Commentary Magazine


Posts For: August 19, 2008

Commentary of the Day

J.E. Dyer, on Abe Greenwald:

Of course Georgia is being annexed. Quite a few of us recognized that a week ago. My error was in overestimating how long it would be before Russia was doing it overtly.

Predictably, some people are blaming Georgia; saying that Georgia is not a “real” democracy (neither are we, of course; neither is any nation today); and insisting that we provoked Russia to this by recognizing Kosovo, putting the missile defense system in Eastern Europe, and first considering, then denying a NATO membership track for Georgia and Ukraine.

So apparently, if a nation has a territorial dispute with Russia, and seeks to prevent Russia, which has troops all over the disputed territory, from deciding the dispute by force of arms, the other nation is put in the wrong and can approriately be invaded at any time.

If a nation is not a particular (unspecified) type of democracy, Russia can annex it whenever she wants.

If Russia doesn’t like the boundaries of an emerging nation, it is appropriate to signal that by invading a neighbor.

If Russia doesn’t like a missile defense system being installed in her neighborhood, it is appropriate for Russia to respond by invading a neighbor.

And if you’re going to consider NATO membership for anyone, go ahead and admit the prospective members immediately, lest Russia feel emboldened and invade them.

This seems like an excellent recipe for international stability and harmony. I propose the United States begin operating on these principles soonest. There are a whole lot of things going on that I don’t like, so we should invade and annex Cuba immediately. Venezuela should be next. Haiti has been begging for invasion and regime stabilization forever. We should proclaim that Canada and Mexico are territories of the United States, dispatch territorial governors for them, and put them on a fast track to statehood. I don’t expect much resistance from the Canadians; the Mexicans might kick for a while in those messy, ungovernable areas, but it’s amazing what you can achieve with a few well-placed cruise missiles. Besides, the US Army doesn’t get nearly enough use out of ATACMS these days.

This is the point: if the US and everyone else must constrain our actions to avoid provoking Russia to invade her neighbors, then we are, de facto, recognizing Russia’s perspective as the controlling one for international relations.

Many people here haven’t made these particular arguments. But this was a longstanding Cold War argument as well. It’s a bad one.

J.E. Dyer, on Abe Greenwald:

Of course Georgia is being annexed. Quite a few of us recognized that a week ago. My error was in overestimating how long it would be before Russia was doing it overtly.

Predictably, some people are blaming Georgia; saying that Georgia is not a “real” democracy (neither are we, of course; neither is any nation today); and insisting that we provoked Russia to this by recognizing Kosovo, putting the missile defense system in Eastern Europe, and first considering, then denying a NATO membership track for Georgia and Ukraine.

So apparently, if a nation has a territorial dispute with Russia, and seeks to prevent Russia, which has troops all over the disputed territory, from deciding the dispute by force of arms, the other nation is put in the wrong and can approriately be invaded at any time.

If a nation is not a particular (unspecified) type of democracy, Russia can annex it whenever she wants.

If Russia doesn’t like the boundaries of an emerging nation, it is appropriate to signal that by invading a neighbor.

If Russia doesn’t like a missile defense system being installed in her neighborhood, it is appropriate for Russia to respond by invading a neighbor.

And if you’re going to consider NATO membership for anyone, go ahead and admit the prospective members immediately, lest Russia feel emboldened and invade them.

This seems like an excellent recipe for international stability and harmony. I propose the United States begin operating on these principles soonest. There are a whole lot of things going on that I don’t like, so we should invade and annex Cuba immediately. Venezuela should be next. Haiti has been begging for invasion and regime stabilization forever. We should proclaim that Canada and Mexico are territories of the United States, dispatch territorial governors for them, and put them on a fast track to statehood. I don’t expect much resistance from the Canadians; the Mexicans might kick for a while in those messy, ungovernable areas, but it’s amazing what you can achieve with a few well-placed cruise missiles. Besides, the US Army doesn’t get nearly enough use out of ATACMS these days.

This is the point: if the US and everyone else must constrain our actions to avoid provoking Russia to invade her neighbors, then we are, de facto, recognizing Russia’s perspective as the controlling one for international relations.

Many people here haven’t made these particular arguments. But this was a longstanding Cold War argument as well. It’s a bad one.

Read Less

And You Thought Watching Was Torture . . .

If it wasn’t all done for the worthy cause of competitive trampolining and world-class badminton I might have a problem with what’s coming out about the Beijing Olympics’ opening ceremony. According to the AP, “performers were injured, fainted from heatstroke or forced to wear adult diapers so the show could go on.”

Enough about the lucky ones. Just consider the 2,200 martial artists:

[C]arefully chosen pugilist prodigies spent an average of 16 hours a day, every day, rehearsing a synchronized tai-chi routine involving high kicks, sweeping lunges and swift punches. They lived for three months in trying conditions at a restricted army camp on the outskirts of Beijing.

“We never went out during the time we were training,” Cheng, 20, told the AP in a phone interview. “Our school is quite strict. When we stay in school we can’t go out on our own, let alone when we’re at a military camp.”

But it’s all relative, as 26-year-old Liu Yan knows. She fell 10 feet during a dance rehearsal and may spend the rest of her life as a paraplegic. But what do you expect when the event’s organizer strives to be as good as . . . North Korea? Zhang Yimou said, “North Korea is No. 1 in the world when it comes to uniformity. They are uniform beyond belief! These kind of traditional synchronized movements result in a sense of beauty. We Chinese are able to achieve this as well. Though hard training and strict discipline.” But Zhang is realistic about managing expectations. “Only North Korea could have done it better.” That’s exactly right.

