Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 27, 2008

Re: Dean Barnett

There were few people whose work I enjoyed reading as much as Dean’s. It was always fresh, invariably witty, and never cruel or mean-spirited. But my favorite Dean readings were the dozens and dozens of emails I received from him over the last couple of years. We corresponded regularly, and it was always a delight to see Dean’s name or “Soxblog” in my inbox. Regardless of which publication we were each writing for, I always felt like he was a colleague down the hall, with whom I could commiserate and rely on for a sanity check.

We only actually spoke on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, where he was as charming and witty as he was in print. I owe him a personal and professional debt for his many kindnesses and wise counsel. And in a world of whiners and complainers, he was neither, and remained a constant reminder to keep all of what we do in perspective. I will miss him terribly.

There were few people whose work I enjoyed reading as much as Dean’s. It was always fresh, invariably witty, and never cruel or mean-spirited. But my favorite Dean readings were the dozens and dozens of emails I received from him over the last couple of years. We corresponded regularly, and it was always a delight to see Dean’s name or “Soxblog” in my inbox. Regardless of which publication we were each writing for, I always felt like he was a colleague down the hall, with whom I could commiserate and rely on for a sanity check.

We only actually spoke on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, where he was as charming and witty as he was in print. I owe him a personal and professional debt for his many kindnesses and wise counsel. And in a world of whiners and complainers, he was neither, and remained a constant reminder to keep all of what we do in perspective. I will miss him terribly.

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Of All the Arguments to Make . . .

Am I missing something, or is Christopher Hitchens actually resting his case for Barack Obama on what he finds unpleasant about Sarah Palin’s church?

Videos taken in the Assembly of God church in Wasilla, Alaska, which she used to attend, show her nodding as a preacher says that Alaska will be “one of the refuge states in the Last Days.” For the uninitiated, this is a reference to a crackpot belief, widely held among those who brood on the “End Times,” that some parts of the world will end at different times from others, and Alaska will be a big draw as the heavens darken on account of its wide open spaces. An article by Laurie Goodstein in the New York Times gives further gruesome details of the extreme Pentecostalism with which Palin has been associated in the past (perhaps moderating herself, at least in public, as a political career became more attractive). High points, also available on YouTube, show her being “anointed” by an African bishop who claims to cast out witches. The term used in the trade for this hysterical superstitious nonsense is “spiritual warfare,” in which true Christian soldiers are trained to fight demons. Palin has spoken at “spiritual warfare” events as recently as June. And only last week the chiller from Wasilla spoke of “prayer warriors” in a radio interview with James Dobson of Focus on the Family, who said that he and his lovely wife, Shirley, had convened a prayer meeting to beseech that “God’s perfect will be done on Nov. 4.”

This is what the Republican Party has done to us this year: It has placed within reach of the Oval Office a woman who is a religious fanatic and a proud, boastful ignoramus. Those who despise science and learning are not anti-elitist. They are morally and intellectually slothful people who are secretly envious of the educated and the cultured. And those who prate of spiritual warfare and demons are not just “people of faith” but theocratic bullies. On Nov. 4, anyone who cares for the Constitution has a clear duty to repudiate this wickedness and stupidity.

You’ve been given your mandate, intellectual America! Fight clerical ignorance by electing a president whose spiritual mentor preaches that H.I.V. was invented by the U.S. government. Stand up to bullying stupidity and toxic envy by casting your vote for the two-decade-long member of Jeremiah Wright’s “God damn America” Trinity United Church — an institution that readily supported Louis Farrakhan and that furnished Hamas-supporters with a forum to spew anti-Israel fantasies. And don’t forget to demonstrate your love for the Constitution by putting in the White House a man who laments the “essential constraints” the document places on the judiciary’s ability to spread wealth around. Good night, God bless, yes we can, and Amen.

Am I missing something, or is Christopher Hitchens actually resting his case for Barack Obama on what he finds unpleasant about Sarah Palin’s church?

Videos taken in the Assembly of God church in Wasilla, Alaska, which she used to attend, show her nodding as a preacher says that Alaska will be “one of the refuge states in the Last Days.” For the uninitiated, this is a reference to a crackpot belief, widely held among those who brood on the “End Times,” that some parts of the world will end at different times from others, and Alaska will be a big draw as the heavens darken on account of its wide open spaces. An article by Laurie Goodstein in the New York Times gives further gruesome details of the extreme Pentecostalism with which Palin has been associated in the past (perhaps moderating herself, at least in public, as a political career became more attractive). High points, also available on YouTube, show her being “anointed” by an African bishop who claims to cast out witches. The term used in the trade for this hysterical superstitious nonsense is “spiritual warfare,” in which true Christian soldiers are trained to fight demons. Palin has spoken at “spiritual warfare” events as recently as June. And only last week the chiller from Wasilla spoke of “prayer warriors” in a radio interview with James Dobson of Focus on the Family, who said that he and his lovely wife, Shirley, had convened a prayer meeting to beseech that “God’s perfect will be done on Nov. 4.”

This is what the Republican Party has done to us this year: It has placed within reach of the Oval Office a woman who is a religious fanatic and a proud, boastful ignoramus. Those who despise science and learning are not anti-elitist. They are morally and intellectually slothful people who are secretly envious of the educated and the cultured. And those who prate of spiritual warfare and demons are not just “people of faith” but theocratic bullies. On Nov. 4, anyone who cares for the Constitution has a clear duty to repudiate this wickedness and stupidity.

You’ve been given your mandate, intellectual America! Fight clerical ignorance by electing a president whose spiritual mentor preaches that H.I.V. was invented by the U.S. government. Stand up to bullying stupidity and toxic envy by casting your vote for the two-decade-long member of Jeremiah Wright’s “God damn America” Trinity United Church — an institution that readily supported Louis Farrakhan and that furnished Hamas-supporters with a forum to spew anti-Israel fantasies. And don’t forget to demonstrate your love for the Constitution by putting in the White House a man who laments the “essential constraints” the document places on the judiciary’s ability to spread wealth around. Good night, God bless, yes we can, and Amen.

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Ted Stevens Convicted

Senator Ted Stevens has been found guilty on all seven counts of making false statements on disclosure accounts. The failure to force Stevens’ resignation and replacement prior to the election means the seat will be lost to the Democratic challenger. With the Bridge To Nowhere Stevens came to symbolize much of what went wrong with Republicans in Washington.

As a side note, Colin Powell was among the all-star character witnesses. This may suggest that, in important decisions, people are less impressed with Washington celebrities than with what they hear and see for themselves.

Senator Ted Stevens has been found guilty on all seven counts of making false statements on disclosure accounts. The failure to force Stevens’ resignation and replacement prior to the election means the seat will be lost to the Democratic challenger. With the Bridge To Nowhere Stevens came to symbolize much of what went wrong with Republicans in Washington.

As a side note, Colin Powell was among the all-star character witnesses. This may suggest that, in important decisions, people are less impressed with Washington celebrities than with what they hear and see for themselves.

