trouncing in Afghanistan. (and a similar trouncing is hopefully on the way.)

Over the past two decades, foreign militants have flocked to the Balkans to Chechnya to Northern Africa to Afghanistan to Iraq and beyond, to kill infidels in the name of jihad. As the Times story makes plain, we are up against a rolling band of journeymen jihadists. This discredits the charge that the Iraq insurgency was primarily driven by native resentment to a specific foreign occupation. Those same insurgents are now taking the fight to new lands because they are sworn enemies of freedom and modernity. The fact that jihadist websites are calling for this redistribution of fighters means two critical things: First, jihad suffered a massive setback at the hands of coalition forces in Iraq. Second, no matter where we go, we will be up against the same enemy. This presidential election is about which candidate understands those two things and which candidate is trying to cling to politicized and discredited criticisms of the War on Terror.

Barack Obama likes to peddle the notion that the U.S. stopped fighting the real enemy in Afghanistan in order to chase Iraqi bogeymen. As recently as June 18, Obama gave a speech in which he said:

We had al Qaeda and the Taliban on the run back in 2002. But then we diverted military, intelligence, financial, and diplomatic resources to Iraq. And yet Senator McCain has said as recently as this April that, “Afghanistan is not in trouble because of our diversion to Iraq.” I think that just shows a dangerous misjudgment of the facts, and a stubborn determination to ignore the need to finish the fight in Afghanistan.

But it is Obama’s dangerous misjudgment that’s manifest in such statements. The fight in Afghanistan was never compromised by Iraq. Indeed, coalition efforts in Iraq ultimately took down a lethal wing of the very same enemy forces faced in Kabul and Tora Bora. A story in today’s New York Times makes that crystal clear. The Times reports that foreign fighters have recently been flocking to Pakistan’s tribal area to help wage jihad against coalition forces. Here’s the most relevant part:

According to the American officials, many of the fighters making their way to the tribal areas are Uzbeks, North Africans and Arabs from Persian Gulf states American intelligence officials say that some jihadist Web sites have been encouraging foreign militants to go to Pakistan and Afghanistan, which is considered a “winning fight,” compared with the insurgency in Iraq, which has suffered sharp setbacks recently.

Wherever the U.S. fights militant Islam, foreign jihadists will come and pick up arms against American forces. What Obama, and every last leading Democrat, fails to understand is that the enemy is not a static body fighting from a fixed location, and that the U.S.’s having dealt a spectacular blow to al-Qaeda in Iraq was every bit as valuable as would have been a similar trouncing in Afghanistan. (and a similar trouncing is hopefully on the way.)

Over the past two decades, foreign militants have flocked to the Balkans to Chechnya to Northern Africa to Afghanistan to Iraq and beyond, to kill infidels in the name of jihad. As the Times story makes plain, we are up against a rolling band of journeymen jihadists. This discredits the charge that the Iraq insurgency was primarily driven by native resentment to a specific foreign occupation. Those same insurgents are now taking the fight to new lands because they are sworn enemies of freedom and modernity. The fact that jihadist websites are calling for this redistribution of fighters means two critical things: First, jihad suffered a massive setback at the hands of coalition forces in Iraq. Second, no matter where we go, we will be up against the same enemy. This presidential election is about which candidate understands those two things and which candidate is trying to cling to politicized and discredited criticisms of the War on Terror.

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Gail Collins Loses It

I suggested that Barack Obama needed a rational explanation for all the flip-flopping other than denial. Along comes Gail Collins, who, in what is either one of the stupidest or most disingenuous columns ever written, says we misunderstood the entire history of Barack Obama’s stated political worldview. (And adds an incomprehensible metaphor involving penguins. No really. Read it. Paragraphs 7-9.)

She says he never “was about ideology”–he was just against being dumb. But the full list of his complete policy reversals from FISA to NAFTA to campaign finance (even Collins has thrown in the towel on that one) to Kyl-Lieberman to corporate taxes to an undivided Jerusalem to . . . well you get the idea. . . it is a really long. The facts are facts.