Which goes to show why this mantra about taking politics out of the Olympics is a non-starter. The Olympics are hosted by a state; that state has policies; those policies find their way into the events themselves. By some estimates, China has as many as 10,000,000 industrial slaves (according to sociologist Zhou Xiaozeng). What’s 10,002,200? Taking politics out of the Olympics means ignoring the enslaved dancer who suffered paralysis in favor of the strapping American kid who’s good at swimming. If you have no problem doing that and consider the whole charade a wonderful celebration of human achievement, you are going to love the Pyongyang games.

If it wasn’t all done for the worthy cause of competitive trampolining and world-class badminton I might have a problem with what’s coming out about the Beijing Olympics’ opening ceremony. According to the AP, “performers were injured, fainted from heatstroke or forced to wear adult diapers so the show could go on.”

Enough about the lucky ones. Just consider the 2,200 martial artists:

[C]arefully chosen pugilist prodigies spent an average of 16 hours a day, every day, rehearsing a synchronized tai-chi routine involving high kicks, sweeping lunges and swift punches. They lived for three months in trying conditions at a restricted army camp on the outskirts of Beijing.

“We never went out during the time we were training,” Cheng, 20, told the AP in a phone interview. “Our school is quite strict. When we stay in school we can’t go out on our own, let alone when we’re at a military camp.”

But it’s all relative, as 26-year-old Liu Yan knows. She fell 10 feet during a dance rehearsal and may spend the rest of her life as a paraplegic. But what do you expect when the event’s organizer strives to be as good as . . . North Korea? Zhang Yimou said, “North Korea is No. 1 in the world when it comes to uniformity. They are uniform beyond belief! These kind of traditional synchronized movements result in a sense of beauty. We Chinese are able to achieve this as well. Though hard training and strict discipline.” But Zhang is realistic about managing expectations. “Only North Korea could have done it better.” That’s exactly right.

Which goes to show why this mantra about taking politics out of the Olympics is a non-starter. The Olympics are hosted by a state; that state has policies; those policies find their way into the events themselves. By some estimates, China has as many as 10,000,000 industrial slaves (according to sociologist Zhou Xiaozeng). What’s 10,002,200? Taking politics out of the Olympics means ignoring the enslaved dancer who suffered paralysis in favor of the strapping American kid who’s good at swimming. If you have no problem doing that and consider the whole charade a wonderful celebration of human achievement, you are going to love the Pyongyang games.

Read Less

Re: The Mask Slips

Jennifer, to second you: I’m beginning to think that the abortion issue may have the potential to be, for Barack Obama, the policy equivalent of his long-time association with Reverend Wright. I say this for two reasons. The first is that Obama’s record on abortion is as extreme as one can possibly be. Senator Obama is unable to point to a single abortion he would oppose (his “health exception” for the mother is a well-known loophole whose effect would be to allow even late-term abortions), to the point that he was not even willing to extend basic protection to a child born during a failed abortion and living outside the womb. For a person who said, during his conversation on Saturday with Rick Warren, that the greatest failure of America is not to take seriously the injunction in the Gospel of Matthew that “Whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me,” this is an extraordinary position.

But this issue has now traversed into the matter of public character. Obama accused the National Right to Life Committee of lying because it said that he voted to kill legislation that included a “neutrality clause” he now claims was the sine qua non for his support for pro-life legislation. If the neutrality clause was in the legislation, Obama now says, he would have supported legislation protecting the life of newly born children who had survived an abortion. But National Right to Life has, in Rich’s words, “unearthed documents showing that the Illinois bill was amended to include such a clause, and Obama voted to kill it anyway.” So Obama was, at best, wrong in recalling his own past position. At worst, Obama himself is misrepresenting his position and, in accusing the National Right to Life Committee of lying, is doing so himself.

Senator Obama is becoming what the apostle Paul, in I Corinthians 13, calls a “resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.” By that I mean Obama uses language that is meant to portray himself as thoughtful and reasonable, able to grasp the nuances of every argument, even those with which he disagrees. Obama is himself, according to this narrative, the antithesis of an extremist. He is our hope for a post-partisan future, the answer to divisive politics, the solution to the “culture wars.” And yet on an issue of enormous moral gravity–Obama himself says that he’s “absolutely convinced that there is a moral and ethical element to this issue”–he has embraced legislation that is extreme, inhumane, and outright brutal. There is no indication that he has the slightest sympathy for unborn children or any interest in ending the “culture wars.” His past policies would, in fact, deepen the divisions.

It has become increasingly clear that we need to devalue Obama’s rhetoric, since it is so much at odds with his record. Maybe no issue underscores this more than abortion. It isn’t a pleasant issue to debate, but it is a terribly important one. And Obama is not only on the wrong side of it: he inhabits a small sliver of ground where few others have dared to venture. Many people, even those who consider themselves pro-choice, find killing a baby who has survived an abortion attempt to be deeply troubling and wrong. But not, apparently, Barack Obama–at least before he decided to run for President.

Senator McCain is often not comfortable talking about abortion, but as he showed in his conversation with Rick Warren, he can be effective in discussing it. This issue should now become central to the campaign, because of what it reveals about the moral sensibilities and radical views of Senator Obama.

Jennifer, to second you: I’m beginning to think that the abortion issue may have the potential to be, for Barack Obama, the policy equivalent of his long-time association with Reverend Wright. I say this for two reasons. The first is that Obama’s record on abortion is as extreme as one can possibly be. Senator Obama is unable to point to a single abortion he would oppose (his “health exception” for the mother is a well-known loophole whose effect would be to allow even late-term abortions), to the point that he was not even willing to extend basic protection to a child born during a failed abortion and living outside the womb. For a person who said, during his conversation on Saturday with Rick Warren, that the greatest failure of America is not to take seriously the injunction in the Gospel of Matthew that “Whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me,” this is an extraordinary position.

