Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 25, 2008

Obama’s Picks

According to the latest news reports, President-elect Obama will nominate a national security team next week that is stunning in its moderation. The headliners–Bob Gates staying at Defense, Hillary Clinton becoming Secretary of State, retired General Jim Jones taking over the NSC–have already been more or less reported, or at least much speculated on. The lower-level picks are just as encouraging:

Democrats familiar with the national-security event early next week said they also expect James Steinberg, who was deputy national security adviser in the Clinton administration, to be named deputy secretary of State; Susan Rice, Obama’s senior foreign policy adviser on the campaign, to be named U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; and retired Adm. Dennis Blair, the former commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Command and a veteran of the NSC, Central Intelligence Agency and Joint Chiefs of Staff, to be named the director of national intelligence.

The only outright leftist in the bunch is Susan Rice, and she is being shunted aside to a post where the premium is on rhetoric, not action. She will presumably be called upon to explain and defend policies formulated by the senior national security team which includes two men who are not Democrats–Gates and Jones–and one woman who is on the rightward side of the Democratic Party when it comes to national security issues (and paid a price for it in the primaries).

As someone who was skeptical of Obama’s moderate posturing during the campaign, I have to admit that I am gobsmacked by these appointments , most of which could just as easily have come from a President McCain. (Jim Jones is an old friend of McCain’s, and McCain almost certainly would have asked Gates to stay on as well.) This all but puts an end to the 16-month timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, the unconditional summits with dictators, and other foolishness that once emanated from the Obama campaign. His appointments suggest that, if anything, his administration will have a Reapolitiker, rather than a liberal, bent, although Clinton and Steinberg at State should be powerful voices for “neo-liberalism” which is not so different in many respects from “neo-conservativism”. Both, for instance, support humanitarian interventions in places like Darfur and Bosnia.

Combined with the moderation of the economic team that Obama has just named, I would say his administration already far exceeds expectations, and he hasn’t even taken office yet.

The real test, of course, will be seeing how this all-star lineup deals with real-world crises. It helps to recall that George W. Bush-another newcomer to Washington-arrived with a raft of heavy hitters: Powell, Rumsfeld, Cheney. Simply to recite those names today is to make obvious that even the most distinguished statesmen may not congeal into an effective team. That is a danger to watch out for in the Obama administration, but the new team deserves the benefit of the doubt and all best wishes for success from Republicans and Democrats alike. Only churlish partisans of both the left and the right can be unhappy with the emerging tenor of our nation’s new leadership.

According to the latest news reports, President-elect Obama will nominate a national security team next week that is stunning in its moderation. The headliners–Bob Gates staying at Defense, Hillary Clinton becoming Secretary of State, retired General Jim Jones taking over the NSC–have already been more or less reported, or at least much speculated on. The lower-level picks are just as encouraging:

Democrats familiar with the national-security event early next week said they also expect James Steinberg, who was deputy national security adviser in the Clinton administration, to be named deputy secretary of State; Susan Rice, Obama’s senior foreign policy adviser on the campaign, to be named U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; and retired Adm. Dennis Blair, the former commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Command and a veteran of the NSC, Central Intelligence Agency and Joint Chiefs of Staff, to be named the director of national intelligence.

The only outright leftist in the bunch is Susan Rice, and she is being shunted aside to a post where the premium is on rhetoric, not action. She will presumably be called upon to explain and defend policies formulated by the senior national security team which includes two men who are not Democrats–Gates and Jones–and one woman who is on the rightward side of the Democratic Party when it comes to national security issues (and paid a price for it in the primaries).

As someone who was skeptical of Obama’s moderate posturing during the campaign, I have to admit that I am gobsmacked by these appointments , most of which could just as easily have come from a President McCain. (Jim Jones is an old friend of McCain’s, and McCain almost certainly would have asked Gates to stay on as well.) This all but puts an end to the 16-month timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, the unconditional summits with dictators, and other foolishness that once emanated from the Obama campaign. His appointments suggest that, if anything, his administration will have a Reapolitiker, rather than a liberal, bent, although Clinton and Steinberg at State should be powerful voices for “neo-liberalism” which is not so different in many respects from “neo-conservativism”. Both, for instance, support humanitarian interventions in places like Darfur and Bosnia.

Combined with the moderation of the economic team that Obama has just named, I would say his administration already far exceeds expectations, and he hasn’t even taken office yet.

The real test, of course, will be seeing how this all-star lineup deals with real-world crises. It helps to recall that George W. Bush-another newcomer to Washington-arrived with a raft of heavy hitters: Powell, Rumsfeld, Cheney. Simply to recite those names today is to make obvious that even the most distinguished statesmen may not congeal into an effective team. That is a danger to watch out for in the Obama administration, but the new team deserves the benefit of the doubt and all best wishes for success from Republicans and Democrats alike. Only churlish partisans of both the left and the right can be unhappy with the emerging tenor of our nation’s new leadership.

Read Less

Commentary of the Day

Ted Turner, on Jennifer Rubin:

What’s amusing to me is that in reporting on Obama’s plan, not only is the credulous media impressed with 2.5 million jobs “saved or created” in three years (which is really not that impressive as Rubin notes); it is also frequently sounding as if Obama’s promise on this score is a fait accompli. He hasn’t “created or saved” the jobs yet – in fact, he’s not even taken office yet.

Ted Turner, on Jennifer Rubin:

What’s amusing to me is that in reporting on Obama’s plan, not only is the credulous media impressed with 2.5 million jobs “saved or created” in three years (which is really not that impressive as Rubin notes); it is also frequently sounding as if Obama’s promise on this score is a fait accompli. He hasn’t “created or saved” the jobs yet – in fact, he’s not even taken office yet.

Read Less

How’s This Going to Work?

In announcing his OMB director (Peter Orszag) and deputy (Robert Nabors) today, the President-elect had a hard task. On one hand, he wants to maintain some semblance of fiscal discipline. So in his introductory remarks he offered this:

We are going to go through our federal budget, as I promised during the campaign, page by page, line by line, eliminating those programs we don’t need and insisting that those that we do need operate in a sensible, cost-effective way.

But he is setting off on a massive spending spree — called “a stimulus plan,” for appearances’ sake — that will send the budget deficit skyrocketing. And, of course, he has plans for permanent, massive spending in healthcare and other areas. So the best he can do to make that all hang together is this muddle:

We’ve got to distinguish between a(n) immediate and temporary infusion that’s going to be required to kick- start our economy and some of the structural spending that’s been taking place in Washington that has created this huge mountain of debt.

And part of the charge to my economic team is to find areas where we can get a twofer, where we’re getting both a short-term stimulus and we’re also laying the groundwork for long-term economic growth.

For example, during my campaign I talked about the need to provide a tax cut to 95 percent of workers. Now, for us to get that tax cut in place, that is going to put money into the pockets of the middle class and will help them in spending for their basic needs. That can help the economy. The sooner we do that the better.

That will also, though, restore some balance to our tax code over the long term. So that’s an example of where the immediate needs of the economy and the long-term concerns that we have are not necessarily incompatible.

Health care is another example. If we do a smart job of investing in health-care modernization — let’s just say, as an example, helping local hospitals and providers set up electronic billing and electronic medical records that experts across the spectrum consider to be an important step towards a more efficient health care system.

Now, somebody’s got to help set those up. We’ve got to buy computers, systems and so forth. That’s an immediate boost to the economy, in some cases, working with state and local governments. But it’s also laying the groundwork for reducing our health-care costs over the long term.

Now, the last point I’ll make on this: We’re still going to have to make some tough choices. There are just going to be some programs that simply don’t work and we’ve got to eliminate them.

And so I don’t think that there’s any way of denying the fact that our — my first priority and my first job is to get us on the path of economic recovery, to create 2.5 million jobs, to provide relief to middle-class families. But as soon as the recovery is well under way, then we’ve got to set up a long-term plan to reduce the structural deficit and make sure that we’re not leaving a mountain of debt for the next generation.

Got that? This is all a bit disingenuous. He plucked out the example fo $49 million in farm subsidies paid to millionaire farmers. But as a Senator, he voted for the $300 billion farm bill and the equally bloated transportation bill (including The Bridge To Nowhere).

That said, perhaps he will find it easier to exercise budget restraint from the Oval Office. But let no one be confused: there is a huge and unresolvable conflict between his rhetoric on budget discipline and his short and long term spending plans. I’m betting the former gives way to the latter.