This is just another variation on the “why are you all so dense?” defense. Although she says Obama only stood for “dumb-avoidance,” this isn’t quite right. And what she’s up to now is calling the voters and many of her own colleagues dumb. They are apparently too stupid to realize that Obama’s campaign wasn’t about any of the issues, his ads didn’t matter, his debate answers were outright lies, and he never intended for us to take him seriously. Hillary Clinton had it right all along: it was just words. In other words, it isn’t that he is flip-flopping: he just lacks any real “core principles.” (Or, as Daniel Henninger puts it, he’s a “flexible opportunist” who “lacks personal and political clarity.”) And this counts, somehow, as a defense?

Its closer, at least, to the truth. But it doesn’t sound very good. In fact, Obama is starting to seem like Clinton-lite. I think Obama’s supporters need to go back to the drawing board. Or maybe least stage an intervention for their candidate.

I suggested that Barack Obama needed a rational explanation for all the flip-flopping other than denial. Along comes Gail Collins, who, in what is either one of the stupidest or most disingenuous columns ever written, says we misunderstood the entire history of Barack Obama’s stated political worldview. (And adds an incomprehensible metaphor involving penguins. No really. Read it. Paragraphs 7-9.)

She says he never “was about ideology”–he was just against being dumb. But the full list of his complete policy reversals from FISA to NAFTA to campaign finance (even Collins has thrown in the towel on that one) to Kyl-Lieberman to corporate taxes to an undivided Jerusalem to . . . well you get the idea. . . it is a really long. The facts are facts.

This is just another variation on the “why are you all so dense?” defense. Although she says Obama only stood for “dumb-avoidance,” this isn’t quite right. And what she’s up to now is calling the voters and many of her own colleagues dumb. They are apparently too stupid to realize that Obama’s campaign wasn’t about any of the issues, his ads didn’t matter, his debate answers were outright lies, and he never intended for us to take him seriously. Hillary Clinton had it right all along: it was just words. In other words, it isn’t that he is flip-flopping: he just lacks any real “core principles.” (Or, as Daniel Henninger puts it, he’s a “flexible opportunist” who “lacks personal and political clarity.”) And this counts, somehow, as a defense?

Its closer, at least, to the truth. But it doesn’t sound very good. In fact, Obama is starting to seem like Clinton-lite. I think Obama’s supporters need to go back to the drawing board. Or maybe least stage an intervention for their candidate.

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Will Iran’s Nuclear Missile Test Trigger War?

That is the title of a Newsweek piece by Michael Hirsh. And to save you the tedium of reading the essay itself, allow me to provide Hirsh’s answer: Yes, Iran’s missile test might trigger hostilities; but if everyone would just listen to Barack Obama already, war can be avoided.

Oh, Hirsh doesn’t actually mention Obama by name. But he concludes the piece with an emphatic endorsement of the necessity of heeding Obama’s call for direct, presidential-level diplomacy with Tehran:

In fact, right now there may be only one way left to stop hostilities: a direct diplomatic overture from Washington to Tehran. Iran has long made clear it wants what any sensible government wants: to negotiate with the power that has the ability to threaten it (the United States), as opposed to dickering with proxy powers that don’t (the Europeans). It’s time to stop playing around with pretend diplomacy.

The problem here is that Hirsh, and the magazine he writes for, appear to be so deep in the tank for Obama that they’re simply inventing facts. What exactly is Hirsh’s evidence that “Iran has long made it clear it wants” direct negotiations with the United States? This is, not to put too fine a point on it, a false statement. But it is one on which Obama’s Iran strategy is premised. Naturally, this false premise has become Newsweek‘s as well.

That is the title of a Newsweek piece by Michael Hirsh. And to save you the tedium of reading the essay itself, allow me to provide Hirsh’s answer: Yes, Iran’s missile test might trigger hostilities; but if everyone would just listen to Barack Obama already, war can be avoided.

Oh, Hirsh doesn’t actually mention Obama by name. But he concludes the piece with an emphatic endorsement of the necessity of heeding Obama’s call for direct, presidential-level diplomacy with Tehran:

In fact, right now there may be only one way left to stop hostilities: a direct diplomatic overture from Washington to Tehran. Iran has long made clear it wants what any sensible government wants: to negotiate with the power that has the ability to threaten it (the United States), as opposed to dickering with proxy powers that don’t (the Europeans). It’s time to stop playing around with pretend diplomacy.