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Commentary of the Day

purple microdot, on Abe Greenwald:

to all -I’m a former republican voter (1994 through 2006) that will be supporting Obama this year. Regardless of my current voting behavior, the idea of sacrificing at the individual level for the benefit of our nation is an ideal that I also had when I voted as a republican. This is a noble concept and clearly reflects what the people and many families must now do in order to simply balance household budgets and make ends meet. Comparisons to Mussolini or socialism or any other other 20th century evil personas or ideologies is just stupid. It’s as if many people on this blog are just talking to each other in your insulated little worlds. Just throwing pot shots at the opposition that you’ve so throughly demonized within the confines of your dysfunctional minds. Aren’t you all tired of left-wingers always throwing insults and comparing republicans to goose-stepping nazis that are determined to destroy America as we know it? Seriously, this stereotype is just not realistic and beyond untrue. Same for comparing the Democrats or Obama as evil terrorist sympathizers that secretly long to bring jihadist-inspired communist domination to the USA. Etc…

I’ll apolgize in advance for interrupting your mud-slinging hate fest (not quite the LSD induced love gathering of the sixties that J. Menchik felt the need to criticize), but someone has to say something. I can just read some of these blogs and it’s obvious that there are so many really intelligent people here that have so blinded themselves to the confines of conservative-orthodox ideology.

purple microdot, on Abe Greenwald:

to all -I’m a former republican voter (1994 through 2006) that will be supporting Obama this year. Regardless of my current voting behavior, the idea of sacrificing at the individual level for the benefit of our nation is an ideal that I also had when I voted as a republican. This is a noble concept and clearly reflects what the people and many families must now do in order to simply balance household budgets and make ends meet. Comparisons to Mussolini or socialism or any other other 20th century evil personas or ideologies is just stupid. It’s as if many people on this blog are just talking to each other in your insulated little worlds. Just throwing pot shots at the opposition that you’ve so throughly demonized within the confines of your dysfunctional minds. Aren’t you all tired of left-wingers always throwing insults and comparing republicans to goose-stepping nazis that are determined to destroy America as we know it? Seriously, this stereotype is just not realistic and beyond untrue. Same for comparing the Democrats or Obama as evil terrorist sympathizers that secretly long to bring jihadist-inspired communist domination to the USA. Etc…

I’ll apolgize in advance for interrupting your mud-slinging hate fest (not quite the LSD induced love gathering of the sixties that J. Menchik felt the need to criticize), but someone has to say something. I can just read some of these blogs and it’s obvious that there are so many really intelligent people here that have so blinded themselves to the confines of conservative-orthodox ideology.

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An Endorsement He Could Do Without

Jihad al-Khazen has rightly been described as “an outspoken apologist for Middle Eastern terrorist groups like Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah.” A Lebanese-born columnist for al Hayat, a Saudi-financed Arabic daily newspaper based in London, he freely admits: “Throughout my journalistic career I have mainly focused on criticizing the United States and on attacking Israel.”

A critical rundown of some of his spewing may be found here. He has called demonstrations against genocide in Darfur as thinly-veiled efforts by “pro-Israeli group to divert attention from the crimes Israel has perpetrated against the Palestinians.” He has also claimed that the “neocon” (read: Jewish) cabal in the U.S. is as guilty of atrocities as Al Qaeda: “Al-Qaeda and the war cabal are two sides of the same coin,” he claims, and suggests that this “cabal” led the U.S. into a war that destroyed “Iraq in order to serve Israeli interests and imperial dreams.”

It should, therefore, be of some interest that this anti-Semitic, anti-American crank–who, alas, has a wide following in the Middle East, where some have called him an “Arab Tom Friedman”–devotes today’s column to reviling John McCain and endorsing Barack Obama. He doesn’t like McCain, because, he explains, “During his campaign for the US presidency, he has surrounded himself with some of the most extremist neo-conservatives who champion wars, especially if they target Arabs and Muslims.” (I am proud to say that I am one of the “extremists” he singles out for opprobrium.)

He then goes on to make the standard “chickenhawk” argument repeated on a thousand lefty blog sites with a little more brio than usual:

I have noticed, as many others have as well, that the majority of warmongers avoided their military service…. The head of the war cabal, Vice President Dick Cheney, avoided military service, while other neo-conservative and Likudnik cowards, like Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Elliott Abrams, Douglas Feith, William Kristol, Bill O’Reilly, Senator Joe Lieberman and former Representative Newt Gingrich, did the same.

How this “chickenhawk” calumny applies to a decorated war hero like John McCain he doesn’t bother to explain. But then logic is not his strong suit. Venom is. Particularly anti-Jewish venom. He writes with alarm about the possibility of Joe Lieberman becoming secretary of state:

I will not be surprised if McCain brings Lieberman into his administration, in the unlikely event of a Republican victory, as secretary of state – then, the office will be held by an Israeli Likudnik on the level of Benjamin Netanyahu, I mean as low as this level, if this is possible.

Here’s the punchline:

John McCain has surrounded himself with some of the most despicable enemies of Arabs and Muslims; some of them are total Israelis, and are always ready to sacrifice American lives to protect Israel’s so-called security. They have done this in the past and will do it in the future. Obama is not perfect, but he certainly is better.

Given the attention devoted in some sectors of the media to Al Qaeda’s purported endorsement of McCain, presumably–in the interests of fairness–equal attention will be paid to the views of al Khazen and others of his ilk who are declaring themselves fans of The One.

Jihad al-Khazen has rightly been described as “an outspoken apologist for Middle Eastern terrorist groups like Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah.” A Lebanese-born columnist for al Hayat, a Saudi-financed Arabic daily newspaper based in London, he freely admits: “Throughout my journalistic career I have mainly focused on criticizing the United States and on attacking Israel.”

A critical rundown of some of his spewing may be found here. He has called demonstrations against genocide in Darfur as thinly-veiled efforts by “pro-Israeli group to divert attention from the crimes Israel has perpetrated against the Palestinians.” He has also claimed that the “neocon” (read: Jewish) cabal in the U.S. is as guilty of atrocities as Al Qaeda: “Al-Qaeda and the war cabal are two sides of the same coin,” he claims, and suggests that this “cabal” led the U.S. into a war that destroyed “Iraq in order to serve Israeli interests and imperial dreams.”

It should, therefore, be of some interest that this anti-Semitic, anti-American crank–who, alas, has a wide following in the Middle East, where some have called him an “Arab Tom Friedman”–devotes today’s column to reviling John McCain and endorsing Barack Obama. He doesn’t like McCain, because, he explains, “During his campaign for the US presidency, he has surrounded himself with some of the most extremist neo-conservatives who champion wars, especially if they target Arabs and Muslims.” (I am proud to say that I am one of the “extremists” he singles out for opprobrium.)

He then goes on to make the standard “chickenhawk” argument repeated on a thousand lefty blog sites with a little more brio than usual:

I have noticed, as many others have as well, that the majority of warmongers avoided their military service…. The head of the war cabal, Vice President Dick Cheney, avoided military service, while other neo-conservative and Likudnik cowards, like Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Elliott Abrams, Douglas Feith, William Kristol, Bill O’Reilly, Senator Joe Lieberman and former Representative Newt Gingrich, did the same.

How this “chickenhawk” calumny applies to a decorated war hero like John McCain he doesn’t bother to explain. But then logic is not his strong suit. Venom is. Particularly anti-Jewish venom. He writes with alarm about the possibility of Joe Lieberman becoming secretary of state:

I will not be surprised if McCain brings Lieberman into his administration, in the unlikely event of a Republican victory, as secretary of state – then, the office will be held by an Israeli Likudnik on the level of Benjamin Netanyahu, I mean as low as this level, if this is possible.

Here’s the punchline:

John McCain has surrounded himself with some of the most despicable enemies of Arabs and Muslims; some of them are total Israelis, and are always ready to sacrifice American lives to protect Israel’s so-called security. They have done this in the past and will do it in the future. Obama is not perfect, but he certainly is better.

Given the attention devoted in some sectors of the media to Al Qaeda’s purported endorsement of McCain, presumably–in the interests of fairness–equal attention will be paid to the views of al Khazen and others of his ilk who are declaring themselves fans of The One.

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Dean Barnett, 1967-2008

It is heartbreaking to report that Dean Barnett, one of the early stars of the conservative blogosphere, died this afternoon at the age of 41 of complications from cystic fibrosis. Dean was a Massachusetts businessman who began writing a delightful blog about the Red Sox but soon found himself irrepressibly drawn to the politics of the present moment. Both in his own blog, then as a contributor to Hugh Hewitt’s blog, and finally as a staff writer at the Weekly Standard’s blog, Dean was a sterling example of the democratizing power of the Internet to bring forward voices that, in previous generations, might never have found the proper vehicle for meaningful self-expression.