But this issue has now traversed into the matter of public character. Obama accused the National Right to Life Committee of lying because it said that he voted to kill legislation that included a “neutrality clause” he now claims was the sine qua non for his support for pro-life legislation. If the neutrality clause was in the legislation, Obama now says, he would have supported legislation protecting the life of newly born children who had survived an abortion. But National Right to Life has, in Rich’s words, “unearthed documents showing that the Illinois bill was amended to include such a clause, and Obama voted to kill it anyway.” So Obama was, at best, wrong in recalling his own past position. At worst, Obama himself is misrepresenting his position and, in accusing the National Right to Life Committee of lying, is doing so himself.

Senator Obama is becoming what the apostle Paul, in I Corinthians 13, calls a “resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.” By that I mean Obama uses language that is meant to portray himself as thoughtful and reasonable, able to grasp the nuances of every argument, even those with which he disagrees. Obama is himself, according to this narrative, the antithesis of an extremist. He is our hope for a post-partisan future, the answer to divisive politics, the solution to the “culture wars.” And yet on an issue of enormous moral gravity–Obama himself says that he’s “absolutely convinced that there is a moral and ethical element to this issue”–he has embraced legislation that is extreme, inhumane, and outright brutal. There is no indication that he has the slightest sympathy for unborn children or any interest in ending the “culture wars.” His past policies would, in fact, deepen the divisions.

It has become increasingly clear that we need to devalue Obama’s rhetoric, since it is so much at odds with his record. Maybe no issue underscores this more than abortion. It isn’t a pleasant issue to debate, but it is a terribly important one. And Obama is not only on the wrong side of it: he inhabits a small sliver of ground where few others have dared to venture. Many people, even those who consider themselves pro-choice, find killing a baby who has survived an abortion attempt to be deeply troubling and wrong. But not, apparently, Barack Obama–at least before he decided to run for President.

Senator McCain is often not comfortable talking about abortion, but as he showed in his conversation with Rick Warren, he can be effective in discussing it. This issue should now become central to the campaign, because of what it reveals about the moral sensibilities and radical views of Senator Obama.

Read Less

Re: The Alliance of Mice

Gordon, how right you are about the American response. In her weightiest symbolic gesture yet, Condoleezza Rice has decided–get ready for it–not to attend the closing Olympic ceremonies in Beijing. Doubtless Putin quakes.

However, it seems that U.S. diplomats at the emergency NATO summit did push for the alliance to cut ties with Russia. Depressingly, other states–including the UK–refused to go along with the American plan. Apparently instead of isolating Russia, a clever French diplomat decided to confuse Moscow with deceptively meaningless verbiage:

We are at risk of entering, if there is not a very rapid evolution on the ground, into a relationship which will be of a different nature to what it was until now.

Speaking of entering into risky relationships, I wonder how the 22 Georgian prisoners taken in Poti this morning are getting on with their new Russian captors.

Gordon, how right you are about the American response. In her weightiest symbolic gesture yet, Condoleezza Rice has decided–get ready for it–not to attend the closing Olympic ceremonies in Beijing. Doubtless Putin quakes.

However, it seems that U.S. diplomats at the emergency NATO summit did push for the alliance to cut ties with Russia. Depressingly, other states–including the UK–refused to go along with the American plan. Apparently instead of isolating Russia, a clever French diplomat decided to confuse Moscow with deceptively meaningless verbiage:

We are at risk of entering, if there is not a very rapid evolution on the ground, into a relationship which will be of a different nature to what it was until now.

Speaking of entering into risky relationships, I wonder how the 22 Georgian prisoners taken in Poti this morning are getting on with their new Russian captors.

Read Less

The Alliance of Mice

Today, NATO issued a statement about the crisis in Georgia at the end of its emergency summit in Brussels. “We have determined that we cannot continue with business as usual,” the statement says. “We call on Moscow to demonstrate–both in word and deed–its continued commitment to the principles upon which we agreed to base our relationship.” The 26 states of the alliance also agreed to set up a NATO-Georgia Commission. Discussions about extending membership to Tbilisi, scheduled for December, were not accelerated.

That’s it? Russia invades a country, and the Atlantic Alliance sets up a commission? Dmitry Rogozin, the Kremlin’s NATO envoy, put it best. He labeled the emergency summit a “mountain that gave birth to a mouse.”

But we shouldn’t blame the Alliance for its uninspiring response. The establishment of an organizational structure to deepen ties to endangered Georgia actually looks resolute in comparison to the American reaction. After the invasion started, President Bush continued taking time off for the Olympics in Beijing, and then, after returning to Washington, turned around and headed for more vacation at Crawford.

What is the President doing? Is he recalling the American ambassador to Moscow? Asking the rest of the G-8 to convene to expel Russia? Blocking the Kremlin’s application to join the World Trade Organization? Extending American military protection to Ukraine? Please tell me, Mr. Bush, that the Russians will pay some price for a naked act of aggression.

Mr. President, your Russia policy, which appears to have been based on your personal relationship with an autocrat, was fundamentally misguided. Yet what is especially disheartening is that, when it is clear that the assumptions underlining that policy have been proven wrong by the events of the last eleven days, you have failed to change course or even show leadership. This, as you may have noticed, is a critical moment for the West. Where are you?

Today, NATO issued a statement about the crisis in Georgia at the end of its emergency summit in Brussels. “We have determined that we cannot continue with business as usual,” the statement says. “We call on Moscow to demonstrate–both in word and deed–its continued commitment to the principles upon which we agreed to base our relationship.” The 26 states of the alliance also agreed to set up a NATO-Georgia Commission. Discussions about extending membership to Tbilisi, scheduled for December, were not accelerated.