The problem here is that Hirsh, and the magazine he writes for, appear to be so deep in the tank for Obama that they’re simply inventing facts. What exactly is Hirsh’s evidence that “Iran has long made it clear it wants” direct negotiations with the United States? This is, not to put too fine a point on it, a false statement. But it is one on which Obama’s Iran strategy is premised. Naturally, this false premise has become Newsweek‘s as well.

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Did Iran Doctor the Missile Launch Photos?

Ynet thinks so, and provides evidence to suggest that an official Iranian Revolutionary Guards photo of the missile launch yesterday was doctored to add a fourth missile which, in the video they sent out, never left the ground.

What a weird thing to do. Are they less dangerous to the West if only 3 out of 4 missiles work? And after the Reuters debacle in 2006, did they really think they would get away with it?

Ynet thinks so, and provides evidence to suggest that an official Iranian Revolutionary Guards photo of the missile launch yesterday was doctored to add a fourth missile which, in the video they sent out, never left the ground.

What a weird thing to do. Are they less dangerous to the West if only 3 out of 4 missiles work? And after the Reuters debacle in 2006, did they really think they would get away with it?

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All The News That’s Not Fit To Print

Did you know there was a media roundtable at Al Faw Palace in Baghdad on Wednesday with Army Lt. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin? Not from watching the evening news or reading the mainstream U.S. newspapers. ( A brief account is found on page eleven of the Wall Street Journal.) Austin had some interesting things to say, according to this report:

Today, the Iraqi government is “firmly in control of Baghdad, Basra and Mosul,” Austin said. “We’ve made some significant gains here in terms of security, and we hope that we can continue to build upon those.” Coalition forces in Anbar province are in the process of handing over full control to the central government as well, he added. A major reason for this change is the progression of Iraqi security forces, the general said. Since late March, when major operations began in northern, central and southern Iraq, violence and attack levels in the country have dipped to the lowest point in four years. Attack levels are down more than 90 percent during the past year. And as Iraqi army and police units continue to mature, the coalition and Iraqi government have been able to shift more focus toward central services and other issues affecting Iraqis, according to military officials in Baghdad. “Our efforts in conjunction with the efforts of the Iraqi security forces have been significant in reducing the number of attacks throughout the country,” Austin said. “[Iraqi security forces] have collected up a number of caches, and they’ve also conducted operations in Basra and Amarah. And as we watch that unfold, we see them take out a tremendous amount of lethal accelerants off the battlefield.” Austin said he’s pleased with his force’s hard work, but continues to focus against finishing the fight with al-Qaida in the north and efforts against Iranian-backed “special groups criminals” in the south.

There is still much to be done, Austin concedes:

As security maintains progress, coalition forces have the opportunity to shift more of their efforts toward central services for the Iraqi people, the general said. “We have a long way to go, but we’re here to help ensure the Iraqi security forces provide sustainable security that’s going to allow the government to continue to grow and allow the economy to flourish,” he said.

My first question is: which media outlets attended this roundtable (and presumably others like it) and why don’t their stories get published in the U.S.? My next question: while progress has accelerated recently, this rather extraordinary transformation did not happen overnight, so why weren’t the Democrats in Congress — including those who have been traveling to Iraq — reporting back this same information?

Hmm. Now that I think of it, my two questions are not unrelated. Had the media been reporting the positive military and political developments all along, it is unlikely the Democrats would have gotten away with (let alone, tried) their “see no progress, hear no progress, speak no progress” routine for so long. (And good news is still buried: the Washington Post, for example, notes on page 11 the report of Lt. General James Dubik to lawmakers on Capitol Hill that Iraqi’s army and police will be fully-manned and operational by mid-2009.) Conversely, had Democrats who had access to commanders here and those who went to Iraq been publicly candid about what they were being told, the media might have reported the positive developments as they progressed. And had both of these happened, perhaps we wouldn’t have had to wait until July 2008 for the Democratic presidential nominee to visit Iraq , decide that things really have changed, and maybe alter his position too.

There is good reason to be critical and disturbed about the Bush adminstration’s mishandling of the war for too long. But there are also ample grounds to be deeply disturbed about the hide-the-ball routine played by virtually the entire media and one political party during an election year.

Put differently, what did Barack Obama know about Iraq and when did he know it?