He was a natural, a fluent and fluid prose stylist of uncommon good humor. The fact that he found such good cheer in such difficult times surely had something to do with the remarkably good-natured, matter-of-fact, and quietly brave way he lived with his cystic fibrosis, about which he wrote as lucidly as he wrote almost everything else. I never met Dean, but had literally hundreds of e-mail exchanges with him, and they were highlights of every day on which I was lucky to participate in them. This is yet another remarkable quality of the blogosphere and the Internet — that they create new kinds of friendships based on very old epistolary models.

He was one of nature’s noblemen.  Zikhrono Liv’rackha — may his memory be for a blessing.

It is heartbreaking to report that Dean Barnett, one of the early stars of the conservative blogosphere, died this afternoon at the age of 41 of complications from cystic fibrosis. Dean was a Massachusetts businessman who began writing a delightful blog about the Red Sox but soon found himself irrepressibly drawn to the politics of the present moment. Both in his own blog, then as a contributor to Hugh Hewitt’s blog, and finally as a staff writer at the Weekly Standard’s blog, Dean was a sterling example of the democratizing power of the Internet to bring forward voices that, in previous generations, might never have found the proper vehicle for meaningful self-expression.

He was a natural, a fluent and fluid prose stylist of uncommon good humor. The fact that he found such good cheer in such difficult times surely had something to do with the remarkably good-natured, matter-of-fact, and quietly brave way he lived with his cystic fibrosis, about which he wrote as lucidly as he wrote almost everything else. I never met Dean, but had literally hundreds of e-mail exchanges with him, and they were highlights of every day on which I was lucky to participate in them. This is yet another remarkable quality of the blogosphere and the Internet — that they create new kinds of friendships based on very old epistolary models.

He was one of nature’s noblemen.  Zikhrono Liv’rackha — may his memory be for a blessing.

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Currency Wars

This morning, the New York Times advised China to rebalance its economy, shifting it away from exports and toward domestic consumption. “Consumer spending amounts to little over a third of economic production, probably the lowest share in any country in the world,” the paper notes.

The Times is certainly correct in both its assessment of the current woes of the Chinese economy and its proposed cure. For years, American Treasury secretaries, Fed chiefs, and economists have been trooping to Beijing to tell China’s technocrats this. Everyone knows foreigners have been giving excellent advice, but China’s political leaders have been reluctant to accept it. Under intense outside pressure, in July 2005 they allowed their currency, the renminbi, to appreciate by permitting a “dirty float.” In other words, they allowed the yuan, as it is also known, to fluctuate in value within tightly managed trading bands. As a result, the Chinese currency has gone up in value. This year it has appreciated 7.3 percent against the dollar.

Then came July, when the gains against the dollar stopped. July is also the month that the ruling Politburo switched gears, dropping its fight against persistent inflation and starting a campaign to stimulate growth by promoting exports. Any program to help exports will inevitably depress imports and consumption. In short, China’s political leaders rejected the good advice from the New York Times months before today’s editorial saw the light of day.

And why do we care if Beijing is taking steps that will ultimately cause even more damage to its economy? By artificially depressing the value of their currency, Chinese leaders are trying to obtain a trade advantage by making their exports cheaper than they would otherwise be. In the past, China’s competitors–especially Thailand, South Korea, and Japan-took only minor steps to counteract Beijing’s currency moves by directly or indirectly fiddling with their currency values. In a time of synchronous economic failure, however, nations are bound to rethink the system of freely floating currencies. Just as bad currencies drive out good ones–that’s Gresham’s Law–selfish currency policies undermine responsible ones.

If Beijing persists in its irresponsible currency policy, other nations will stop being exemplary global citizens and begin to rig theirs as well. Competitive devaluations are one way to start a worldwide depression. At a time when almost every economy is fragile, leaders in the West need to tone down counterproductive calls for planetary regulation and begin speaking about the real danger to common prosperity.

This morning, the New York Times advised China to rebalance its economy, shifting it away from exports and toward domestic consumption. “Consumer spending amounts to little over a third of economic production, probably the lowest share in any country in the world,” the paper notes.

The Times is certainly correct in both its assessment of the current woes of the Chinese economy and its proposed cure. For years, American Treasury secretaries, Fed chiefs, and economists have been trooping to Beijing to tell China’s technocrats this. Everyone knows foreigners have been giving excellent advice, but China’s political leaders have been reluctant to accept it. Under intense outside pressure, in July 2005 they allowed their currency, the renminbi, to appreciate by permitting a “dirty float.” In other words, they allowed the yuan, as it is also known, to fluctuate in value within tightly managed trading bands. As a result, the Chinese currency has gone up in value. This year it has appreciated 7.3 percent against the dollar.

Then came July, when the gains against the dollar stopped. July is also the month that the ruling Politburo switched gears, dropping its fight against persistent inflation and starting a campaign to stimulate growth by promoting exports. Any program to help exports will inevitably depress imports and consumption. In short, China’s political leaders rejected the good advice from the New York Times months before today’s editorial saw the light of day.

And why do we care if Beijing is taking steps that will ultimately cause even more damage to its economy? By artificially depressing the value of their currency, Chinese leaders are trying to obtain a trade advantage by making their exports cheaper than they would otherwise be. In the past, China’s competitors–especially Thailand, South Korea, and Japan-took only minor steps to counteract Beijing’s currency moves by directly or indirectly fiddling with their currency values. In a time of synchronous economic failure, however, nations are bound to rethink the system of freely floating currencies. Just as bad currencies drive out good ones–that’s Gresham’s Law–selfish currency policies undermine responsible ones.

If Beijing persists in its irresponsible currency policy, other nations will stop being exemplary global citizens and begin to rig theirs as well. Competitive devaluations are one way to start a worldwide depression. At a time when almost every economy is fragile, leaders in the West need to tone down counterproductive calls for planetary regulation and begin speaking about the real danger to common prosperity.

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Bush Takes Off the Gloves

No aspect of counterinsurgency warfare is more vexing–or more important–than trying to prevent cross-border infiltrations. If there is one factor, more than any other, that determines the success or failure of any insurgency, it is whether the guerrillas are able to receive support from neighboring countries. If the battlefield can be effectively “isolated,” the result is likely to be another Philippine Insurrection or Malay Emergency–a win for the counterinsurgents. If, on the other hand, the guerrillas (or, if you prefer, terrorists) are able to receive cross-border resupply, the result is more likely to be a repeat of the North Vietnamese victory against the South or the mujahideen‘s victory against the Red Army.

Both of the wars the U.S. is fighting at the moment–in Afghanistan and Iraq–have significant cross-border components. In the case of the former, Pakistan has been a safe haven for the Taliban; in the case of the latter, Syria has been a conduit for Sunni suicide bombers and Iran has been a training ground for Shiite militants and a supplier of their munitions. Until fairly recently, the Bush administration’s response to these warlike acts was fairly restrained–more tough talk than tough action. But now, in the administration’s waning days, the gloves seem to be coming off. In addition to stepping up missile-firings by unmanned aerial vehicles in Pakistan’s frontier regions, the administration authorized at least one Special Operations raid into Pakistan another into Syria.

Both raids have met with predictable outrage in Pakistan and Syria. The incursion into Pakistan has also been condemned by some American analysts, who think that such violations of Pakistani territory are unwise because they will aggravate the people of Pakistan whose support we need to defeat the militants. This concern is a legitimate one, though it needs to be balanced against the fact that the Pakistani military has shown a decided lack of both enthusiasm and skill for rooting out these threats on their own.

The incursion into Syria should raise fewer concerns, since there is no doubt that the government in Damascus is hostile to us, while the one in Islamabad is, at least ostensibly, allied with us. By hitting the ratlines that facilitate the infiltration of terrorists into Iraq, we send a powerful message to Bashar Assad: that he risks further erosion of his own sovereignty unless he does more to respect Iraqi sovereignty. That is a message we should have sent long ago.