In announcing his OMB director (Peter Orszag) and deputy (Robert Nabors) today, the President-elect had a hard task. On one hand, he wants to maintain some semblance of fiscal discipline. So in his introductory remarks he offered this:

We are going to go through our federal budget, as I promised during the campaign, page by page, line by line, eliminating those programs we don’t need and insisting that those that we do need operate in a sensible, cost-effective way.

But he is setting off on a massive spending spree — called “a stimulus plan,” for appearances’ sake — that will send the budget deficit skyrocketing. And, of course, he has plans for permanent, massive spending in healthcare and other areas. So the best he can do to make that all hang together is this muddle:

We’ve got to distinguish between a(n) immediate and temporary infusion that’s going to be required to kick- start our economy and some of the structural spending that’s been taking place in Washington that has created this huge mountain of debt.

And part of the charge to my economic team is to find areas where we can get a twofer, where we’re getting both a short-term stimulus and we’re also laying the groundwork for long-term economic growth.

For example, during my campaign I talked about the need to provide a tax cut to 95 percent of workers. Now, for us to get that tax cut in place, that is going to put money into the pockets of the middle class and will help them in spending for their basic needs. That can help the economy. The sooner we do that the better.

That will also, though, restore some balance to our tax code over the long term. So that’s an example of where the immediate needs of the economy and the long-term concerns that we have are not necessarily incompatible.

Health care is another example. If we do a smart job of investing in health-care modernization — let’s just say, as an example, helping local hospitals and providers set up electronic billing and electronic medical records that experts across the spectrum consider to be an important step towards a more efficient health care system.

Now, somebody’s got to help set those up. We’ve got to buy computers, systems and so forth. That’s an immediate boost to the economy, in some cases, working with state and local governments. But it’s also laying the groundwork for reducing our health-care costs over the long term.

Now, the last point I’ll make on this: We’re still going to have to make some tough choices. There are just going to be some programs that simply don’t work and we’ve got to eliminate them.

And so I don’t think that there’s any way of denying the fact that our — my first priority and my first job is to get us on the path of economic recovery, to create 2.5 million jobs, to provide relief to middle-class families. But as soon as the recovery is well under way, then we’ve got to set up a long-term plan to reduce the structural deficit and make sure that we’re not leaving a mountain of debt for the next generation.

Got that? This is all a bit disingenuous. He plucked out the example fo $49 million in farm subsidies paid to millionaire farmers. But as a Senator, he voted for the $300 billion farm bill and the equally bloated transportation bill (including The Bridge To Nowhere).

That said, perhaps he will find it easier to exercise budget restraint from the Oval Office. But let no one be confused: there is a huge and unresolvable conflict between his rhetoric on budget discipline and his short and long term spending plans. I’m betting the former gives way to the latter.

Read Less

The International Law Sham

From the Wall Street Journal:

In fact, Europe’s commitment to international law is largely rhetorical. Like the Bush administration, Europeans obey international law when it advances their interests and discard it when it does not.

Why aren’t American politicians, activist groups, citizens, celebrities, and op-ed writers perpetually screaming for Europe to throw its inhabitants before the mercy of international bodies? And why is Europe obsessed with pointing out America’s distaste for things like the World Court? Because “international” doesn’t mean international; it means nations other than America, and Europe already fits that description whether or not it heeds this UN mandate or that WTO ruling. Europe’s effort to get America beholden to international law is best thought of as soft imperialism. There are two spheres of legal influence: America’s and everyone else’s, and Europe is just the mouthpiece for the latter. If America comes under everyone else’s, it will be, in some sense, under Europe’s jurisdiction. Despite the Left’s cuddly description, Europe isn’t asking us to collaborate on the meaning of global justice, but to abandon our own version in favor of theirs. But in the end, it’s the monumental shortcomings of theirs which necessitates the survival of ours.

From the Wall Street Journal:

In fact, Europe’s commitment to international law is largely rhetorical. Like the Bush administration, Europeans obey international law when it advances their interests and discard it when it does not.

Why aren’t American politicians, activist groups, citizens, celebrities, and op-ed writers perpetually screaming for Europe to throw its inhabitants before the mercy of international bodies? And why is Europe obsessed with pointing out America’s distaste for things like the World Court? Because “international” doesn’t mean international; it means nations other than America, and Europe already fits that description whether or not it heeds this UN mandate or that WTO ruling. Europe’s effort to get America beholden to international law is best thought of as soft imperialism. There are two spheres of legal influence: America’s and everyone else’s, and Europe is just the mouthpiece for the latter. If America comes under everyone else’s, it will be, in some sense, under Europe’s jurisdiction. Despite the Left’s cuddly description, Europe isn’t asking us to collaborate on the meaning of global justice, but to abandon our own version in favor of theirs. But in the end, it’s the monumental shortcomings of theirs which necessitates the survival of ours.

Read Less

You Mean They Shouldn’t Get A Free Pass?

This reasoned and sober sentiment is not all that extraordinary:

Mr. Geithner, currently the president of the Federal Reserve Bank in New York, also has helped shape the Bush administration’s erratic and often inscrutable responses to the current financial meltdown, up to and including this past weekend’s multibillion-dollar bailout of Citigroup. . . .At the New York Fed, Mr. Geithner has been one of the ringmasters of this year’s serial bailouts. His involvement includes the as-yet-unexplained flip-flop in September when a read-my-lips, no-new-bailouts policy allowed Lehman Brothers to go under — only to be followed less than two days later by the even costlier bailout of the American International Group and last weekend by the bailout of Citigroup. It is still unclear what Mr. Geithner and other policy makers knew or did not know — or what they thought they knew but didn’t — in arriving at those decisions, including who exactly is on the receiving end of the billions of dollars of taxpayer money now flooding the system. Confidence in the system will not be restored as long as top officials fail or refuse to fully explain their actions. Mr. Summers does not face Senate confirmation; Mr. Geithner does. The senators should press him for the answers that have been lacking. That is the only way to understand his philosophy and approach going forward. Congress must play a more active role in crafting, analyzing and continuously monitoring.

Until, of course, you learn it is from the editors of the New York Times. Well, the Gray Lady has perked up. Granted, the Times editors are miffed that both Geithner and Summers have some fondness for free markets. But still, it’s nice to see that they think Obama nominees should have to answer hard questions. Perhaps next they can encourage some serious probing of Eric Holder. (And not just on the Marc Rich matter.)

This reasoned and sober sentiment is not all that extraordinary:

Mr. Geithner, currently the president of the Federal Reserve Bank in New York, also has helped shape the Bush administration’s erratic and often inscrutable responses to the current financial meltdown, up to and including this past weekend’s multibillion-dollar bailout of Citigroup. . . .At the New York Fed, Mr. Geithner has been one of the ringmasters of this year’s serial bailouts. His involvement includes the as-yet-unexplained flip-flop in September when a read-my-lips, no-new-bailouts policy allowed Lehman Brothers to go under — only to be followed less than two days later by the even costlier bailout of the American International Group and last weekend by the bailout of Citigroup. It is still unclear what Mr. Geithner and other policy makers knew or did not know — or what they thought they knew but didn’t — in arriving at those decisions, including who exactly is on the receiving end of the billions of dollars of taxpayer money now flooding the system. Confidence in the system will not be restored as long as top officials fail or refuse to fully explain their actions. Mr. Summers does not face Senate confirmation; Mr. Geithner does. The senators should press him for the answers that have been lacking. That is the only way to understand his philosophy and approach going forward. Congress must play a more active role in crafting, analyzing and continuously monitoring.

Until, of course, you learn it is from the editors of the New York Times. Well, the Gray Lady has perked up. Granted, the Times editors are miffed that both Geithner and Summers have some fondness for free markets. But still, it’s nice to see that they think Obama nominees should have to answer hard questions. Perhaps next they can encourage some serious probing of Eric Holder. (And not just on the Marc Rich matter.)

Read Less

The Nation Rationalizes

Believe it or not, Katrina Vanden Heuvel is exactly right:

President-elect Obama is a centrist at a time when centrism means energy independence and green jobs and universal health care and massive economic stimulus programs and government intervention in the economy. He is a pragmatist at a moment when pragmatism and the scale of our financial crisis compel him to adopt bold policies. He is a cautious leader at a time when, to paraphrase New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, caution is the new risky.The great traumas of our day do not allow for cautious steps or responses.