Did you know there was a media roundtable at Al Faw Palace in Baghdad on Wednesday with Army Lt. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin? Not from watching the evening news or reading the mainstream U.S. newspapers. ( A brief account is found on page eleven of the Wall Street Journal.) Austin had some interesting things to say, according to this report:

Today, the Iraqi government is “firmly in control of Baghdad, Basra and Mosul,” Austin said. “We’ve made some significant gains here in terms of security, and we hope that we can continue to build upon those.” Coalition forces in Anbar province are in the process of handing over full control to the central government as well, he added. A major reason for this change is the progression of Iraqi security forces, the general said. Since late March, when major operations began in northern, central and southern Iraq, violence and attack levels in the country have dipped to the lowest point in four years. Attack levels are down more than 90 percent during the past year. And as Iraqi army and police units continue to mature, the coalition and Iraqi government have been able to shift more focus toward central services and other issues affecting Iraqis, according to military officials in Baghdad. “Our efforts in conjunction with the efforts of the Iraqi security forces have been significant in reducing the number of attacks throughout the country,” Austin said. “[Iraqi security forces] have collected up a number of caches, and they’ve also conducted operations in Basra and Amarah. And as we watch that unfold, we see them take out a tremendous amount of lethal accelerants off the battlefield.” Austin said he’s pleased with his force’s hard work, but continues to focus against finishing the fight with al-Qaida in the north and efforts against Iranian-backed “special groups criminals” in the south.

There is still much to be done, Austin concedes:

As security maintains progress, coalition forces have the opportunity to shift more of their efforts toward central services for the Iraqi people, the general said. “We have a long way to go, but we’re here to help ensure the Iraqi security forces provide sustainable security that’s going to allow the government to continue to grow and allow the economy to flourish,” he said.

My first question is: which media outlets attended this roundtable (and presumably others like it) and why don’t their stories get published in the U.S.? My next question: while progress has accelerated recently, this rather extraordinary transformation did not happen overnight, so why weren’t the Democrats in Congress — including those who have been traveling to Iraq — reporting back this same information?

Hmm. Now that I think of it, my two questions are not unrelated. Had the media been reporting the positive military and political developments all along, it is unlikely the Democrats would have gotten away with (let alone, tried) their “see no progress, hear no progress, speak no progress” routine for so long. (And good news is still buried: the Washington Post, for example, notes on page 11 the report of Lt. General James Dubik to lawmakers on Capitol Hill that Iraqi’s army and police will be fully-manned and operational by mid-2009.) Conversely, had Democrats who had access to commanders here and those who went to Iraq been publicly candid about what they were being told, the media might have reported the positive developments as they progressed. And had both of these happened, perhaps we wouldn’t have had to wait until July 2008 for the Democratic presidential nominee to visit Iraq , decide that things really have changed, and maybe alter his position too.

There is good reason to be critical and disturbed about the Bush adminstration’s mishandling of the war for too long. But there are also ample grounds to be deeply disturbed about the hide-the-ball routine played by virtually the entire media and one political party during an election year.

Put differently, what did Barack Obama know about Iraq and when did he know it?

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A Little Perspective

Western culture is soaked so deeply with false optimism, with the commercialization of the most shallow kinds of feel-good stories, that it is often really hard for actually sensitive people to avoid adopting a permanent posture of cynicism and skepticism. So when a really powerful story of personal struggle appears, we owe ourselves a little room to appreciate it, even to shed a tear.

Today’s Haaretz has a brief video about Oren Almog, a 15-year-old who lost five close relatives in a 2003 terror bombing in Haifa. He also lost his sight. The kid is charming and clever, and has an incredible attitude towards life and the challenges he faces. Don’t miss it.

Western culture is soaked so deeply with false optimism, with the commercialization of the most shallow kinds of feel-good stories, that it is often really hard for actually sensitive people to avoid adopting a permanent posture of cynicism and skepticism. So when a really powerful story of personal struggle appears, we owe ourselves a little room to appreciate it, even to shed a tear.

Today’s Haaretz has a brief video about Oren Almog, a 15-year-old who lost five close relatives in a 2003 terror bombing in Haifa. He also lost his sight. The kid is charming and clever, and has an incredible attitude towards life and the challenges he faces. Don’t miss it.

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Re: What’s Spanish For Hypocrite?