That’s it? Russia invades a country, and the Atlantic Alliance sets up a commission? Dmitry Rogozin, the Kremlin’s NATO envoy, put it best. He labeled the emergency summit a “mountain that gave birth to a mouse.”

But we shouldn’t blame the Alliance for its uninspiring response. The establishment of an organizational structure to deepen ties to endangered Georgia actually looks resolute in comparison to the American reaction. After the invasion started, President Bush continued taking time off for the Olympics in Beijing, and then, after returning to Washington, turned around and headed for more vacation at Crawford.

What is the President doing? Is he recalling the American ambassador to Moscow? Asking the rest of the G-8 to convene to expel Russia? Blocking the Kremlin’s application to join the World Trade Organization? Extending American military protection to Ukraine? Please tell me, Mr. Bush, that the Russians will pay some price for a naked act of aggression.

Mr. President, your Russia policy, which appears to have been based on your personal relationship with an autocrat, was fundamentally misguided. Yet what is especially disheartening is that, when it is clear that the assumptions underlining that policy have been proven wrong by the events of the last eleven days, you have failed to change course or even show leadership. This, as you may have noticed, is a critical moment for the West. Where are you?

Read Less

No Surprise to Me

Bob Herbert, “A World of Difference,” New York Times, August 19:

So it might come as a surprise to some that Senator McCain’s macho hero [Teddy Roosevelt] happened to have been among the first naturalists at Harvard, an inveterate bird-watcher, and a prolific and sensitive writer.

David D. Kirkpatrick, “After 2000 Run, McCain Learned to Work Levers of Power,” New York Times, July 21:

Entertaining guests at his property in Sedona, Ariz., he [John McCain] invariably drags them for long walks to indulge his passion for bird watching. “If you took all the people at Gitmo, put them in the cabin for a weekend and made them listen to John talk about the birds, they would all spill their guts,” Mr. [Lindsay] Graham said.


Bob Herbert, “A World of Difference,” New York Times, August 19:

So it might come as a surprise to some that Senator McCain’s macho hero [Teddy Roosevelt] happened to have been among the first naturalists at Harvard, an inveterate bird-watcher, and a prolific and sensitive writer.

David D. Kirkpatrick, “After 2000 Run, McCain Learned to Work Levers of Power,” New York Times, July 21:

Entertaining guests at his property in Sedona, Ariz., he [John McCain] invariably drags them for long walks to indulge his passion for bird watching. “If you took all the people at Gitmo, put them in the cabin for a weekend and made them listen to John talk about the birds, they would all spill their guts,” Mr. [Lindsay] Graham said.


Read Less

The Mask Slips

You would think the mainstream media might get interested if a presidential nominee got caught lying–as Barack Obama did–on an issue of intense controversy, which the Born Alive Infant Protection Act certainly is. Still (I know you’re stunned) the mainstream media isn’t much interested, although the reversal combines all the key elements of a good political story: lying, a hot-button issue, and a major candidate gaffe. But it is about Barack Obama. So . . . I guess we get virtually noting from the mainstream media.

Rich Lowry has a helpful summary and cogent take here. He concludes: “Here’s one of the central dilemmas of Obama’s candidacy. Nothing in his career supports his contention that he’s a post-partisan healer. So, as someone as splenetic as Bob Dole might put it, he’s forced to lie about his record.”

There are really a number of problems for Obama on this one. First, one of his selling points was his thoughtful moderation, typified by his comments that he appreciated and understood pro-choice voters’ moral qualms. Calling them liars and hence being exposed as the most extreme brand of Roe v. Wade absolutist pretty much wipes out that meme.

Second, the man lied. It wasn’t a Bosnian gunfire moment, but had it been Hillary Clinton, the press would be going bonkers. And his “they are lying” stunt ranks up there with another Clinton who wagged his finger at the American public and assured us he didn’t have an improper relationship with that woman. It is one thing to lie; it’s another class of lying to do so with fury at those who would doubt your veracity.

Third, it emphasizes that we have zero records from Obama’s state senate career and virtually any other segment of his life. Once again, the media is indifferent to their usual role in vetting (or at least allowing the public to vet) a potential president. They shrug, move on, and defer to Obama’s version of events because they lack the factual data to rebut his story. If the pro-life forces hadn’t done more work than the MSM, we still wouldn’t know about this issue. They can join the National Enquirer as yet another source of news superior to the MSM (when it comes to a Democrat, of course.)

So I don’t expect to see much about this story in the major newspapers or on network news. But it may have been the most revealing episode involving Obama yet. As scripted, protected, and shielded from scrutiny as Obama has been, we still managed to get a peek at the real Obama. You can’t say you weren’t warned.

You would think the mainstream media might get interested if a presidential nominee got caught lying–as Barack Obama did–on an issue of intense controversy, which the Born Alive Infant Protection Act certainly is. Still (I know you’re stunned) the mainstream media isn’t much interested, although the reversal combines all the key elements of a good political story: lying, a hot-button issue, and a major candidate gaffe. But it is about Barack Obama. So . . . I guess we get virtually noting from the mainstream media.

Rich Lowry has a helpful summary and cogent take here. He concludes: “Here’s one of the central dilemmas of Obama’s candidacy. Nothing in his career supports his contention that he’s a post-partisan healer. So, as someone as splenetic as Bob Dole might put it, he’s forced to lie about his record.”

There are really a number of problems for Obama on this one. First, one of his selling points was his thoughtful moderation, typified by his comments that he appreciated and understood pro-choice voters’ moral qualms. Calling them liars and hence being exposed as the most extreme brand of Roe v. Wade absolutist pretty much wipes out that meme.