These days, your designation as a conservative, centrist, or liberal only clarifies your ranking on the Sierra Club donor chart. Vanden Heuvel may think all this redefinition is consolation, but her tune should change when it sinks in that “progressive” now means free on-line campaign workers to be dropped the day after the election.

Believe it or not, Katrina Vanden Heuvel is exactly right:

President-elect Obama is a centrist at a time when centrism means energy independence and green jobs and universal health care and massive economic stimulus programs and government intervention in the economy. He is a pragmatist at a moment when pragmatism and the scale of our financial crisis compel him to adopt bold policies. He is a cautious leader at a time when, to paraphrase New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, caution is the new risky.The great traumas of our day do not allow for cautious steps or responses.

These days, your designation as a conservative, centrist, or liberal only clarifies your ranking on the Sierra Club donor chart. Vanden Heuvel may think all this redefinition is consolation, but her tune should change when it sinks in that “progressive” now means free on-line campaign workers to be dropped the day after the election.

Read Less

Shunning a UN Conference

Yesterday, the UN announced that the heads of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank would not be attending a crucial UN development forum scheduled to begin at the end of this month in Doha. The IMF’s Dominique Strauss-Kahn had earlier said he would go to the Follow-up International Conference on Financing for Development to Review the Implementation of the Monterrey Consensus, but he had changed his mind as he was “extremely occupied with pressing issues in Washington.” The World Bank’s Robert Zoellick is sending his chief economist, China’s Justin Lin, because he “felt that it was important that someone from the developing world represent the institution.”

And what do developing nations think? The G77, a grouping of the planet’s poorest states, is thinking of following the lead of Strauss-Kahn and Zoellick and giving the UN conference a miss, fearing it will be just a big waste of time. Of course the G77 nations are right because that has been true of all international development gatherings in recent years, especially those held under the auspices of the United Nations. Although the G77 is fond of complaining about the United States, President Bush deserves credit for his Millennium Challenge concept, which ties assistance to good governance. If the Bush administration has been trying to undermine the Doha conference-as it appears-then we should cheer its efforts.

What’s wrong with providing assistance to developing states? Nothing in general. But, in practice, we have been essentially writing blank checks for decades with notoriously little to show for it. So far, we have propped up many unworthy governments-like North Korea’s-with the result that they have then been able to continue to deliver misery to their people-and to neighboring states.

So maybe we should take some advice from China’s leaders, who say their contribution to solving the global financial crisis is handling their own affairs well. I don’t often praise them, but this time they are absolutely right.

It is simply amazing what people can do when they realize they are on their own. And it is astounding how they can continue to fail when they know someone will bail them out. So let’s hear a round of applause for Strauss-Kahn and Zoellick. And let’s hope the G77 boycotts Doha this weekend too.

Let me borrow a Vietnam War-era question and adapt it to today: What would happen if the UN hosted a development conference and no one showed up? My answer is that we would all be better off.

Yesterday, the UN announced that the heads of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank would not be attending a crucial UN development forum scheduled to begin at the end of this month in Doha. The IMF’s Dominique Strauss-Kahn had earlier said he would go to the Follow-up International Conference on Financing for Development to Review the Implementation of the Monterrey Consensus, but he had changed his mind as he was “extremely occupied with pressing issues in Washington.” The World Bank’s Robert Zoellick is sending his chief economist, China’s Justin Lin, because he “felt that it was important that someone from the developing world represent the institution.”

And what do developing nations think? The G77, a grouping of the planet’s poorest states, is thinking of following the lead of Strauss-Kahn and Zoellick and giving the UN conference a miss, fearing it will be just a big waste of time. Of course the G77 nations are right because that has been true of all international development gatherings in recent years, especially those held under the auspices of the United Nations. Although the G77 is fond of complaining about the United States, President Bush deserves credit for his Millennium Challenge concept, which ties assistance to good governance. If the Bush administration has been trying to undermine the Doha conference-as it appears-then we should cheer its efforts.

What’s wrong with providing assistance to developing states? Nothing in general. But, in practice, we have been essentially writing blank checks for decades with notoriously little to show for it. So far, we have propped up many unworthy governments-like North Korea’s-with the result that they have then been able to continue to deliver misery to their people-and to neighboring states.

So maybe we should take some advice from China’s leaders, who say their contribution to solving the global financial crisis is handling their own affairs well. I don’t often praise them, but this time they are absolutely right.

It is simply amazing what people can do when they realize they are on their own. And it is astounding how they can continue to fail when they know someone will bail them out. So let’s hear a round of applause for Strauss-Kahn and Zoellick. And let’s hope the G77 boycotts Doha this weekend too.

Let me borrow a Vietnam War-era question and adapt it to today: What would happen if the UN hosted a development conference and no one showed up? My answer is that we would all be better off.

Read Less

Terrorist “Diversion”

James K. Glassman has a thought-provoking piece on the success of Colombia’s anti-terrorism strategy, and its potential applicability in the fight against Islamic terrorism. He writes, “Since 2005, about 48,000 members of armed groups of both left and right have been demobilized, many through the encouragement of sophisticated strategic communications programs that include text-messaging and MTV-style videos aimed at young FARC fighters.” Here’s an example:

Consider a shy teenager named Flor. She says that she left her rural home at age 12 to join the FARC because it would be ”an adventure.” But she quickly found it was a terrible mistake — a life of brutality and isolation in the jungles of central Colombia. Once you’re in the FARC, she says, you’re in for life: “They told us that if we tried to leave, they would kill us.”

But, today, after seven years, Flor is out and alive. She is among 10,000 fighters who have escaped the FARC in a vast ”demobilization and reintregration” program that ensures their safety and seeks to make them productive citizens.

And there’s the rub. What do productive citizens of, say, Yemen or Afghanistan do? Especially the females? Supposing they don’t want to be “married” off to a septuagenarian uncle. What is there to “reintegrate” them into? I’m all for working with former enemies, à la Sunni Iraq, but if the only lifestyle options for repentant terrorists are matrimonial slavery for women and clerical servitude for men, they’re going to start to wonder why they went straight in the first place.

As Glassman puts it: “An effective anti-terrorist strategy must both undermine the ideology of a violent extremist group and disrupt its flow of recruits by offering productive alternatives for young people.” This is why the political dimension of the War on Terror is more than a neoconservative pipedream or a fanciful “democracy crusade.” With enough ingenuity, time, and firepower, U.S. forces can crush an endless succession of Salafist and Mahdi groups, but the victories won’t stick without the national institutions that make people “productive citizens.” The fact that these institutions are now popping up in Iraq makes it puzzling that anyone hoping to decisively win the War on Terror would be in a rush to pull out U.S. troops.

The strategy at work in Colombia “is called ‘diversion’ — the channeling of young people away from violence with the attractions of technology, sports, culture, education and entrepreneurship.” All of which are on the rise in Iraq. From their winning soccer team to the opportunities provided by international investment, there’s ample evidence of the work of citizenship underway. There is, after all, another word for the collective attractions Glassman mentions, and for the system that enables free people to enjoy them: Democracy.

James K. Glassman has a thought-provoking piece on the success of Colombia’s anti-terrorism strategy, and its potential applicability in the fight against Islamic terrorism. He writes, “Since 2005, about 48,000 members of armed groups of both left and right have been demobilized, many through the encouragement of sophisticated strategic communications programs that include text-messaging and MTV-style videos aimed at young FARC fighters.” Here’s an example:

Consider a shy teenager named Flor. She says that she left her rural home at age 12 to join the FARC because it would be ”an adventure.” But she quickly found it was a terrible mistake — a life of brutality and isolation in the jungles of central Colombia. Once you’re in the FARC, she says, you’re in for life: “They told us that if we tried to leave, they would kill us.”

But, today, after seven years, Flor is out and alive. She is among 10,000 fighters who have escaped the FARC in a vast ”demobilization and reintregration” program that ensures their safety and seeks to make them productive citizens.

And there’s the rub. What do productive citizens of, say, Yemen or Afghanistan do? Especially the females? Supposing they don’t want to be “married” off to a septuagenarian uncle. What is there to “reintegrate” them into? I’m all for working with former enemies, à la Sunni Iraq, but if the only lifestyle options for repentant terrorists are matrimonial slavery for women and clerical servitude for men, they’re going to start to wonder why they went straight in the first place.