No aspect of counterinsurgency warfare is more vexing–or more important–than trying to prevent cross-border infiltrations. If there is one factor, more than any other, that determines the success or failure of any insurgency, it is whether the guerrillas are able to receive support from neighboring countries. If the battlefield can be effectively “isolated,” the result is likely to be another Philippine Insurrection or Malay Emergency–a win for the counterinsurgents. If, on the other hand, the guerrillas (or, if you prefer, terrorists) are able to receive cross-border resupply, the result is more likely to be a repeat of the North Vietnamese victory against the South or the mujahideen‘s victory against the Red Army.

Both of the wars the U.S. is fighting at the moment–in Afghanistan and Iraq–have significant cross-border components. In the case of the former, Pakistan has been a safe haven for the Taliban; in the case of the latter, Syria has been a conduit for Sunni suicide bombers and Iran has been a training ground for Shiite militants and a supplier of their munitions. Until fairly recently, the Bush administration’s response to these warlike acts was fairly restrained–more tough talk than tough action. But now, in the administration’s waning days, the gloves seem to be coming off. In addition to stepping up missile-firings by unmanned aerial vehicles in Pakistan’s frontier regions, the administration authorized at least one Special Operations raid into Pakistan another into Syria.

Both raids have met with predictable outrage in Pakistan and Syria. The incursion into Pakistan has also been condemned by some American analysts, who think that such violations of Pakistani territory are unwise because they will aggravate the people of Pakistan whose support we need to defeat the militants. This concern is a legitimate one, though it needs to be balanced against the fact that the Pakistani military has shown a decided lack of both enthusiasm and skill for rooting out these threats on their own.

The incursion into Syria should raise fewer concerns, since there is no doubt that the government in Damascus is hostile to us, while the one in Islamabad is, at least ostensibly, allied with us. By hitting the ratlines that facilitate the infiltration of terrorists into Iraq, we send a powerful message to Bashar Assad: that he risks further erosion of his own sovereignty unless he does more to respect Iraqi sovereignty. That is a message we should have sent long ago.

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When Do They Go Back to Work?

Media critic Bernie Goldberg gets to the heart of the media bias problem: the Democratic ticket doesn’t get asked hard questions by the MSM, and when outsiders do (e.g. Joe the Plumber, Stanley Kurtz) they get attacked both by the official Obama camp and by Obama media cheerleaders. All of that means that most voters don’t get answers to basic questions. Unless, by happenstance, someone breaks through the MSM gauntlet, or voters go in search of alternative news outlets. Even more worrisome is that the Obama camp becomes emboldened that they can defy scrutiny and that upstarts can be intimidated.

If Obama is elected it will be interesting to see if the MSM returns to its traditional role as adversary to the White House or whether they join forces to squelch pesky opponents. At some point the MSM has to do its job. Right? Well, they seem to have found a new job — as adjuncts to the Obama team. It’s unclear, if Obama is elected, whether the MSM will have the stomach to confront, criticize, and investigate the man they worked so hard to put in office.

Media critic Bernie Goldberg gets to the heart of the media bias problem: the Democratic ticket doesn’t get asked hard questions by the MSM, and when outsiders do (e.g. Joe the Plumber, Stanley Kurtz) they get attacked both by the official Obama camp and by Obama media cheerleaders. All of that means that most voters don’t get answers to basic questions. Unless, by happenstance, someone breaks through the MSM gauntlet, or voters go in search of alternative news outlets. Even more worrisome is that the Obama camp becomes emboldened that they can defy scrutiny and that upstarts can be intimidated.

If Obama is elected it will be interesting to see if the MSM returns to its traditional role as adversary to the White House or whether they join forces to squelch pesky opponents. At some point the MSM has to do its job. Right? Well, they seem to have found a new job — as adjuncts to the Obama team. It’s unclear, if Obama is elected, whether the MSM will have the stomach to confront, criticize, and investigate the man they worked so hard to put in office.

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Tick, Tock . . .

The Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control has put together a “nuclear timetable” for Iran’s nuclear program. According to their study, “[b]ased on the amount of low-enriched uranium Iran has stockpiled, and the amount it is believed to be producing each month, the Wisconsin Project estimates that by inauguration day, Iran could have enough U-235 to fuel one bomb quickly.”

By quickly, they mean two to three months–low-enriched uranium has to be fed into the centrifuges again to produce weapons-grade uranium. If this is accurate, Iran will produce its first bomb any time between March and May 2009 – in time for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s bid for re-election and well before the next U.S. President will have formulated a coherent Iran policy, let alone gotten his foreign policy team confirmed. One more reason for the Bush administration in its waning days to consider the possibility that the Iran problem should not be left unsolved for the next White House tenant.

The Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control has put together a “nuclear timetable” for Iran’s nuclear program. According to their study, “[b]ased on the amount of low-enriched uranium Iran has stockpiled, and the amount it is believed to be producing each month, the Wisconsin Project estimates that by inauguration day, Iran could have enough U-235 to fuel one bomb quickly.”

By quickly, they mean two to three months–low-enriched uranium has to be fed into the centrifuges again to produce weapons-grade uranium. If this is accurate, Iran will produce its first bomb any time between March and May 2009 – in time for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s bid for re-election and well before the next U.S. President will have formulated a coherent Iran policy, let alone gotten his foreign policy team confirmed. One more reason for the Bush administration in its waning days to consider the possibility that the Iran problem should not be left unsolved for the next White House tenant.

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Don’t Release Terrorists

As I have previously written, the tentative security accord between the U.S. and Iraq contains some cause for concern-and nowhere more so than in its provisions rescinding U.S. authority to arrest and detain suspected terrorists. While the impact of these rules going forward remains to be determined, they could have a catastrophic impact if they force the release of dangerous detainees already in U.S. custody. This New York Times article suggests that this may very well be the case Correspondent Alissa Rubin writes:

Among the detainees still in American custody, about 5,000 are considered “dangerous radicals,” said Brig. Gen. David E. Quantock, commanding general for Task Force 134, which oversees the detention system in Iraq. The United States will probably have to release about 4,000 of them when the military’s right to detain people expires at year’s end, he said.

Most of the remaining 12,000 detainees are people who the Americans believe either were mistakenly swept up or played minor roles in the insurgency and are unlikely to return to it as long as they can find work.

Under the proposed rules, the United States would be permitted to hold a detainee under only two circumstances: if there is enough evidence for an Iraqi judge to issue an arrest warrant, or if a suspect is already charged and awaiting trial. And the Iraqis would have to request that the United States continue to hold the person.

At the moment, American officials say, they believe they will be able to meet that standard for only about a fifth of those they consider dangerous.

“On around 1,000, we’ll get the evidence to charge them in the Iraqi court system,” General Quantock said. “On 4,000, we’ll have to work a hard guarantor program.”

A guarantor program is one in which a member of the community, like a tribal leader, agrees to sponsor the detainee, pledging that if he commits an offense, the tribal leader or another person in the community will go to jail for him. Military officials say it is not clear if they will be able to find sponsors for those who were truly bad actors.

Trying to find guarantors for the good conduct of hard-core Al Qaeda in Iraq terrorists seems like a fool’s errand. There is no way that these hard-core bad guys should ever be released under any circumstances. If that in fact happens at the end of the year, expect that 2009 will see a lot of innocent casualties, Iraqi as well as American. It is not too late to avert this outcome, but it is imperative that Iraqi officials work with the U.S. to agree on some kind of legal framework that will allow the indefinite detention of these desperadoes, at first in American custody, later perhaps transferring to Iraqi custody once the Iraqis develop the capacity to hold high-risk prisoners in a secure environment.