Second, the man lied. It wasn’t a Bosnian gunfire moment, but had it been Hillary Clinton, the press would be going bonkers. And his “they are lying” stunt ranks up there with another Clinton who wagged his finger at the American public and assured us he didn’t have an improper relationship with that woman. It is one thing to lie; it’s another class of lying to do so with fury at those who would doubt your veracity.

Third, it emphasizes that we have zero records from Obama’s state senate career and virtually any other segment of his life. Once again, the media is indifferent to their usual role in vetting (or at least allowing the public to vet) a potential president. They shrug, move on, and defer to Obama’s version of events because they lack the factual data to rebut his story. If the pro-life forces hadn’t done more work than the MSM, we still wouldn’t know about this issue. They can join the National Enquirer as yet another source of news superior to the MSM (when it comes to a Democrat, of course.)

So I don’t expect to see much about this story in the major newspapers or on network news. But it may have been the most revealing episode involving Obama yet. As scripted, protected, and shielded from scrutiny as Obama has been, we still managed to get a peek at the real Obama. You can’t say you weren’t warned.

Read Less

Awful News from Afghanistan

The AP reports:

About 100 insurgents ambushed a group of French paratroopers as they climbed a mountain pass, killing 10 soldiers in a militant stronghold outside the capital. In a separate coordinated attack Tuesday, a team of suicide bombers tried unsuccessfully to storm a U.S. base near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

The death of the French soldiers marked the biggest single combat loss for international forces in Afghanistan in more than three years.

This could stir up French opposition to Nicolas Sarkozy’s bid to boost support for the coalition’s fight in Afghanistan. The French Communist Party, which has been against French involvement from the start, released a statement calling the mission a “reckless and dangerous policy that has bogged France down in Afghanistan.” However, Sarkozy released a statement that sounds frankly inspiring:

My determination is intact. France is determined to continue the struggle against terrorism for democracy and freedom. The cause is just. It is an honour for France and its army to defend it.

And it is an honor to have a genuine and committed French ally.

The AP reports:

About 100 insurgents ambushed a group of French paratroopers as they climbed a mountain pass, killing 10 soldiers in a militant stronghold outside the capital. In a separate coordinated attack Tuesday, a team of suicide bombers tried unsuccessfully to storm a U.S. base near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

The death of the French soldiers marked the biggest single combat loss for international forces in Afghanistan in more than three years.

This could stir up French opposition to Nicolas Sarkozy’s bid to boost support for the coalition’s fight in Afghanistan. The French Communist Party, which has been against French involvement from the start, released a statement calling the mission a “reckless and dangerous policy that has bogged France down in Afghanistan.” However, Sarkozy released a statement that sounds frankly inspiring:

My determination is intact. France is determined to continue the struggle against terrorism for democracy and freedom. The cause is just. It is an honour for France and its army to defend it.

And it is an honor to have a genuine and committed French ally.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Megan McArdle says it all: ” The party that starts looking for implausible and unprovable conspiracy theories about the opposition candidate is in trouble.” And she wasn’t even talking about the “he cheated” meme. Something is unraveling in Obama-land.

Great idea: a Rick Warren rematch.

If the VP pick is Joe Biden, the Left will have to explain why the Obama’s choice sounds like those wacky conservatives who think Russian aggression must be opposed and that the future of a democratic Europe is at stake.

A good debate question for Barack Obama: does he think Bill Ayers is a model citizen?

If more MSM figures would engage and respond to criticism with candor they would be better off, right? But Chuck Todd is the exception.

Even more startling than the secrecy from the Obama camp is the lack of comment by the MSM on the same. Public’s right to know? About the other guys only, it seems.

Exactly right: this nutty smear-mongering is an embarrassment for the Obama camp. Dungeons & Dragons indeed. How many more excuses does the McCain team really need to retell the story?

John McCain knows a winning issue — national security – when he sees it. Even the Left knows last week was a wipeout.

This is rich: Obama works on veteran outreach. Step number one should be to stop smearing the POW candidate.

Why are Democrats so freaked out? Here’s a partial list.

Is Minnesota in play? More so with Tim Pawlenty, I think. (New York won’t be, no matter what.)

Megan McArdle says it all: ” The party that starts looking for implausible and unprovable conspiracy theories about the opposition candidate is in trouble.” And she wasn’t even talking about the “he cheated” meme. Something is unraveling in Obama-land.

Great idea: a Rick Warren rematch.

If the VP pick is Joe Biden, the Left will have to explain why the Obama’s choice sounds like those wacky conservatives who think Russian aggression must be opposed and that the future of a democratic Europe is at stake.

A good debate question for Barack Obama: does he think Bill Ayers is a model citizen?

If more MSM figures would engage and respond to criticism with candor they would be better off, right? But Chuck Todd is the exception.

Even more startling than the secrecy from the Obama camp is the lack of comment by the MSM on the same. Public’s right to know? About the other guys only, it seems.

Exactly right: this nutty smear-mongering is an embarrassment for the Obama camp. Dungeons & Dragons indeed. How many more excuses does the McCain team really need to retell the story?

John McCain knows a winning issue — national security – when he sees it. Even the Left knows last week was a wipeout.

This is rich: Obama works on veteran outreach. Step number one should be to stop smearing the POW candidate.

Why are Democrats so freaked out? Here’s a partial list.

Is Minnesota in play? More so with Tim Pawlenty, I think. (New York won’t be, no matter what.)

Read Less

Good Reason To Panic?