As Glassman puts it: “An effective anti-terrorist strategy must both undermine the ideology of a violent extremist group and disrupt its flow of recruits by offering productive alternatives for young people.” This is why the political dimension of the War on Terror is more than a neoconservative pipedream or a fanciful “democracy crusade.” With enough ingenuity, time, and firepower, U.S. forces can crush an endless succession of Salafist and Mahdi groups, but the victories won’t stick without the national institutions that make people “productive citizens.” The fact that these institutions are now popping up in Iraq makes it puzzling that anyone hoping to decisively win the War on Terror would be in a rush to pull out U.S. troops.

The strategy at work in Colombia “is called ‘diversion’ — the channeling of young people away from violence with the attractions of technology, sports, culture, education and entrepreneurship.” All of which are on the rise in Iraq. From their winning soccer team to the opportunities provided by international investment, there’s ample evidence of the work of citizenship underway. There is, after all, another word for the collective attractions Glassman mentions, and for the system that enables free people to enjoy them: Democracy.

Read Less

Rumsfeld’s Revisionism

Reading former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s op-ed in the New York Times the other day reminded me of John Kennedy’s aphorism that success has a thousand fathers and defeat is an orphan. In this case, Rumsfeld is attempting to claim paternity for the so-called surge and the success we’ve witnessed in Iraq during the last 22 months. The problem is that the reality is at odds with what he is now claiming.

It is not that some of the specific claims Secretary Rumsfeld makes in his op-ed aren’t accurate. He is right, for example, about the progress we were making against al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) in late 2006. It’s true as well that Secretary Rumsfeld, late in the day, did support the surge.

The real fault with the piece, in my judgment, is that what Rumsfeld writes is selective and misleading. By that I mean that the causal reader would come away from his op-ed believing that Rumsfeld handed over to General David Petraeus, Ambassador Ryan Crocker, and Secretary Robert Gates a nation, Iraq, in which all the pieces had been put in place and that we were on the verge of a successful tipping point.

In fact, thanks in large measure to the policies pursued by Rumsfeld, Iraq was, in the latter half of 2006, in a death spiral. Violence, chaos, and a low-grade civil war were engulfing it. The insurgency and Shia militias were gaining strength. Sectarian divisions were deepening. Millions of Iraqis had fled the country. The economy was in shambles. In the words of the Iraq Study Group Report, “[t]he situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating.” Reports are that General Casey himself privately acknowledged that Baghdad was “sliding toward chaos.” Many people believed Iraq was so wrecked it was beyond recovery.

Beyond that, Rumsfeld’s approach–which, it should be pointed out, was shared by key generals like the Ricardo Sanchez, George Casey, and John Abizaid–was the antithesis of the philosophy that animated the surge. They believed in the “light footprint” approach, a strategy that was premised on the conviction that American forces were an irritant that was fueling the insurgency. A key goal for Rumsfeld, therefore, was to expedite the withdrawal of American troops rather than using them to increase security and order. A favorite metaphor for Rumsfeld was referring to the Iraqis, in their quest to achieve self-government, as children learning to ride a bike; our job was to take the training wheels off and let them learn to ride by themselves.

The problem is that the Iraqis were simply not ready to take the lead. To stay true to the metaphor, we kept taking the training wheels off too early, and the bike kept crashing. Every time the American military made progress in Iraq, it was washed away; we would take control of an area and hand it over to the Iraqis, and they in turn could not defend the gains that had been made.

In retrospect, a number of things are clear. One is that the Pentagon’s Phase IV (post-war) planning was badly mismanaged. There was a huge gap between ends (a secure, stable, well-functioning Iraq) and means (the mission and number of troops necessary to secure order). Another is that while the appeal of the “light footprint” approach is understandable – a foreign occupation of a nation is never an ideal situation – the costs of this strategy far outweighed the benefits. We didn’t adjust to the enemy we faced and the circumstances we found ourselves in. A third is that Secretary Rumsfeld never accepted the fact that in Iraq we were committed, whether we liked it or not, to a massive nation-building effort. A fourth is that Rumsfeld’s commitment to “speed and agility and precision” rather than “mass” was the opposite of what was needed (Rumsfeld spoke about what he viewed as the key lessons of the war in a December 5, 2005 speech to the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies).

On the matter of the surge itself, Rumsfeld claims

there had been earlier surges without the same effect as the 2007 surge. In 2005, troop levels in Iraq were increased to numbers nearly equal to the 2007 surge — twice. But the effects were not as durable because the large segments of the Sunni population were still providing sanctuary to insurgents, and Iraq’s security forces were not sufficiently capable or large enough.

But what made the 2007 surge different than everything before it was not the increase in the number of troops but, much more importantly, a new mission that was based on classical counterinsurgency doctrine, meaning that it was focused on living with, securing, and winning the confidence of the Iraqi people. The strategy of clearing areas alone gave way to clearing, holding, and building them. The days of “commuting” to the war from forward operating bases were ended by General Petraeus; under his command, American troops became part of the neighborhood, eating, sleeping, and staying in close contact with the local population. This increasingly won them over to our side, which led to a massive increase in tips against AQI and reducing the need for Iraqis to turn to militias for safety.

There is much more to General Petraeus’s “Anaconda Strategy”; suffice it to say that it is the type of approach that Donald Rumsfeld opposed during almost his entire tenure (though to repeat, in late 2006 he did support the President’s surge decision). At any point along the way, Rumsfeld could have rethought his original approach and championed the core concepts of the surge. But he never really did.

The mistakes in Iraq pre-2007 were massive, and many people beyond Donald Rumsfeld share the responsibility for them. It was an Administration-wide failure. But Rumsfeld, as Secretary of Defense, was the architect of our military strategy in Iraq during his years in office. And so, while he certainly shouldn’t be made a scapegoat for everything that went wrong, he should not be allowed to revise history.

The Iraq war was nearly lost–and the fact that it’s now being won is because enormously skilled people, in the face of enormous odds, eventually undid much of what Rumsfeld put in place. Normally I wouldn’t spend any time at all recapitulating the Rumsfeld record, which will be obvious enough soon enough, when all the documents are eventually made public. At that point, we’ll see who stood where, when; and who in the Administration was pressing for fundamental changes in the war and who was not. But when Rumsfeld takes to the op-ed pages of the New York Times to (not so subtly) claim credit for all the things that have gone right in Iraq since his resignation was accepted by the President, it is time to push back, for the sake of truth and history.

I would only add that I’m grateful that the situation in Iraq is such that we now have people eagerly wanting to be associated with the policies of the last two years. There are a handful of individuals–including Jack Keane, Raymond Odierno, David Petraeus, Ryan Crocker, Fred Kagan, Stephen Hadley, and the President– who deserve credit for the turnabout. Donald Henry Rumsfeld is not one of them.

Reading former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s op-ed in the New York Times the other day reminded me of John Kennedy’s aphorism that success has a thousand fathers and defeat is an orphan. In this case, Rumsfeld is attempting to claim paternity for the so-called surge and the success we’ve witnessed in Iraq during the last 22 months. The problem is that the reality is at odds with what he is now claiming.

It is not that some of the specific claims Secretary Rumsfeld makes in his op-ed aren’t accurate. He is right, for example, about the progress we were making against al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) in late 2006. It’s true as well that Secretary Rumsfeld, late in the day, did support the surge.

The real fault with the piece, in my judgment, is that what Rumsfeld writes is selective and misleading. By that I mean that the causal reader would come away from his op-ed believing that Rumsfeld handed over to General David Petraeus, Ambassador Ryan Crocker, and Secretary Robert Gates a nation, Iraq, in which all the pieces had been put in place and that we were on the verge of a successful tipping point.

In fact, thanks in large measure to the policies pursued by Rumsfeld, Iraq was, in the latter half of 2006, in a death spiral. Violence, chaos, and a low-grade civil war were engulfing it. The insurgency and Shia militias were gaining strength. Sectarian divisions were deepening. Millions of Iraqis had fled the country. The economy was in shambles. In the words of the Iraq Study Group Report, “[t]he situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating.” Reports are that General Casey himself privately acknowledged that Baghdad was “sliding toward chaos.” Many people believed Iraq was so wrecked it was beyond recovery.

Beyond that, Rumsfeld’s approach–which, it should be pointed out, was shared by key generals like the Ricardo Sanchez, George Casey, and John Abizaid–was the antithesis of the philosophy that animated the surge. They believed in the “light footprint” approach, a strategy that was premised on the conviction that American forces were an irritant that was fueling the insurgency. A key goal for Rumsfeld, therefore, was to expedite the withdrawal of American troops rather than using them to increase security and order. A favorite metaphor for Rumsfeld was referring to the Iraqis, in their quest to achieve self-government, as children learning to ride a bike; our job was to take the training wheels off and let them learn to ride by themselves.