As I have previously written, the tentative security accord between the U.S. and Iraq contains some cause for concern-and nowhere more so than in its provisions rescinding U.S. authority to arrest and detain suspected terrorists. While the impact of these rules going forward remains to be determined, they could have a catastrophic impact if they force the release of dangerous detainees already in U.S. custody. This New York Times article suggests that this may very well be the case Correspondent Alissa Rubin writes:

Among the detainees still in American custody, about 5,000 are considered “dangerous radicals,” said Brig. Gen. David E. Quantock, commanding general for Task Force 134, which oversees the detention system in Iraq. The United States will probably have to release about 4,000 of them when the military’s right to detain people expires at year’s end, he said.

Most of the remaining 12,000 detainees are people who the Americans believe either were mistakenly swept up or played minor roles in the insurgency and are unlikely to return to it as long as they can find work.

Under the proposed rules, the United States would be permitted to hold a detainee under only two circumstances: if there is enough evidence for an Iraqi judge to issue an arrest warrant, or if a suspect is already charged and awaiting trial. And the Iraqis would have to request that the United States continue to hold the person.

At the moment, American officials say, they believe they will be able to meet that standard for only about a fifth of those they consider dangerous.

“On around 1,000, we’ll get the evidence to charge them in the Iraqi court system,” General Quantock said. “On 4,000, we’ll have to work a hard guarantor program.”

A guarantor program is one in which a member of the community, like a tribal leader, agrees to sponsor the detainee, pledging that if he commits an offense, the tribal leader or another person in the community will go to jail for him. Military officials say it is not clear if they will be able to find sponsors for those who were truly bad actors.

Trying to find guarantors for the good conduct of hard-core Al Qaeda in Iraq terrorists seems like a fool’s errand. There is no way that these hard-core bad guys should ever be released under any circumstances. If that in fact happens at the end of the year, expect that 2009 will see a lot of innocent casualties, Iraqi as well as American. It is not too late to avert this outcome, but it is imperative that Iraqi officials work with the U.S. to agree on some kind of legal framework that will allow the indefinite detention of these desperadoes, at first in American custody, later perhaps transferring to Iraqi custody once the Iraqis develop the capacity to hold high-risk prisoners in a secure environment.

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Re-branding Teddy

It’s bad enough that various finger-to-the-wind Republicans–like Colin Powell, Bill Weld, Chris Buckley, Ken Adelman, and Scott McCellan–are rushing to get on the Obama bandwagon now that it has gale-force momentum. (Where were they, one wonders, back in early September, when Obama was behind in the polls and could really have used their help?) To add insult to injury, the Republican president most admired by John McCain is more or less endorsing his opponent, too. At least he is if you believe his self-appointed amanuensis, Edmund Morris.

In a bizarre op-ed in today’s New York Times, Morris pulls a bunch of Theodore Roosevelt quotations out of context and makes it seem as if the old Rough Rider, who died 89 years ago, is answering questions on the state of today’s politics. A sample of his technique: He takes a comment Roosevelt had made about Woodrow Wilson (“It is entirely inexcusable, however, to try to combine the unready hand with the unbridled tongue”) and turns it into an assault on Sarah Palin, whose resemblance to Wilson–that idealistic egghead who would not have been caught dead hunting a moose–entirely escapes me.

Such a literary performance would have to be judged as pretty weird, but it is nothing unusual for Morris, a writer of some gifts who has a penchant for injecting fiction into what are supposed to be sober works of biography. This tendency was most ill-advisedly on display in “Dutch,” Ronald Reagan’s authorized biography, which was judged a bust because Morris injected a fictional character, confusingly also named “Edmund Morris,” into the narrative to describe events in Reagan’s life that Morris had not seen for himself.

The same tendency was on display, in more attenuated form, in Morris’s magisterial biography of Theodore Roosevelt. Volume two, “Theodore Rex,” for instance, began with a prologue that purported to report Roosevelt’s impressions as he was traveling in a train across the American landscape–impressions that seem to have been imparted to the dead president by his slightly zany biographer.

At least the “Theodore Rex” prologue was a fairly convincing piece of work. Not so Morris’s op-ed. It is impossible to know, of course, what Roosevelt would think if he were resurrected today. But if anyone is his successor in personal and ideological terms, surely it is John McCain–another war hero known for aggravating his own party–rather than Barack Obama, a doctrinaire liberal in the Woodrow Wilson mold. Readers interested in my take on where Roosevelt fits in today’s political spectrum should check out this article from World Affairs journal.

It’s bad enough that various finger-to-the-wind Republicans–like Colin Powell, Bill Weld, Chris Buckley, Ken Adelman, and Scott McCellan–are rushing to get on the Obama bandwagon now that it has gale-force momentum. (Where were they, one wonders, back in early September, when Obama was behind in the polls and could really have used their help?) To add insult to injury, the Republican president most admired by John McCain is more or less endorsing his opponent, too. At least he is if you believe his self-appointed amanuensis, Edmund Morris.

In a bizarre op-ed in today’s New York Times, Morris pulls a bunch of Theodore Roosevelt quotations out of context and makes it seem as if the old Rough Rider, who died 89 years ago, is answering questions on the state of today’s politics. A sample of his technique: He takes a comment Roosevelt had made about Woodrow Wilson (“It is entirely inexcusable, however, to try to combine the unready hand with the unbridled tongue”) and turns it into an assault on Sarah Palin, whose resemblance to Wilson–that idealistic egghead who would not have been caught dead hunting a moose–entirely escapes me.

Such a literary performance would have to be judged as pretty weird, but it is nothing unusual for Morris, a writer of some gifts who has a penchant for injecting fiction into what are supposed to be sober works of biography. This tendency was most ill-advisedly on display in “Dutch,” Ronald Reagan’s authorized biography, which was judged a bust because Morris injected a fictional character, confusingly also named “Edmund Morris,” into the narrative to describe events in Reagan’s life that Morris had not seen for himself.

The same tendency was on display, in more attenuated form, in Morris’s magisterial biography of Theodore Roosevelt. Volume two, “Theodore Rex,” for instance, began with a prologue that purported to report Roosevelt’s impressions as he was traveling in a train across the American landscape–impressions that seem to have been imparted to the dead president by his slightly zany biographer.

At least the “Theodore Rex” prologue was a fairly convincing piece of work. Not so Morris’s op-ed. It is impossible to know, of course, what Roosevelt would think if he were resurrected today. But if anyone is his successor in personal and ideological terms, surely it is John McCain–another war hero known for aggravating his own party–rather than Barack Obama, a doctrinaire liberal in the Woodrow Wilson mold. Readers interested in my take on where Roosevelt fits in today’s political spectrum should check out this article from World Affairs journal.

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That Famous Soft Power

In the Post of Pakistan, Shabbir Ahmad Wahgra offers a helpful peek into how Barack Obama’s ever-touted soft-power gift is actually being received in the Muslim world:

In subsequent weeks and months during his campaign Obama showed hostility towards Muslim world and it seems clear that there would not be any major foreign policy shift towards Muslim countries if Obama elected president of United States but his statements give a contrary picture for Muslim world. As on number of occasion from his nomination till latest presidential debates Obama continues to stress his willingness to send troops into sovereign Pakistani territory in pursuit of the enemy, despite much evidence that such imperious tactics are undermining the US anti-terror alliance with Islamabad and despite warnings from Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and General David McKiernan, the US in-country commander, among others, that negotiation, not escalation, will ultimately halt the violence. It’s when Obama strays into sensitive areas such as these that the charge that he is dangerously inexperienced gains traction. On the other hand, McCain is clearly prepared to take similar action inside Pakistan. He just does not talk about it. So there is no much difference in both candidates policies which shows who ever will win Muslim world will suffer with same intensity at the hands of the US.

But John Kerry, Camille Paglia, Andrew Sullivan, and Nicholas Kristof told us that if Obama becomes president, his blackness will magically be broadcast as pro-Muslim sentiment the world-over.

Wahgra points out that “[a]cross the six Muslim countries surveyed, the percentage of respondents who say the outcome of the election makes a difference to their country ranges from a high of 42 percent in Lebanon to a low of 10 percent in Pakistan,” which testifies to the absurdity of expecting some uniform Muslim reaction to a president Obama.