I never learned Spanish either, Abe, but one phrase I do recall from childhood is sin verguenza [without shame], which pretty much sums up Barrack Obama. The man is shameless—he has gotten away with flip flops that would have sunk an ordinary mortal and managed to turn those who point out his reversals into the real villains. If he were a character in a telenovela, they’d be whispering sin verguenza every time he left the room. But they’d forgive him all the same.

I never learned Spanish either, Abe, but one phrase I do recall from childhood is sin verguenza [without shame], which pretty much sums up Barrack Obama. The man is shameless—he has gotten away with flip flops that would have sunk an ordinary mortal and managed to turn those who point out his reversals into the real villains. If he were a character in a telenovela, they’d be whispering sin verguenza every time he left the room. But they’d forgive him all the same.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

They like their SUV’s and want to eat as much as they like and keep their houses at 72 degrees — and they don’t want to learn Spanish.

Why does Obama still need to go to Iraq if General Petraeus says “that if Obama visits Iraq later this month, commanders there will outline for him, in detail, the dangers of withdrawing too quickly” and Obama will hear that “top commanders remain concerned that the gains are reversible and that withdrawing troops too quickly would be a mistake”? Can’t Obama conserve some gas, decrease his carbon footprint and just read ABC’s coverage ? (There, Obama could also read a helpful blow-by-blow of how he’s NOT changing his mind on Iraq –until he changes his mind on Iraq.)

Give credit to Steve Schmidt on one count — he got his candidate on all the Wednesday nightly network news shows and his message out on Iran.

And what is the answer to McCain advisor Randy Scheunemann’s question about what Obama wants to give the Iranians that the Europeans already haven’t forked over?

You mean consumers reduced demand for gas when prices went up? Who’d have thought!

If they could find remotes, cellphones, and keys, that would be something.

So glad that a network of small donors, regular Americans are going to finance Obama’s campaign. What? $28,500 a pop, you say. And there were “the John Singer Sargent and Mary Cassat paintings and the funders were left behind to munch on filet of beef with a mustard-cognac sauce, a potato nest and so on, all washed down with sundry American and French wines”? Hey, he better be nice to the rich folk — after the last month he may need the big-wigs.

So far the poodle is leading the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier by a nose in the Obama family pet poll. (It was the picture which did in the Chinese Crested–poor thing polls as badly as Congress.)

Here’s one for the “least surprising headline” category.

His PAC was fined, he didn’t pay all his taxes or workers’ compensation premiums and Jesse Ventura may not run to split the Norm Coleman vote. Is Al Franken just a big, fat idiot? If the Republicans can’t keep that seat, they should pack up shop.

They like their SUV’s and want to eat as much as they like and keep their houses at 72 degrees — and they don’t want to learn Spanish.

Why does Obama still need to go to Iraq if General Petraeus says “that if Obama visits Iraq later this month, commanders there will outline for him, in detail, the dangers of withdrawing too quickly” and Obama will hear that “top commanders remain concerned that the gains are reversible and that withdrawing troops too quickly would be a mistake”? Can’t Obama conserve some gas, decrease his carbon footprint and just read ABC’s coverage ? (There, Obama could also read a helpful blow-by-blow of how he’s NOT changing his mind on Iraq –until he changes his mind on Iraq.)

Give credit to Steve Schmidt on one count — he got his candidate on all the Wednesday nightly network news shows and his message out on Iran.

And what is the answer to McCain advisor Randy Scheunemann’s question about what Obama wants to give the Iranians that the Europeans already haven’t forked over?

You mean consumers reduced demand for gas when prices went up? Who’d have thought!

If they could find remotes, cellphones, and keys, that would be something.

So glad that a network of small donors, regular Americans are going to finance Obama’s campaign. What? $28,500 a pop, you say. And there were “the John Singer Sargent and Mary Cassat paintings and the funders were left behind to munch on filet of beef with a mustard-cognac sauce, a potato nest and so on, all washed down with sundry American and French wines”? Hey, he better be nice to the rich folk — after the last month he may need the big-wigs.

So far the poodle is leading the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier by a nose in the Obama family pet poll. (It was the picture which did in the Chinese Crested–poor thing polls as badly as Congress.)

Here’s one for the “least surprising headline” category.

His PAC was fined, he didn’t pay all his taxes or workers’ compensation premiums and Jesse Ventura may not run to split the Norm Coleman vote. Is Al Franken just a big, fat idiot? If the Republicans can’t keep that seat, they should pack up shop.