The problem is that the Iraqis were simply not ready to take the lead. To stay true to the metaphor, we kept taking the training wheels off too early, and the bike kept crashing. Every time the American military made progress in Iraq, it was washed away; we would take control of an area and hand it over to the Iraqis, and they in turn could not defend the gains that had been made.

In retrospect, a number of things are clear. One is that the Pentagon’s Phase IV (post-war) planning was badly mismanaged. There was a huge gap between ends (a secure, stable, well-functioning Iraq) and means (the mission and number of troops necessary to secure order). Another is that while the appeal of the “light footprint” approach is understandable – a foreign occupation of a nation is never an ideal situation – the costs of this strategy far outweighed the benefits. We didn’t adjust to the enemy we faced and the circumstances we found ourselves in. A third is that Secretary Rumsfeld never accepted the fact that in Iraq we were committed, whether we liked it or not, to a massive nation-building effort. A fourth is that Rumsfeld’s commitment to “speed and agility and precision” rather than “mass” was the opposite of what was needed (Rumsfeld spoke about what he viewed as the key lessons of the war in a December 5, 2005 speech to the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies).

On the matter of the surge itself, Rumsfeld claims

there had been earlier surges without the same effect as the 2007 surge. In 2005, troop levels in Iraq were increased to numbers nearly equal to the 2007 surge — twice. But the effects were not as durable because the large segments of the Sunni population were still providing sanctuary to insurgents, and Iraq’s security forces were not sufficiently capable or large enough.

But what made the 2007 surge different than everything before it was not the increase in the number of troops but, much more importantly, a new mission that was based on classical counterinsurgency doctrine, meaning that it was focused on living with, securing, and winning the confidence of the Iraqi people. The strategy of clearing areas alone gave way to clearing, holding, and building them. The days of “commuting” to the war from forward operating bases were ended by General Petraeus; under his command, American troops became part of the neighborhood, eating, sleeping, and staying in close contact with the local population. This increasingly won them over to our side, which led to a massive increase in tips against AQI and reducing the need for Iraqis to turn to militias for safety.

There is much more to General Petraeus’s “Anaconda Strategy”; suffice it to say that it is the type of approach that Donald Rumsfeld opposed during almost his entire tenure (though to repeat, in late 2006 he did support the President’s surge decision). At any point along the way, Rumsfeld could have rethought his original approach and championed the core concepts of the surge. But he never really did.

The mistakes in Iraq pre-2007 were massive, and many people beyond Donald Rumsfeld share the responsibility for them. It was an Administration-wide failure. But Rumsfeld, as Secretary of Defense, was the architect of our military strategy in Iraq during his years in office. And so, while he certainly shouldn’t be made a scapegoat for everything that went wrong, he should not be allowed to revise history.

The Iraq war was nearly lost–and the fact that it’s now being won is because enormously skilled people, in the face of enormous odds, eventually undid much of what Rumsfeld put in place. Normally I wouldn’t spend any time at all recapitulating the Rumsfeld record, which will be obvious enough soon enough, when all the documents are eventually made public. At that point, we’ll see who stood where, when; and who in the Administration was pressing for fundamental changes in the war and who was not. But when Rumsfeld takes to the op-ed pages of the New York Times to (not so subtly) claim credit for all the things that have gone right in Iraq since his resignation was accepted by the President, it is time to push back, for the sake of truth and history.

I would only add that I’m grateful that the situation in Iraq is such that we now have people eagerly wanting to be associated with the policies of the last two years. There are a handful of individuals–including Jack Keane, Raymond Odierno, David Petraeus, Ryan Crocker, Fred Kagan, Stephen Hadley, and the President– who deserve credit for the turnabout. Donald Henry Rumsfeld is not one of them.

Read Less

Is Hillary as SoS Constitutional?

Eugene Volokh raises that fascinating question. The Constitution states in Article I, Section 6, that “No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been encreased during such time. . . .”

The Secretary of State had her salary raised in January, 2008, by executive order, pursuant to cost-of-living legislation passed in the 1990′s. Clinton was a sitting senator at the time of the pay raise and is, thus, ineligible to be appointed to that office.

The point of the provision, obviously, was to prevent corruption and that, just as obviously, is not the case here. But the Constitution says what it clearly says.

No constitutional (or any other kind of) lawyer I, but I suspect it will be a non-issue simply because who would have standing to sue?

Eugene Volokh raises that fascinating question. The Constitution states in Article I, Section 6, that “No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been encreased during such time. . . .”

The Secretary of State had her salary raised in January, 2008, by executive order, pursuant to cost-of-living legislation passed in the 1990′s. Clinton was a sitting senator at the time of the pay raise and is, thus, ineligible to be appointed to that office.

The point of the provision, obviously, was to prevent corruption and that, just as obviously, is not the case here. But the Constitution says what it clearly says.

No constitutional (or any other kind of) lawyer I, but I suspect it will be a non-issue simply because who would have standing to sue?

Read Less

Above It All

Richard Cohen observes:

The unsurprising moderation of Barack Obama has caught many people by surprise. At this point, he seems intent on restoring a version of the old Clinton presidency — Hillary Clinton running foreign policy, Robert Rubin’s ensemble running the economy, Bill Richardson at Commerce and nary a certified cut ‘n’ runner on Iraq anywhere in sight. The erstwhile “change” candidate seems intent on vindicating that old French expression: The more things change, the more they remain the same.

And yes, we can now all agree that “the narcissism of small differences” accounted for much of the bitterness of the primary campaign. ( Well, that and the fact they were battling for the presidency.) But Cohen goes awry when he declares:

Obama’s campaign showed us a candidate of maximum cool. He has always remained ironically detached, and that has served him — and now us — very well indeed. It’s now clear that he will not govern from the left and not really from the center but, as his campaign suggested, from above it all.

Good luck with that! Presidents are not professors or political pundits. They are deciders, managers, doers, and persuaders. You can be cool or cold or emotionally remote, but you can’t be “above it” and govern–at least not well. The result, if Obama tries to govern from above it all, will be government run by disparate, conflicting and grasping personalities below the President. Or, alternatively, a pablum of compromise (We’ll give the auto companies half a bailout) that satisfies no one and solves nothing. It’s a tough business, being President. There is no way to be “above it all.”

It is worth pondering why pundits suddenly have a fascination with and admiration for a remote President. Didn’t they lambaste President Bush for being remote? Didn’t they gleefully explore the constant unresolved conflicts between State and Defense which caused paralysis in national security policy? I suspect they once again are simply spinning for their favorite President-elect. Observing his lack of emotional verve and his academic bent, they now must celebrate those qualites, as they do every aspect of the President-elect’s persona. It is not that operating style itself which is to be revered, but Him. Therefore they must strain and explain why remoteness is now such a positive quality in a Chief Executive.

We will see how long the Distant Presidency lasts. If it doesn’t, and Obama morphs into the Micromanaging President or the Tough Ideologue President, I’m sure the pundit class will applaud that as well. It is all and always for the best, where Barack Obama is involved.

Richard Cohen observes:

The unsurprising moderation of Barack Obama has caught many people by surprise. At this point, he seems intent on restoring a version of the old Clinton presidency — Hillary Clinton running foreign policy, Robert Rubin’s ensemble running the economy, Bill Richardson at Commerce and nary a certified cut ‘n’ runner on Iraq anywhere in sight. The erstwhile “change” candidate seems intent on vindicating that old French expression: The more things change, the more they remain the same.

And yes, we can now all agree that “the narcissism of small differences” accounted for much of the bitterness of the primary campaign. ( Well, that and the fact they were battling for the presidency.) But Cohen goes awry when he declares:

Obama’s campaign showed us a candidate of maximum cool. He has always remained ironically detached, and that has served him — and now us — very well indeed. It’s now clear that he will not govern from the left and not really from the center but, as his campaign suggested, from above it all.

Good luck with that! Presidents are not professors or political pundits. They are deciders, managers, doers, and persuaders. You can be cool or cold or emotionally remote, but you can’t be “above it” and govern–at least not well. The result, if Obama tries to govern from above it all, will be government run by disparate, conflicting and grasping personalities below the President. Or, alternatively, a pablum of compromise (We’ll give the auto companies half a bailout) that satisfies no one and solves nothing. It’s a tough business, being President. There is no way to be “above it all.”