Most interesting are the things about Obama that Wahgra finds hopeful:

Many Muslims see new reason for hope in the political approach of Obama and his advisers. His apparent eagerness to rally more international support for US policy, and even talk to America’s “enemies”, is cause for optimism. Obama once himself stated in an interview that “There has been a shift in Islam that I believe is connected to the failures of governments and the failures of the West to work with many of these countries”. By embracing dialogue with Muslim populated countries such as Syria and Iran, and jump-starting US diplomatic efforts, Obama will open doors that have been shut – and bolted – in recent years.

So “many Muslims” are excited about suicidal policies from which Obama has been trying do distance most of the campaign. It’s not the soft power of Obama, but the softened power of the U.S., that’s got people in the region keeping their fingers crossed.

In the Post of Pakistan, Shabbir Ahmad Wahgra offers a helpful peek into how Barack Obama’s ever-touted soft-power gift is actually being received in the Muslim world:

In subsequent weeks and months during his campaign Obama showed hostility towards Muslim world and it seems clear that there would not be any major foreign policy shift towards Muslim countries if Obama elected president of United States but his statements give a contrary picture for Muslim world. As on number of occasion from his nomination till latest presidential debates Obama continues to stress his willingness to send troops into sovereign Pakistani territory in pursuit of the enemy, despite much evidence that such imperious tactics are undermining the US anti-terror alliance with Islamabad and despite warnings from Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and General David McKiernan, the US in-country commander, among others, that negotiation, not escalation, will ultimately halt the violence. It’s when Obama strays into sensitive areas such as these that the charge that he is dangerously inexperienced gains traction. On the other hand, McCain is clearly prepared to take similar action inside Pakistan. He just does not talk about it. So there is no much difference in both candidates policies which shows who ever will win Muslim world will suffer with same intensity at the hands of the US.

But John Kerry, Camille Paglia, Andrew Sullivan, and Nicholas Kristof told us that if Obama becomes president, his blackness will magically be broadcast as pro-Muslim sentiment the world-over.

Wahgra points out that “[a]cross the six Muslim countries surveyed, the percentage of respondents who say the outcome of the election makes a difference to their country ranges from a high of 42 percent in Lebanon to a low of 10 percent in Pakistan,” which testifies to the absurdity of expecting some uniform Muslim reaction to a president Obama.

Most interesting are the things about Obama that Wahgra finds hopeful:

Many Muslims see new reason for hope in the political approach of Obama and his advisers. His apparent eagerness to rally more international support for US policy, and even talk to America’s “enemies”, is cause for optimism. Obama once himself stated in an interview that “There has been a shift in Islam that I believe is connected to the failures of governments and the failures of the West to work with many of these countries”. By embracing dialogue with Muslim populated countries such as Syria and Iran, and jump-starting US diplomatic efforts, Obama will open doors that have been shut – and bolted – in recent years.

So “many Muslims” are excited about suicidal policies from which Obama has been trying do distance most of the campaign. It’s not the soft power of Obama, but the softened power of the U.S., that’s got people in the region keeping their fingers crossed.

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Israel Goes to Elections

Tzipi Livni will have to wait to become Prime Minister, if she ever does. After trying for close to two months to form a coalition, she has failed, and today President Shimon Peres formally informed the Speaker of the Knesset that Israel will be holding early elections, probably this coming January. This was not a widely predicted outcome: Most people thought she would somehow pull it together–especially given the likelihood, according to polls, that both Kadima and her existing coalition partners would either get trounced or maintain their present levels if elections were held. The incentives seemed to line up in Livni’s failure.

Why did she fail? Two big reasons come to mind. First, the global financial crisis made it impossible for her to commit to major financial handouts that would undermine Israel’s relative economic stability. And second, because Shas, the third-largest party in the coalition, became unusually rigid in its negotiations, eventually announcing they would prefer elections. This is extremely unusual for Shas, a party widely known to have few principles other than securing funding for its vast social and educational networks, something you cannot do as an opposition party. But Shas has a different problem to worry about: the return of Aryeh Deri, its founding father who will be eligible to re-enter politics some time next year. Only by having elections now can Eli Yishai, who has headed the party for the past seven years since Deri’s conviction on corruption charges, be assured of keeping hold of the party for the time being.

Neither of these facts were really in Livni’s hands to alter. But inevitably this will be looked at as her failure–a failure that will surely reflect badly on her party as we head into what is likely to be a very intensive election campaign. She is far more popular than her predecessor Olmert, but Kadima is still looked at as a party that achieved basically nothing in its tenure, while being plagued with corruption. Right now the polls show another shift back to the Right, with Labor getting demolished and Likud taking the lead. But three months is a long time. . .

Tzipi Livni will have to wait to become Prime Minister, if she ever does. After trying for close to two months to form a coalition, she has failed, and today President Shimon Peres formally informed the Speaker of the Knesset that Israel will be holding early elections, probably this coming January. This was not a widely predicted outcome: Most people thought she would somehow pull it together–especially given the likelihood, according to polls, that both Kadima and her existing coalition partners would either get trounced or maintain their present levels if elections were held. The incentives seemed to line up in Livni’s failure.

Why did she fail? Two big reasons come to mind. First, the global financial crisis made it impossible for her to commit to major financial handouts that would undermine Israel’s relative economic stability. And second, because Shas, the third-largest party in the coalition, became unusually rigid in its negotiations, eventually announcing they would prefer elections. This is extremely unusual for Shas, a party widely known to have few principles other than securing funding for its vast social and educational networks, something you cannot do as an opposition party. But Shas has a different problem to worry about: the return of Aryeh Deri, its founding father who will be eligible to re-enter politics some time next year. Only by having elections now can Eli Yishai, who has headed the party for the past seven years since Deri’s conviction on corruption charges, be assured of keeping hold of the party for the time being.

Neither of these facts were really in Livni’s hands to alter. But inevitably this will be looked at as her failure–a failure that will surely reflect badly on her party as we head into what is likely to be a very intensive election campaign. She is far more popular than her predecessor Olmert, but Kadima is still looked at as a party that achieved basically nothing in its tenure, while being plagued with corruption. Right now the polls show another shift back to the Right, with Labor getting demolished and Likud taking the lead. But three months is a long time. . .

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Re: It Should Come As No Surprise

The McCain camp has pounced on the 2001 radio remarks by Barack Obama (one wonders where the vaunted GOP “oppo” research machine has been, since this didn’t find its way to the public until eight days before the election). The McCain campaign released this statement:

The American people continue to learn more about Barack Obama. Now we know that the slogans ‘change you can believe in’ and ‘change we need’ are code words for Barack Obama’s ultimate goal: ‘redistributive change.’ In a previously uncovered interview from September 6, 2001, Barack Obama expressed his regret that the Supreme Court hadn’t been more ‘radical’ and described as a ‘tragedy’ the Court’s refusal to take up ‘the issues of redistribution of wealth.’ No wonder he wants to appoint judges that legislate from the bench – as insurance in case a unified Democratic government under his control fails to meet his basic goal: taking money away from people who work for it and giving it to people who Barack Obama believes deserve it. Europeans call it socialism, Americans call it welfare, and Barack Obama calls it change.

Coming on the heels of Joe the Plumber, the “redistribution we can believe in” comments confirm that in fact Obama does have, as his primary goal, “fairness.” Not wealth creation or equality of opportunity. He certainly exhibits no affection for or understanding of the benefits of market capitalism. He speaks in soothing terms, but the implications of his words are plain. We have never elected a president who in such stark terms identifies with the goals of the Left.

It took two years, but we may finally be getting a peek at the “real” Obama.