It is not just that national polls remain tight in the presidential race. State polling is even more snug in some key battleground states. And in states not thought to be in play, the race has gotten even tighter, at Barack Obama’s expense. This helpful report from Iowa explains what is happening in a state which McCain team members would have conceded a month ago was not in play. The same tightening is happening in New York and Minnesota.

This doesn’t mean McCain will necessarily win any of these three, but Obama may need to spend some time and money in two of the three. And McCain has made steady progress in some key states that certainly are up for grabs.

It is hard to deny that something has happened over the last month or so. It is true that closer doesn’t mean “ahead.” And it is even more true that a week, let alone a month, in a presidential race is an eternity. But there is a reason why The Chosen One’s die-hard apologists have gone into overdrive (h/t Mark Hemingway) and why Obama is going to “hit back:” Obama’s position of dominance in the race has slipped and the Obama camp doesn’t have a clue (other than attacking furiously and fanning the netroots conspiracy flames) what to do about it.

It is not just that national polls remain tight in the presidential race. State polling is even more snug in some key battleground states. And in states not thought to be in play, the race has gotten even tighter, at Barack Obama’s expense. This helpful report from Iowa explains what is happening in a state which McCain team members would have conceded a month ago was not in play. The same tightening is happening in New York and Minnesota.

This doesn’t mean McCain will necessarily win any of these three, but Obama may need to spend some time and money in two of the three. And McCain has made steady progress in some key states that certainly are up for grabs.

It is hard to deny that something has happened over the last month or so. It is true that closer doesn’t mean “ahead.” And it is even more true that a week, let alone a month, in a presidential race is an eternity. But there is a reason why The Chosen One’s die-hard apologists have gone into overdrive (h/t Mark Hemingway) and why Obama is going to “hit back:” Obama’s position of dominance in the race has slipped and the Obama camp doesn’t have a clue (other than attacking furiously and fanning the netroots conspiracy flames) what to do about it.

Read Less

Bush and Musharraf

For those still grieving over the sudden departure of Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf, here’s yet another reason to do just that. Edward Luttwak, always the contrarian, has written for the UK magazine Prospect an article entitled “A Truman For Our Times“. His Truman–shockingly, for most MSM-only readers–is George W. Bush.

Only people blessed (or cursed) by a long memory for inconsequential events might remember United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s farewell speech. Annan went to Truman’s hometown–Independence, MO–to end his term with a speech filled with criticism for Bush. The world, he said, “still cries out for far-sighted American leadership, in the Truman tradition.” The contradictions between his use of Truman’s–and Luttwak’s–only prove Luttwak’s point that “the analogy with Truman is far from perfect.”

Luttwak praises Bush for many predictable things (and some less predictable: read the piece in full if you want to know more). But today I find his assessment of Bush’s achievement in Pakistan the most relevant:

[I]t was in Pakistan that Bush forced the most dramatic reversal of policy. He had said that it was with us or against us, and he meant it. President Musharraf was given a stark choice: stand with the US to destroy the Taliban that Pakistan itself had created, or be destroyed. Musharraf made the right choice, shutting down the flow of arms to the Taliban, opening the Shahbaz airfield to US aircraft and giving blanket permission for US military overflights across Pakistan. Nothing will stop the North-West Frontier Province from being as violent as it has been since the days of Alexander the Great. Nothing can dissuade the Pashtuns from their twin passions for boys and guns. And naturally they approve of the Taliban on both counts. But at least the Pakistani state is no longer funding these pederasts. Musharraf also started to remove the bearded extremists who once practically ran Pakistan’s ISI, starting with the chief, Mahmood Ahmed, who was replaced within a month of 11th September by the moderate Ehsanul Halqas. It has been less easy for Musharraf and his acolytes to identify and remove the more subtle smooth-shaven extremists in the ISI, who still support the renascent Taliban, but they tried hard enough to trigger at least one of the assassination attempts against Musharraf himself.

What happened in Pakistan within 24 hours of 9/11 was something the world had never seen before: the overnight transformation of the very core of a country’s policy-the support of jihad-which derived from the national myth of Pakistan as the Muslim state par excellence. It was as if President Bush had sent an envoy to Italy to demand the outlawing of spaghetti al pomodoro-and succeeded.

Persuaded by Luttwak’s praise? Even if one is convinced, that does not mean one have to mourn the dethroned leader. Apparently, “senior counter-terrorism officials in the U.S. government said there was more relief than anxiety rippling through their ranks that the drama over Musharraf’s fate had ended.”

For those still grieving over the sudden departure of Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf, here’s yet another reason to do just that. Edward Luttwak, always the contrarian, has written for the UK magazine Prospect an article entitled “A Truman For Our Times“. His Truman–shockingly, for most MSM-only readers–is George W. Bush.

Only people blessed (or cursed) by a long memory for inconsequential events might remember United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s farewell speech. Annan went to Truman’s hometown–Independence, MO–to end his term with a speech filled with criticism for Bush. The world, he said, “still cries out for far-sighted American leadership, in the Truman tradition.” The contradictions between his use of Truman’s–and Luttwak’s–only prove Luttwak’s point that “the analogy with Truman is far from perfect.”