It is worth pondering why pundits suddenly have a fascination with and admiration for a remote President. Didn’t they lambaste President Bush for being remote? Didn’t they gleefully explore the constant unresolved conflicts between State and Defense which caused paralysis in national security policy? I suspect they once again are simply spinning for their favorite President-elect. Observing his lack of emotional verve and his academic bent, they now must celebrate those qualites, as they do every aspect of the President-elect’s persona. It is not that operating style itself which is to be revered, but Him. Therefore they must strain and explain why remoteness is now such a positive quality in a Chief Executive.

We will see how long the Distant Presidency lasts. If it doesn’t, and Obama morphs into the Micromanaging President or the Tough Ideologue President, I’m sure the pundit class will applaud that as well. It is all and always for the best, where Barack Obama is involved.

Read Less

The Wars Go Topsy-Turvy

Today, Afghan President Hamid Karzai told a UN Security Council team that the “international community” must set a “timeline” for ending military operations in Afghanistan, or else the Afghan government will pursue negotiations with the Taliban. This completes it: Barack Obama is now in a topsy-turvy foreign policy world.

The President-elect had long been promising to remove combat troops from Iraq in accordance with a 14-16 month timeline, but officials in Baghdad and Washington will soon finalize an agreement aimed at keeping American forces in that country for three more years. Conversely, Obama has vowed to ratchet up the fight and finish the job in Afghanistan, a country whose president has just demanded a timeline for troop withdrawal.

If Obama thought national security was just a matter of heeding the collective frustrations of the American public, whose “out of Iraq” and “dropped the ball in Afghanistan” slogans became his foreign policy paradigm, he was wrong. Moreover, his repeated emphasis on a timeline in Iraq has given the Afghan government the language and framework they know to be effective in mobilizing American sentiment. They’ve used Obama’s own rhetoric against him. Finally, with Obama’s moderate cabinet picks already upsetting the progressive wing of his base, the perceived gap from Obama the anti-Bush to Obama the next Bush has narrowed enough to be closed by a few messy foreign policy decisions.

The true Barack Obama remains to be seen. And the limits of Obama’s elasticity are unknown. While he gives lip service to everyone on every side of every issue, he’s yet to make a precise declaration of policy. We can imagine how it might upset him to inform Hamid Karzai of the U.S.’s intention to finish, as George W. Bush might say, when the job is done. If he does so, we will be relieved to know his campaign talk of fighting the right war was, at least, sincere. However, Obama often couched Iraq-timeline proposals in terms of giving the Iraqis incentive to get their act together. With some finagling, he could start to say the same about Afghanistan. If he does this, we will have another kind of confirmation: we’ll know his anti-terrorism position (and much else besides) was just a posture.

Today, Afghan President Hamid Karzai told a UN Security Council team that the “international community” must set a “timeline” for ending military operations in Afghanistan, or else the Afghan government will pursue negotiations with the Taliban. This completes it: Barack Obama is now in a topsy-turvy foreign policy world.

The President-elect had long been promising to remove combat troops from Iraq in accordance with a 14-16 month timeline, but officials in Baghdad and Washington will soon finalize an agreement aimed at keeping American forces in that country for three more years. Conversely, Obama has vowed to ratchet up the fight and finish the job in Afghanistan, a country whose president has just demanded a timeline for troop withdrawal.

If Obama thought national security was just a matter of heeding the collective frustrations of the American public, whose “out of Iraq” and “dropped the ball in Afghanistan” slogans became his foreign policy paradigm, he was wrong. Moreover, his repeated emphasis on a timeline in Iraq has given the Afghan government the language and framework they know to be effective in mobilizing American sentiment. They’ve used Obama’s own rhetoric against him. Finally, with Obama’s moderate cabinet picks already upsetting the progressive wing of his base, the perceived gap from Obama the anti-Bush to Obama the next Bush has narrowed enough to be closed by a few messy foreign policy decisions.

The true Barack Obama remains to be seen. And the limits of Obama’s elasticity are unknown. While he gives lip service to everyone on every side of every issue, he’s yet to make a precise declaration of policy. We can imagine how it might upset him to inform Hamid Karzai of the U.S.’s intention to finish, as George W. Bush might say, when the job is done. If he does so, we will be relieved to know his campaign talk of fighting the right war was, at least, sincere. However, Obama often couched Iraq-timeline proposals in terms of giving the Iraqis incentive to get their act together. With some finagling, he could start to say the same about Afghanistan. If he does this, we will have another kind of confirmation: we’ll know his anti-terrorism position (and much else besides) was just a posture.

Read Less

Let The Witness Answer First

Eric Holder seems certain to be nominated for Attorney General. Republican Senators are saying there will be “tough” hearings during which they will “grill” Holder on his role in the Marc Rich affair, although it is not clear there will be a serious effort to derail his nomination.

I’d suggest that before Senators declare themselves committed or not committed to giving him a pass, they get some clear answers from Holder. The questions are numerous. Here are just a few:

Why did Holder, while working for the government, help direct Rich to his attorney Jack Quinn?

What discussions did Holder have with Quinn about a future job?

Why does Holder believe his conduct did not violate conflict of interest rules (which prohibit, among other things, conduct which would give the appearance of a conflict)?

Why did Holder steer Quinn around the Justice Department? (And wasn’t this a conflict of interest –providing tactical advice to a petitioner for a pardon from the administration Holder was working for?)

Why did Holder give the opinion “neutral, leaning favorable” to a pardon request (from a fugitive) which clearly fell outside DOJ guidelines?

Given his help in steering Rich’s attorney around the DOJ, was Holder’s subsequent testimony to Congress in 2000 accurate that he hadn’t focused on the matter in the waning days of the Clinton administration? Did he attempt to conceal from Congress the full extent of his involvement with Rich’s attorney?

If an attorney under his supervision at DOJ behaved as Holder did in 2000 would Holder discipline or fire him?

Before Senators decide that there’s no reason to block Holder’s nomination, a full hearing and some direct answers to hard questions are in order. After all, if the Democrats are so concerned about “restoring the reputation” of the Justice Department to its pre-Bush days they should be concerned about the conduct and ethical standards of the man to be charged with that restoration. And as for Republicans, this is precisely their job as the loyal opposition: to challenge, investigate and hold the majority’s decisions up for inspection. (In the old days the media would do that.)

If after getting answers from Holder and from percipient witnesses at DOJ (and elsewhere), Senators are convinced that Holder acted ethically and that his testimony in 2000 and in 2009 was honest and complete, they should not hesitate to confirm him (at least on this basis). And if not, then they should not only hesitate but actively work to block his confirmation. But above all, get the facts first.

Eric Holder seems certain to be nominated for Attorney General. Republican Senators are saying there will be “tough” hearings during which they will “grill” Holder on his role in the Marc Rich affair, although it is not clear there will be a serious effort to derail his nomination.

I’d suggest that before Senators declare themselves committed or not committed to giving him a pass, they get some clear answers from Holder. The questions are numerous. Here are just a few:

Why did Holder, while working for the government, help direct Rich to his attorney Jack Quinn?

What discussions did Holder have with Quinn about a future job?

Why does Holder believe his conduct did not violate conflict of interest rules (which prohibit, among other things, conduct which would give the appearance of a conflict)?

Why did Holder steer Quinn around the Justice Department? (And wasn’t this a conflict of interest –providing tactical advice to a petitioner for a pardon from the administration Holder was working for?)

Why did Holder give the opinion “neutral, leaning favorable” to a pardon request (from a fugitive) which clearly fell outside DOJ guidelines?

Given his help in steering Rich’s attorney around the DOJ, was Holder’s subsequent testimony to Congress in 2000 accurate that he hadn’t focused on the matter in the waning days of the Clinton administration? Did he attempt to conceal from Congress the full extent of his involvement with Rich’s attorney?

If an attorney under his supervision at DOJ behaved as Holder did in 2000 would Holder discipline or fire him?

Before Senators decide that there’s no reason to block Holder’s nomination, a full hearing and some direct answers to hard questions are in order. After all, if the Democrats are so concerned about “restoring the reputation” of the Justice Department to its pre-Bush days they should be concerned about the conduct and ethical standards of the man to be charged with that restoration. And as for Republicans, this is precisely their job as the loyal opposition: to challenge, investigate and hold the majority’s decisions up for inspection. (In the old days the media would do that.)

If after getting answers from Holder and from percipient witnesses at DOJ (and elsewhere), Senators are convinced that Holder acted ethically and that his testimony in 2000 and in 2009 was honest and complete, they should not hesitate to confirm him (at least on this basis). And if not, then they should not only hesitate but actively work to block his confirmation. But above all, get the facts first.