The McCain camp has pounced on the 2001 radio remarks by Barack Obama (one wonders where the vaunted GOP “oppo” research machine has been, since this didn’t find its way to the public until eight days before the election). The McCain campaign released this statement:

The American people continue to learn more about Barack Obama. Now we know that the slogans ‘change you can believe in’ and ‘change we need’ are code words for Barack Obama’s ultimate goal: ‘redistributive change.’ In a previously uncovered interview from September 6, 2001, Barack Obama expressed his regret that the Supreme Court hadn’t been more ‘radical’ and described as a ‘tragedy’ the Court’s refusal to take up ‘the issues of redistribution of wealth.’ No wonder he wants to appoint judges that legislate from the bench – as insurance in case a unified Democratic government under his control fails to meet his basic goal: taking money away from people who work for it and giving it to people who Barack Obama believes deserve it. Europeans call it socialism, Americans call it welfare, and Barack Obama calls it change.

Coming on the heels of Joe the Plumber, the “redistribution we can believe in” comments confirm that in fact Obama does have, as his primary goal, “fairness.” Not wealth creation or equality of opportunity. He certainly exhibits no affection for or understanding of the benefits of market capitalism. He speaks in soothing terms, but the implications of his words are plain. We have never elected a president who in such stark terms identifies with the goals of the Left.

It took two years, but we may finally be getting a peek at the “real” Obama.

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Facing Facts on Iran

On Sunday, an official spokesman for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards admitted that Iran arms “liberation armies” in the region–i.e., provides weapons to mass murderers, terrorists, and militias of all kinds in places like Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza, and Yemen. We knew that already, but we appreciate the candor. One question, though, more for our Western leaders than for our Iranian truth-tellers: how exactly is this Iranian role as a spoiler going to serve Western interests in the region? And how will things change once Iran becomes a nuclear power? After all, this is becoming a distinct possibility.

If Israeli intelligence is correct in its most recent assessment, Western powers will fail to halt Iran’s nuclear bid, because no military attack will be launched and no tougher sanctions will be imposed on Tehran. That will leave every Middle Eastern militia currently on the payroll of Iran under the distinct impression that their mischief will now be further protected by Iran’s nuclear umbrella–something that will enable them to escalate their actions with impunity. Of course, Western leaders can delude themselves about Iran’s true intentions. Or they can believe what Council of Foreign Relations president Richard Haass believes, as Shmuel Rosner reported in his recent post. If they choose to believe what Iran is saying, they might wish to reconsider their options and prove Israeli intelligence wrong. What’s wrong in the region currently pales in comparison to what’s going to go wrong.

On Sunday, an official spokesman for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards admitted that Iran arms “liberation armies” in the region–i.e., provides weapons to mass murderers, terrorists, and militias of all kinds in places like Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza, and Yemen. We knew that already, but we appreciate the candor. One question, though, more for our Western leaders than for our Iranian truth-tellers: how exactly is this Iranian role as a spoiler going to serve Western interests in the region? And how will things change once Iran becomes a nuclear power? After all, this is becoming a distinct possibility.

If Israeli intelligence is correct in its most recent assessment, Western powers will fail to halt Iran’s nuclear bid, because no military attack will be launched and no tougher sanctions will be imposed on Tehran. That will leave every Middle Eastern militia currently on the payroll of Iran under the distinct impression that their mischief will now be further protected by Iran’s nuclear umbrella–something that will enable them to escalate their actions with impunity. Of course, Western leaders can delude themselves about Iran’s true intentions. Or they can believe what Council of Foreign Relations president Richard Haass believes, as Shmuel Rosner reported in his recent post. If they choose to believe what Iran is saying, they might wish to reconsider their options and prove Israeli intelligence wrong. What’s wrong in the region currently pales in comparison to what’s going to go wrong.

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Bolten on the Job

My former colleague Joshua Bolten, the White House Chief of Staff, appeared on CNBC this morning to discuss the financial crisis facing America and the world. When asked how close we are to arresting most of the financial stress of the past six weeks, Josh responded that we’re a long way along and he’s pleased with the progress that’s been made, even as he recognizes hard times lay ahead. He then hit on the key point, which is that we have taken a situation that was spiraling out of control and made it possible for the credit situation to get back on more solid ground.

Josh went on to say this:

From the federal government’s perspective, the important thing was to prevent the huge systemic risk we were facing from the credit freeze up. And it looks like the right steps are in place. We probably have rocky weeks ahead, but that all looks good. And we are likely in a situation where a systemic meltdown has been prevented. That was the overarching, most important thing we could do. Now, the equity markets are probably responding to a … weak global economy… and that’s just going to have to work itself out. To me that causes a lot less concern than the kind of concern we had a month ago… Where we were a month, two months ago, we were in a situation where not only was the good growth we have had over many years was threatened, but the entire financial system was threatened. So the measures [taken by the federal government to support the credit markets] were absolutely necessary…

I concur. And while the economic situation is certainly difficult right now, I think when the history of this crisis is written, people will recognize that the Bush Administration, Congress, and nations of the industrialized world acted quickly and for the most part wisely, in a manner that averted a much worse situation. That’s difficult for most people to see right now, as the stock market gyrates wildly and a tough recession takes hold. But we were edging toward an economic catastrophe, and it now appears as if we have avoided it. One of the reasons for this is that Josh Bolten, one of the most impressive individuals to serve in government in my lifetime, was at his post.

My former colleague Joshua Bolten, the White House Chief of Staff, appeared on CNBC this morning to discuss the financial crisis facing America and the world. When asked how close we are to arresting most of the financial stress of the past six weeks, Josh responded that we’re a long way along and he’s pleased with the progress that’s been made, even as he recognizes hard times lay ahead. He then hit on the key point, which is that we have taken a situation that was spiraling out of control and made it possible for the credit situation to get back on more solid ground.

Josh went on to say this:

From the federal government’s perspective, the important thing was to prevent the huge systemic risk we were facing from the credit freeze up. And it looks like the right steps are in place. We probably have rocky weeks ahead, but that all looks good. And we are likely in a situation where a systemic meltdown has been prevented. That was the overarching, most important thing we could do. Now, the equity markets are probably responding to a … weak global economy… and that’s just going to have to work itself out. To me that causes a lot less concern than the kind of concern we had a month ago… Where we were a month, two months ago, we were in a situation where not only was the good growth we have had over many years was threatened, but the entire financial system was threatened. So the measures [taken by the federal government to support the credit markets] were absolutely necessary…

I concur. And while the economic situation is certainly difficult right now, I think when the history of this crisis is written, people will recognize that the Bush Administration, Congress, and nations of the industrialized world acted quickly and for the most part wisely, in a manner that averted a much worse situation. That’s difficult for most people to see right now, as the stock market gyrates wildly and a tough recession takes hold. But we were edging toward an economic catastrophe, and it now appears as if we have avoided it. One of the reasons for this is that Josh Bolten, one of the most impressive individuals to serve in government in my lifetime, was at his post.

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“We Will All Need To Sacrifice”

Yesterday, Barack Obama spoke in Colorado, and said something that may be of interest to Joe the Plumber:

Now, make no mistake: the change we need won’t come easy or without cost. We will all need to tighten our belts, we will all need to sacrifice and we will all need to pull our weight because now more than ever, we are all in this together.

The tone is miserable, and the suggestion is vaguely collectivist. Traditionally, leaders of free-market nations tell citizens to go out and spend in a financial crisis. They hope consumers can put life-blood back into an ailing system. George W. Bush told people to shop after 9/11. Barack Obama likes to laugh at that, but it was exactly right. Obama’s answer to crisis? Self-sacrifice and togetherness.

It’s not that Obama is necessarily a socialist; it’s that his roots are so thoroughly intertwined with those of socialists he doesn’t know when he’s saying something that makes capitalists go white. Benito Mussolini said that fascism is “a life in which the individual, through the sacrifice of his own private interests, realizes that completely spiritual existence in which his value as a man lies.” Only a lunatic would compare Obama to Mussolini, but the very sane Jonah Goldberg is right to compare certain strains of liberalism with fascism. Look at Obama’s statement and at Mussolini’s. The common thread is unmistakable. The government will tell the individual how to sacrifice for the common good–because the common good is ultimately the individual good. Start spreadin’.