Read Less

FISA Passes

The FISA extension with immunity for telecoms that assist in terrorism surveillance passed overwhelmingly Wednesday. After promising to vote against and even fillibuster the bill if it included the immunity provision, Obama voted in favor of the bill. The netroots are going nuts, even on Obama’s own website. When the spell of messianic perfection is broken, it is really shattered, I suppose. The New York Times fumed:

Senator Barack Obama, who had once promised to filibuster against immunity for the telecommunications companies, executed a deeply distressing pivot in recent weeks, hewing to the “best we could do” line that was adopted by many Democrats. Today, he voted to cut off debate on the bill, and then voted for its final passage. Fortunately, Mr. Obama seemed to have no influence over Democrats who opposed the bill. None of them joined him in changing their positions.

But aside from that, let’s review what Obama did. He and his Democratic colleagues opposed, objected and delayed passage of a FISA extension for months. This left a void, a gap, in intelligence collection. Whatever communications we didn’t catch are lost and whatever data we could have used to protect Americans is gone. The terrorists aren’t going to be calling back to recap their communications over the last few months.

So it wasn’t just that Obama took a position which appealed to the Left in the primary, and then reversed course in the general election. It was that he did so at the expense of the national security of the country. As Sen. Kit Bond said today:

Last year Congress passed the Protect America Act, which closed a dangerous intelligence gap that allowed terrorists to use technology to stay a step ahead of terror-fighters. Since the expiration of that bill, our intelligence community has been forced to operate under a temporary system that could impede their ability to track new terrorist threats.

And Hillary Clinton makes clear: there was no meaningful change in the bill which could have been passed earlier in the year. You can imagine the steam is coming out of her ears as she recalls all of his appeals to the Left during the primary to fillibuster a bill which included immunity. (And perhaps her vote was a parting shot at her rival who ran left to beat her and now runs right.)

So Obama’s greatest sin was not in playing politics and deceiving his base of supporters — who have every right to scream bloody murder. It was in putting politics above his country. That, much more than lying to his well-meaning base which foolishly trusted his words, is what voters should remember. Sometimes a flip-flop has real world consequences. And this is one.

The FISA extension with immunity for telecoms that assist in terrorism surveillance passed overwhelmingly Wednesday. After promising to vote against and even fillibuster the bill if it included the immunity provision, Obama voted in favor of the bill. The netroots are going nuts, even on Obama’s own website. When the spell of messianic perfection is broken, it is really shattered, I suppose. The New York Times fumed:

Senator Barack Obama, who had once promised to filibuster against immunity for the telecommunications companies, executed a deeply distressing pivot in recent weeks, hewing to the “best we could do” line that was adopted by many Democrats. Today, he voted to cut off debate on the bill, and then voted for its final passage. Fortunately, Mr. Obama seemed to have no influence over Democrats who opposed the bill. None of them joined him in changing their positions.

But aside from that, let’s review what Obama did. He and his Democratic colleagues opposed, objected and delayed passage of a FISA extension for months. This left a void, a gap, in intelligence collection. Whatever communications we didn’t catch are lost and whatever data we could have used to protect Americans is gone. The terrorists aren’t going to be calling back to recap their communications over the last few months.

So it wasn’t just that Obama took a position which appealed to the Left in the primary, and then reversed course in the general election. It was that he did so at the expense of the national security of the country. As Sen. Kit Bond said today:

Last year Congress passed the Protect America Act, which closed a dangerous intelligence gap that allowed terrorists to use technology to stay a step ahead of terror-fighters. Since the expiration of that bill, our intelligence community has been forced to operate under a temporary system that could impede their ability to track new terrorist threats.

And Hillary Clinton makes clear: there was no meaningful change in the bill which could have been passed earlier in the year. You can imagine the steam is coming out of her ears as she recalls all of his appeals to the Left during the primary to fillibuster a bill which included immunity. (And perhaps her vote was a parting shot at her rival who ran left to beat her and now runs right.)

So Obama’s greatest sin was not in playing politics and deceiving his base of supporters — who have every right to scream bloody murder. It was in putting politics above his country. That, much more than lying to his well-meaning base which foolishly trusted his words, is what voters should remember. Sometimes a flip-flop has real world consequences. And this is one.

Read Less




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