Read Less

Everyone Knows

Amid continuing indications that the Obama administration plans to tackle Middle East peace as a priority, Aaron David Miller warns “experts, politicians and would be mediators to keep their enthusiasm for quick or easy solutions under control.”

There is a myth out there driven by the Clinton parameters of December 2000, the Taba talks in 2001, the Geneva accord a year later, and the hundreds of hours of post Annapolis talks between Israelis and Palestinians that the two sides are “this close” (thumb and index finger a sixteenth of an inch apart) to an agreement.

Not only are they not “this close” — the “current situation on the ground between Israelis and Palestinians makes it impossible” to reach an agreement:

That everyone knows what the ultimate solution will look like (an intriguing notion that is supposed to make people feel better) is irrelevant if the circumstances for an agreement don’t exist.

The circumstances include a dysfunctional Palestinian Authority and the existence of political parties with their own armies, who will continue their war from any vacated land.

National security experts Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski suggest the “major elements of an agreement are well known” and urge Obama simply to “declare” the “basic parameters of a fair and enduring peace” and deal with Israeli security concerns with an “international peacekeeping force.” But this merely papers over disagreements with adjectives (a “fair” and “enduring” peace) and disregards the abject history of international Middle East peacekeeping forces (including the one that failed to prevent the Six Day War and the one currently preserving peace in Lebanon by watching Hezbollah rearm).

What everyone should know by now – one year after the parties “agreed” to reach a peace agreement within a year (presumably on the basis of what “everyone knows” is the solution) but could not, even with the assistance of a Secretary of State making umpteen trips to the region – is that the circumstances for an agreement do not currently exist. A new Obama Process, featuring an imposed agreement and an ineffective enforcement mechanism, is not a solution.

Amid continuing indications that the Obama administration plans to tackle Middle East peace as a priority, Aaron David Miller warns “experts, politicians and would be mediators to keep their enthusiasm for quick or easy solutions under control.”

There is a myth out there driven by the Clinton parameters of December 2000, the Taba talks in 2001, the Geneva accord a year later, and the hundreds of hours of post Annapolis talks between Israelis and Palestinians that the two sides are “this close” (thumb and index finger a sixteenth of an inch apart) to an agreement.

Not only are they not “this close” — the “current situation on the ground between Israelis and Palestinians makes it impossible” to reach an agreement:

That everyone knows what the ultimate solution will look like (an intriguing notion that is supposed to make people feel better) is irrelevant if the circumstances for an agreement don’t exist.

The circumstances include a dysfunctional Palestinian Authority and the existence of political parties with their own armies, who will continue their war from any vacated land.

National security experts Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski suggest the “major elements of an agreement are well known” and urge Obama simply to “declare” the “basic parameters of a fair and enduring peace” and deal with Israeli security concerns with an “international peacekeeping force.” But this merely papers over disagreements with adjectives (a “fair” and “enduring” peace) and disregards the abject history of international Middle East peacekeeping forces (including the one that failed to prevent the Six Day War and the one currently preserving peace in Lebanon by watching Hezbollah rearm).

What everyone should know by now – one year after the parties “agreed” to reach a peace agreement within a year (presumably on the basis of what “everyone knows” is the solution) but could not, even with the assistance of a Secretary of State making umpteen trips to the region – is that the circumstances for an agreement do not currently exist. A new Obama Process, featuring an imposed agreement and an ineffective enforcement mechanism, is not a solution.

Read Less

Change We Can’t Begin To Afford

I share Larry Kudlow’s take on the President-elect’s economic team. The good news:

 In fact, there is no question that Obama’s economic team is right of center. All three are market-oriented. They’re also pro-free-trade. Hopefully Summers and Geithner maintain the Robert Rubin King Dollar policy of the Clinton years. And if Ms. Romer can stop tax hikes, that will help the greenback even more.

But there is a big problem. Their game plan–spend, spend, spend–is fundamentally flawed. Kudlow explains:

Now here’s the rub: all this talk about a $700 billion stimulus package. I hate to be the one to pull the plug, but government cannot spend our way into prosperity. The wish list of Democratic spending initiatives includes short-term tax rebates, massive new transportation bills, even more education money, exotic green-technology spending, a big-government embrace of health care, and heaps of cash for UAW-Detroit carmakers. None of that will stimulate economic growth.

Moreover, it is a colossal waste of money, considering his goal is only 2.5 million jobs, quite low by historical standards. Think of it this way:

Obama’s stimulus plan could eventually total $700 billion, the Washington Post reports. So, as former Council of Economic Advisers chief Gregory Mankiw notes, each job Obama “creates” will cost $280,000.

Shocking, really, the obvious inefficiency and misdirection entailed with such a massive government spend-a-thon.

So we are left with a mish-mash of free trade, no tax hikes, continued government regulation and intervention, plus massive deficit spending. In short, it’s the third Bush term–but worse. Will it work? I suppose there’s a first for everything. But don’t ask how we sustain a deficit of more than a trillion dollars. No one has a clue.

I share Larry Kudlow’s take on the President-elect’s economic team. The good news:

 In fact, there is no question that Obama’s economic team is right of center. All three are market-oriented. They’re also pro-free-trade. Hopefully Summers and Geithner maintain the Robert Rubin King Dollar policy of the Clinton years. And if Ms. Romer can stop tax hikes, that will help the greenback even more.

But there is a big problem. Their game plan–spend, spend, spend–is fundamentally flawed. Kudlow explains:

Now here’s the rub: all this talk about a $700 billion stimulus package. I hate to be the one to pull the plug, but government cannot spend our way into prosperity. The wish list of Democratic spending initiatives includes short-term tax rebates, massive new transportation bills, even more education money, exotic green-technology spending, a big-government embrace of health care, and heaps of cash for UAW-Detroit carmakers. None of that will stimulate economic growth.

Moreover, it is a colossal waste of money, considering his goal is only 2.5 million jobs, quite low by historical standards. Think of it this way:

Obama’s stimulus plan could eventually total $700 billion, the Washington Post reports. So, as former Council of Economic Advisers chief Gregory Mankiw notes, each job Obama “creates” will cost $280,000.

Shocking, really, the obvious inefficiency and misdirection entailed with such a massive government spend-a-thon.

So we are left with a mish-mash of free trade, no tax hikes, continued government regulation and intervention, plus massive deficit spending. In short, it’s the third Bush term–but worse. Will it work? I suppose there’s a first for everything. But don’t ask how we sustain a deficit of more than a trillion dollars. No one has a clue.

Read Less

U.N. Follies

This week, the United Nations observed “Palestine Day,” dedicating a whole day to chastising Israel for its unforgivable sin of existing and deeply regretting the UN’s role in the creation of the Jewish state.

This brings to mind the UN’s most recent efforts at ending a shooting war in the Middle East: United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 on the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War in Lebanon.

That conflict flared up when Hezbollah invaded Israel from Lebanon and kidnaped two Israeli soldiers (Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev — you won’t find those names mentioned very often) and killed another three in the attack. The plan was to trade the prisoners for convicted terrorist and child-murderer Samir Al-Quntar.

In retaliation, Israel attacked Hezbollah throughout southern Lebanon and invaded, triggering 33 days of the fiercest fighting seen outside Iraq. The fighting was ended when the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1701.

So, how’s that working out?

Read More

This week, the United Nations observed “Palestine Day,” dedicating a whole day to chastising Israel for its unforgivable sin of existing and deeply regretting the UN’s role in the creation of the Jewish state.

This brings to mind the UN’s most recent efforts at ending a shooting war in the Middle East: United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 on the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War in Lebanon.

That conflict flared up when Hezbollah invaded Israel from Lebanon and kidnaped two Israeli soldiers (Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev — you won’t find those names mentioned very often) and killed another three in the attack. The plan was to trade the prisoners for convicted terrorist and child-murderer Samir Al-Quntar.

In retaliation, Israel attacked Hezbollah throughout southern Lebanon and invaded, triggering 33 days of the fiercest fighting seen outside Iraq. The fighting was ended when the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1701.

So, how’s that working out?

If the standard applied is “did the shooting stop,” then it worked out pretty well.

If you actually look at matters of actual substance, such as “were the causes of the conflict addressed” or “were the odds of a future conflict lessened” or even “were the terms of the Resolution met,” then it was — as usual — a dismal failure.