Luttwak praises Bush for many predictable things (and some less predictable: read the piece in full if you want to know more). But today I find his assessment of Bush’s achievement in Pakistan the most relevant:

[I]t was in Pakistan that Bush forced the most dramatic reversal of policy. He had said that it was with us or against us, and he meant it. President Musharraf was given a stark choice: stand with the US to destroy the Taliban that Pakistan itself had created, or be destroyed. Musharraf made the right choice, shutting down the flow of arms to the Taliban, opening the Shahbaz airfield to US aircraft and giving blanket permission for US military overflights across Pakistan. Nothing will stop the North-West Frontier Province from being as violent as it has been since the days of Alexander the Great. Nothing can dissuade the Pashtuns from their twin passions for boys and guns. And naturally they approve of the Taliban on both counts. But at least the Pakistani state is no longer funding these pederasts. Musharraf also started to remove the bearded extremists who once practically ran Pakistan’s ISI, starting with the chief, Mahmood Ahmed, who was replaced within a month of 11th September by the moderate Ehsanul Halqas. It has been less easy for Musharraf and his acolytes to identify and remove the more subtle smooth-shaven extremists in the ISI, who still support the renascent Taliban, but they tried hard enough to trigger at least one of the assassination attempts against Musharraf himself.

What happened in Pakistan within 24 hours of 9/11 was something the world had never seen before: the overnight transformation of the very core of a country’s policy-the support of jihad-which derived from the national myth of Pakistan as the Muslim state par excellence. It was as if President Bush had sent an envoy to Italy to demand the outlawing of spaghetti al pomodoro-and succeeded.

Persuaded by Luttwak’s praise? Even if one is convinced, that does not mean one have to mourn the dethroned leader. Apparently, “senior counter-terrorism officials in the U.S. government said there was more relief than anxiety rippling through their ranks that the drama over Musharraf’s fate had ended.”

Read Less

Silly Season: Part 2

Silly season in the VP speculation game took place months ago, far before anyone had been vetted and even before Barack Obama had secured the nomination. Now we have silly season part two — where winks, nods, and canvassing the base are all picked over and examined. What does it mean? Is this a sign? Are we being spun? We simply don’t know if someone is canvassing to satisfy a concern or to prove that a certain concern is a non-issue.

What we do know is that John McCain is an intensely personal politician. He likes who he likes and doesn’t like who he doesn’t. He is not the sort of person to put intuition aside and look at poll numbers. We know his number one concern is national security. And that’s about all. Many–but not all–of the names being floated and refloated could be acceptable to McCain. And it is entirely believable that McCain will make this decision largely on his own.

All that said, I do agree that Barack Obama has proven himself to be so extreme on social issues and so frivolous on matters of national security that McCain, rightly or wrongly, may feel empowered to choose a candidate who is less than ideal to the conservative base. Where are they going to go on Election day? (“Home!” might be the answer, but McCain may not be convinced.)

So unless McCain himself decides to spill the beans, I think everyone will have to breathe deeply and wait a week or so. But the smart money would be on someone McCain trusts deeply and who would be a credible commander-in-chief.

Silly season in the VP speculation game took place months ago, far before anyone had been vetted and even before Barack Obama had secured the nomination. Now we have silly season part two — where winks, nods, and canvassing the base are all picked over and examined. What does it mean? Is this a sign? Are we being spun? We simply don’t know if someone is canvassing to satisfy a concern or to prove that a certain concern is a non-issue.

What we do know is that John McCain is an intensely personal politician. He likes who he likes and doesn’t like who he doesn’t. He is not the sort of person to put intuition aside and look at poll numbers. We know his number one concern is national security. And that’s about all. Many–but not all–of the names being floated and refloated could be acceptable to McCain. And it is entirely believable that McCain will make this decision largely on his own.

All that said, I do agree that Barack Obama has proven himself to be so extreme on social issues and so frivolous on matters of national security that McCain, rightly or wrongly, may feel empowered to choose a candidate who is less than ideal to the conservative base. Where are they going to go on Election day? (“Home!” might be the answer, but McCain may not be convinced.)

So unless McCain himself decides to spill the beans, I think everyone will have to breathe deeply and wait a week or so. But the smart money would be on someone McCain trusts deeply and who would be a credible commander-in-chief.

Read Less

Russia’s Not Stopping

It’s time for a sober reassessment of the Russian invasion of Georgia. This is more than a Putin power play or a cynical attempt to be taken seriously by the West. This is annexation. From the Wall Street Journal:

Russian troops seized control of the economically vital Georgian port of Poti Tuesday morning, a day after Moscow said it had begun pulling its forces out of Georgia.

At about 9 a.m. local time, some 70 Russian peacekeeping forces entered the port grounds on seven armored personnel carriers, according to Georgian government and port officials. They detained 20 Georgian soldiers stationed in the port and confiscated their weapons, then took up positions on the territory of the port, occasionally moving in and out on armored personnel carriers and in Russian army jeeps.

Tyrannical regimes are natural global predators. The internal horrors of despotic states stay internal only so long as external pressures last. Tyrannies–given half a chance–eat democracies whole, and we’re watching it happen right now.

The six-point ceasefire agreement is dead. Dead, too, are any illusions about Putin and Medvedev being cajoled into acting responsibly on this and any other matters of importance to the West. The need to play patty-cake with the Kremlin in hopes of Russian cooperation on Iran: dead. The need to speak prudently so as not to offend Time magazine’s Man of The Year: dead. It’s time Russia feels a severe economic choke hold, and her neighbors (and our allies) need to be armed and trained, so that their oil supplies are protected and their borders remain intact. We need Europe on this and they need us. As slow and off-base as President Bush and Condoleezza Rice have been on this drama, I suspect we will hear clear and decisive word from today’s emergency NATO meeting in Brussels.

It’s time for a sober reassessment of the Russian invasion of Georgia. This is more than a Putin power play or a cynical attempt to be taken seriously by the West. This is annexation. From the Wall Street Journal:

Russian troops seized control of the economically vital Georgian port of Poti Tuesday morning, a day after Moscow said it had begun pulling its forces out of Georgia.