Yesterday, Barack Obama spoke in Colorado, and said something that may be of interest to Joe the Plumber:

Now, make no mistake: the change we need won’t come easy or without cost. We will all need to tighten our belts, we will all need to sacrifice and we will all need to pull our weight because now more than ever, we are all in this together.

The tone is miserable, and the suggestion is vaguely collectivist. Traditionally, leaders of free-market nations tell citizens to go out and spend in a financial crisis. They hope consumers can put life-blood back into an ailing system. George W. Bush told people to shop after 9/11. Barack Obama likes to laugh at that, but it was exactly right. Obama’s answer to crisis? Self-sacrifice and togetherness.

It’s not that Obama is necessarily a socialist; it’s that his roots are so thoroughly intertwined with those of socialists he doesn’t know when he’s saying something that makes capitalists go white. Benito Mussolini said that fascism is “a life in which the individual, through the sacrifice of his own private interests, realizes that completely spiritual existence in which his value as a man lies.” Only a lunatic would compare Obama to Mussolini, but the very sane Jonah Goldberg is right to compare certain strains of liberalism with fascism. Look at Obama’s statement and at Mussolini’s. The common thread is unmistakable. The government will tell the individual how to sacrifice for the common good–because the common good is ultimately the individual good. Start spreadin’.

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Priorities

There’s a lot to do for politically-engaged conservatives. There are so many people to blame for what they fear will be a horrible Election Day. There are just as many people (with a tiny following and no political experience) to tell everyone what to do about conservatism. But really, won’t there be plenty of time–weeks and months, if not years–for all that?

There is a presidential election in eight days. I can read the polls as well as anyone. But let’s remember that no one has a clue who is going to turn out on election day. If one group of polls is correct, there is a small single digit lead for Barack Obama. And there is an exceedingly important debate going on — finally — as to whether it is such a wise idea to embark on the greatest tax-and-spend plan since . . . well, forever. And some people find it worth pondering why so many national security gurus keep hoping that Obama doesn’t really intend to do much of anything that he promised. (In the oddest election in my lifetime, Joe Biden may have become the wisest prognosticator yet, warning us of international danger and inevitable disappointment with an Obama administration.)

It is not often that you find the entire country talking about what it means to be a socialist, whether talk can melt the hearts of dictators, and if undivided government really is such a great idea. In other words, it is a good idea to spend one more week on the most important decision American voters may make in a generation.

Moreover, how divided the government actually will be depends on the fate of a handful of Senators and a batch of House seats. There is a heck of a difference between 55 and 60 Democrats in the Senate. Mitch McConnell is a political genius, but there’s nothing he (or if he should lose, his successor) is going to do without 41 Republicans (and a couple to spare to cover for those compelled to masquerade as Democrats) to slow down the Obama juggernaut. And in the House, a 50 seat pick-up means not only more extreme legislation, but a deeper hole for Republicans to climb out of and more election cycles in the minority.

There is a reason, of course, other than giddy excitement, why the MSM would rather skip past this election to the “How will he govern?” and “Is conservatism dead?” stories. The more the public thinks about the great issues of the day, the more they might rethink turning over both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue to the Democrats. After all, majorities of voters don’t like redistributionist economic policies, don’t think we should get rid of secret ballot union elections, don’t like the idea of unilateral disarmament, and don’t think judges should “make stuff up.”

All of that explains why the MSM would rather start pondering their next trick: how to convince everyone they behaved fairly and responsibly over the last two years. That will be something to see. But in the meantime, there’s an awful lot else going on.

There’s a lot to do for politically-engaged conservatives. There are so many people to blame for what they fear will be a horrible Election Day. There are just as many people (with a tiny following and no political experience) to tell everyone what to do about conservatism. But really, won’t there be plenty of time–weeks and months, if not years–for all that?

There is a presidential election in eight days. I can read the polls as well as anyone. But let’s remember that no one has a clue who is going to turn out on election day. If one group of polls is correct, there is a small single digit lead for Barack Obama. And there is an exceedingly important debate going on — finally — as to whether it is such a wise idea to embark on the greatest tax-and-spend plan since . . . well, forever. And some people find it worth pondering why so many national security gurus keep hoping that Obama doesn’t really intend to do much of anything that he promised. (In the oddest election in my lifetime, Joe Biden may have become the wisest prognosticator yet, warning us of international danger and inevitable disappointment with an Obama administration.)

It is not often that you find the entire country talking about what it means to be a socialist, whether talk can melt the hearts of dictators, and if undivided government really is such a great idea. In other words, it is a good idea to spend one more week on the most important decision American voters may make in a generation.

Moreover, how divided the government actually will be depends on the fate of a handful of Senators and a batch of House seats. There is a heck of a difference between 55 and 60 Democrats in the Senate. Mitch McConnell is a political genius, but there’s nothing he (or if he should lose, his successor) is going to do without 41 Republicans (and a couple to spare to cover for those compelled to masquerade as Democrats) to slow down the Obama juggernaut. And in the House, a 50 seat pick-up means not only more extreme legislation, but a deeper hole for Republicans to climb out of and more election cycles in the minority.

There is a reason, of course, other than giddy excitement, why the MSM would rather skip past this election to the “How will he govern?” and “Is conservatism dead?” stories. The more the public thinks about the great issues of the day, the more they might rethink turning over both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue to the Democrats. After all, majorities of voters don’t like redistributionist economic policies, don’t think we should get rid of secret ballot union elections, don’t like the idea of unilateral disarmament, and don’t think judges should “make stuff up.”

All of that explains why the MSM would rather start pondering their next trick: how to convince everyone they behaved fairly and responsibly over the last two years. That will be something to see. But in the meantime, there’s an awful lot else going on.

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“Crazy Things”

Barack Obama says there won’t be time for a bunch of “crazy things” while he’s busy re-jiggering the tax code, pushing through his healthcare plan and dealing with energy in a “serious way.” If we had an independent media, someone might ask what the list of “crazy things” includes. Does abolishing union secret ballot elections make the list? Does renegotiating NAFTA? Is cutting defense spending crazy?

The Republicans didn’t pull the liberal wish list out of thin air. They have simply been reminding voters of the items which Obama and his Democratic allies have talked about. It seems only fair for Obama, with some specificity, to tell us what’s off that wish list. After all, if he really is a moderate and intends to fight Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid tooth and nail, he should be telling voters that to put their minds at ease. But, in this case, I suspect the silence is quite strategic. Just as he can never tell us what items he’ll cut in the budget, he’s not about to tell us which items on the wish list he’s serious about.

I’ll take Hillary Clinton’s admonition at face value: “With Barack Obama and Joe Biden in the White House and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, there’s nothing we can’t accomplish.”

Barack Obama says there won’t be time for a bunch of “crazy things” while he’s busy re-jiggering the tax code, pushing through his healthcare plan and dealing with energy in a “serious way.” If we had an independent media, someone might ask what the list of “crazy things” includes. Does abolishing union secret ballot elections make the list? Does renegotiating NAFTA? Is cutting defense spending crazy?

The Republicans didn’t pull the liberal wish list out of thin air. They have simply been reminding voters of the items which Obama and his Democratic allies have talked about. It seems only fair for Obama, with some specificity, to tell us what’s off that wish list. After all, if he really is a moderate and intends to fight Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid tooth and nail, he should be telling voters that to put their minds at ease. But, in this case, I suspect the silence is quite strategic. Just as he can never tell us what items he’ll cut in the budget, he’s not about to tell us which items on the wish list he’s serious about.

I’ll take Hillary Clinton’s admonition at face value: “With Barack Obama and Joe Biden in the White House and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, there’s nothing we can’t accomplish.”

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