At about 9 a.m. local time, some 70 Russian peacekeeping forces entered the port grounds on seven armored personnel carriers, according to Georgian government and port officials. They detained 20 Georgian soldiers stationed in the port and confiscated their weapons, then took up positions on the territory of the port, occasionally moving in and out on armored personnel carriers and in Russian army jeeps.

Tyrannical regimes are natural global predators. The internal horrors of despotic states stay internal only so long as external pressures last. Tyrannies–given half a chance–eat democracies whole, and we’re watching it happen right now.

The six-point ceasefire agreement is dead. Dead, too, are any illusions about Putin and Medvedev being cajoled into acting responsibly on this and any other matters of importance to the West. The need to play patty-cake with the Kremlin in hopes of Russian cooperation on Iran: dead. The need to speak prudently so as not to offend Time magazine’s Man of The Year: dead. It’s time Russia feels a severe economic choke hold, and her neighbors (and our allies) need to be armed and trained, so that their oil supplies are protected and their borders remain intact. We need Europe on this and they need us. As slow and off-base as President Bush and Condoleezza Rice have been on this drama, I suspect we will hear clear and decisive word from today’s emergency NATO meeting in Brussels.

Read Less

Not So Different

David Brooks observes with mixed emotions the McCain campaign. He writes:

McCain and his advisers have been compelled to adjust to the hostile environment around them. They have been compelled, at least in their telling, to abandon the campaign they had hoped to run. Now they are running a much more conventional race, the kind McCain himself used to ridicule. The man who lampooned the Message of the Week is now relentlessly on message (as observers of his fine performance at Saddleback Church can attest). The man who hopes to inspire a new generation of Americans now attacks Obama daily. It is the only way he can get the networks to pay attention. Some old McCain hands are dismayed. John Weaver, the former staff member who helped run the old McCain operation, argues that this campaign does not do justice to the man. The current advisers say they have no choice. They didn’t choose the circumstances of this race. Their job is to cope with them. And the inescapable fact is: It is working. Everyone said McCain would be down by double digits at this point. He’s nearly even. Everyone said he’d be vastly outspent. That hasn’t happened. A long-shot candidacy now seems entirely plausible.

There is much to all this. But I think Brooks overstates the idealism of the pre-general election McCain and the conventionality of the general election McCain. As to the former, there are plenty of examples of McCain’s bare-knuckle style of politics. If you have any doubt ask Mitt Romney. McCain dispensed with him by a mixture of counterpunching pugnaciousness, barbed lines in debates, and plenty of references to Romney’s flexible views on a range of issues. There were no kid gloves used. Nor has McCain, in his many past policy and political battles, been above taking it to his opponents; it is simply that his ideologically eclectic views (some say, emotion-based politics) have often set him at odds with members of his own party.

And as for the general election, his team certainly has figured out how to puncture his pompous, lightly-credentialed opponent. But let’s remember he has also stuck with views not welcome on the Right, maintained a defiant attachment to principle in international affairs, and shown a willingness to debate anytime and anywhere. Not exactly the run-of-the-mill Republican politician.

So McCain’s team certainly has come a long way. But his staff did the same a year ago when they came back from their political graves. And anyone who remembers the primary will see a certain number of similarities to the present aggressive McCain posture. Meanwhile, ask some conservatives in the GOP base if McCain’s campaign has become an ordinary GOP campaign. You’ll be greeted with eye rolls or laughter.

I think it is safe to say that what we are seeing now is very typical McCain –much to frustrate everyone and much to admire. It has always been thus.

David Brooks observes with mixed emotions the McCain campaign. He writes:

McCain and his advisers have been compelled to adjust to the hostile environment around them. They have been compelled, at least in their telling, to abandon the campaign they had hoped to run. Now they are running a much more conventional race, the kind McCain himself used to ridicule. The man who lampooned the Message of the Week is now relentlessly on message (as observers of his fine performance at Saddleback Church can attest). The man who hopes to inspire a new generation of Americans now attacks Obama daily. It is the only way he can get the networks to pay attention. Some old McCain hands are dismayed. John Weaver, the former staff member who helped run the old McCain operation, argues that this campaign does not do justice to the man. The current advisers say they have no choice. They didn’t choose the circumstances of this race. Their job is to cope with them. And the inescapable fact is: It is working. Everyone said McCain would be down by double digits at this point. He’s nearly even. Everyone said he’d be vastly outspent. That hasn’t happened. A long-shot candidacy now seems entirely plausible.

There is much to all this. But I think Brooks overstates the idealism of the pre-general election McCain and the conventionality of the general election McCain. As to the former, there are plenty of examples of McCain’s bare-knuckle style of politics. If you have any doubt ask Mitt Romney. McCain dispensed with him by a mixture of counterpunching pugnaciousness, barbed lines in debates, and plenty of references to Romney’s flexible views on a range of issues. There were no kid gloves used. Nor has McCain, in his many past policy and political battles, been above taking it to his opponents; it is simply that his ideologically eclectic views (some say, emotion-based politics) have often set him at odds with members of his own party.

And as for the general election, his team certainly has figured out how to puncture his pompous, lightly-credentialed opponent. But let’s remember he has also stuck with views not welcome on the Right, maintained a defiant attachment to principle in international affairs, and shown a willingness to debate anytime and anywhere. Not exactly the run-of-the-mill Republican politician.

So McCain’s team certainly has come a long way. But his staff did the same a year ago when they came back from their political graves. And anyone who remembers the primary will see a certain number of similarities to the present aggressive McCain posture. Meanwhile, ask some conservatives in the GOP base if McCain’s campaign has become an ordinary GOP campaign. You’ll be greeted with eye rolls or laughter.

I think it is safe to say that what we are seeing now is very typical McCain –much to frustrate everyone and much to admire. It has always been thus.

Read Less




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

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

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

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

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