Here is the actual text of the resolution:

1. Calls for a full cessation of hostilities based upon, in particular, the immediate cessation by Hizbollah of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations;

Well, that one went all right. Both sides stopped shooting. Of course, since Hezbollah was getting the crap kicked out of it at the time, they were willing to go along. And Israel was, as always, vulnerable to international pressure to end its stubborn and entirely unreasonable policy of hitting back at those committed to its destruction.

2. Upon full cessation of hostilities, calls upon the Government of Lebanon and UNIFIL as authorized by paragraph 11 to deploy their forces together throughout the South and calls upon the Government of Israel, as that deployment begins, to withdraw all of its forces from southern Lebanon in parallel;

This one was partially fulfilled. Israel pulled out, and UNIFIL went in. But the Lebanese government never sent its armed forces south to fill the void. Rather, Hezbollah simply re-fortified and re-ardmed.

3. Emphasizes the importance of the extension of the control of the
Government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory in accordance with the rovisions of resolution 1559 (2004) and resolution 1680 (2006), and of the relevant rovisions of the Taif Accords, for it to exercise its full sovereignty, so that there ill be no weapons without the consent of the Government of Lebanon and no uthority other than that of the Government of Lebanon;

This one is almost laughable. It’s a declaration that there will be no armed forces within Lebanon’s southern sector that are not part of the Lebanese armed forces. In other words, Hezbollah has to disarm entirely. That one, too, turned out to be utterly toothless.

 4. Reiterates its strong support for full respect for the Blue Line;

Whatever.

5. Also reiterates its strong support, as recalled in all its previous relevant resolutions, for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon within its internationally recognized borders, as contemplated by the Israeli-Lebanese General Armistice Agreement of 23 March 1949;

So Israel can’t keep any Lebanese territory. Seeing as how that was never Israel’s intent, they might as well have declared an import tax on cheese from the moon and forbidden people from kissing their own elbows.

6. Calls on the international community to take immediate steps to extend its financial and humanitarian assistance to the Lebanese people, including through facilitating the safe return of displaced persons and, under the authority of the Government of Lebanon, reopening airports and harbours, consistent with paragraphs 14 and 15, and calls on it also to consider further assistance in the future o contribute to the reconstruction and development of Lebanon;

Yup, Lebanon gets rebuilt by the international community. How about the towns and cities in Israel that were bombarded before and during the war?

7. Affirms that all parties are responsible for ensuring that no action is taken contrary to paragraph 1 that might adversely affect the search for a long-term solution, humanitarian access to civilian populations, including safe passage for humanitarian convoys, or the voluntary and safe return of displaced persons, and calls on all parties to comply with this responsibility and to cooperate with the
Security Council;

This was mainly directed at Lebanon and Hezbollah. And the only “interference” they made was in making sure there were plenty of (often staged or faked) photos showing just how much the people of southern Lebanon had suffered under Israel’s attack.

8. Calls for Israel and Lebanon to support a permanent ceasefire and a longterm solution based on the following principles and elements:
– full respect for the Blue Line by both parties;
– security arrangements to prevent the resumption of hostilities, including theestablishment between the Blue Line and the Litani river of an area free of anyarmed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of
Lebanon and of UNIFIL as authorized in paragraph 11, deployed in this area;
– full implementation of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, and of resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006), that require the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, so that, pursuant to the Lebanese cabinet decision of 27 July 2006, there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese State;
– no foreign forces in Lebanon without the consent of its Government;
– no sales or supply of arms and related materiel to Lebanon except as authorized by its Government;
– provision to the United Nations of all remaining maps of landmines in Lebanon in Israel’s possession;

Again, the elements aimed at Israel have all been met, occasionally under threat of force, while those aimed at Hezbollah are ignored.

9. Invites the Secretary-General to support efforts to secure as soon as possible agreements in principle from the Government of Lebanon and the Government of Israel to the principles and elements for a long-term solution as set forth in paragraph 8, and expresses its intention to be actively involved;

10. Requests the Secretary-General to develop, in liaison with relevant international actors and the concerned parties, proposals to implement the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, and resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006), including disarmament, and for delineation of the  international borders of Lebanon, especially in those areas where the border is disputed or uncertain, including by dealing with the Shebaa farms area, and to present to the Security Council those proposals within thirty days;

Blah blah blah.

11. Decides, in order to supplement and enhance the force in numbers, equipment, mandate and scope of operations, to authorize an increase in the force strength of UNIFIL to a maximum of 15,000 troops, and that the force shall, in addition to carrying out its mandate under resolutions 425 and 426 (1978):

(a) Monitor the cessation of hostilities;
(b) Accompany and support the Lebanese armed forces as they deploy hroughout the South, including along the Blue Line, as Israel withdraws its armed orces from Lebanon as provided in paragraph 2;
(c) Coordinate its activities related to paragraph 11 (b) with the Government f Lebanon and the Government of Israel;
(d) Extend its assistance to help ensure humanitarian access to civilian opulations and the voluntary and safe return of displaced persons;
(e) Assist the Lebanese armed forces in taking steps towards the
establishment of the area as referred to in paragraph 8;
(f) Assist the Government of Lebanon, at its request, to implement
paragraph 14;

Considering that the Lebanese have not sent their armed forces into southern Lebanon, this one has been largely moot.

12. Acting in support of a request from the Government of Lebanon to deploy an international force to assist it to exercise its authority throughout the territory, authorizes UNIFIL to take all necessary action in areas of deployment of its forces and as it deems within its capabilities, to ensure that its area of operations is not utilized for hostile activities of any kind, to resist attempts by forceful means
to prevent it from discharging its duties under the mandate of the Security Council, and to protect United Nations personnel, facilities, installations and equipment, ensure the security and freedom of movement of United Nations personnel,  humanitarian workers and, without prejudice to the responsibility of the Government of Lebanon, to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical
violence;

Again, Lebanon has essentially ceded its southern portion to Hezbollah, not sending its troops in as required.

13. Requests the Secretary-General urgently to put in place measures to nsure UNIFIL is able to carry out the functions envisaged in this resolution, urges member States to consider making appropriate contributions to UNIFIL and to respond positively to requests for assistance from the Force, and expresses its strong appreciation to those who have contributed to UNIFIL in the past;

Yup, UNIFIL has covered itself in glory in the past. For example, they skillfully avoided a previous shooting war when they actively covered up (if not actually participated) in a prior kidnapping invasion of Israel by Hezbollah, who used UNIFIL-marked vehicles.

14. Calls upon the Government of Lebanon to secure its borders and other entry points to prevent the entry in Lebanon without its consent of arms or related materiel and requests UNIFIL as authorized in paragraph 11 to assist the Government of Lebanon at its request;

Again, that’s worked out quite well. If you don’t mention that Hezbollah is now far better armed than ever before.

 15. Decides further that all States shall take the necessary measures to revent, by their nationals or from their territories or using their flag vessels or aircraft:
(a) The sale or supply to any entity or individual in Lebanon of arms and elated materiel of all types, including weapons and ammunition, military vehicles nd equipment, paramilitary equipment, and spare parts for the aforementioned, hether or not originating in their territories; and
(b) The provision to any entity or individual in Lebanon of any technical raining or assistance related to the provision, manufacture, maintenance or use of he items listed in subparagraph (a) above; except that these prohibitions shall not apply to arms, related material, training or ssistance authorized by the Government of Lebanon or by UNIFIL as authorized in aragraph 11;

DARN those munitions fairies who have rearmed Hezbollah!

16. Decides to extend the mandate of UNIFIL until 31 August 2007, and expresses its intention to consider in a later resolution further enhancements to the mandate and other steps to contribute to the implementation of a permanent ceasefire and a long-term solution;
17. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Council within one week on the implementation of this resolution and subsequently on a regular basis;

These pledges have  zero substance, or at least zer demonstrable substance to date.

18. Stresses the importance of, and the need to achieve, a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, based on all its relevant resolutions including its resolutions 242 (1967) of 22 November 1967, 338 (1973) of 22 October 1973 and 1515 (2003) of 19 November 2003;

Because it must be constantly reasserted that the core problems of every problem in the Middle East is the fault of Israel.

19. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.

God help the innocent people of Lebanon and Israel if the United Nations is going to “remain actively seized” of this matter.

The crux of the Resolution is this: Israel gets out of southern Lebanon, Hezbollah disarms and turns over its prisoners, and Lebanon reasserts its sovereignty over its southern region and its borders.

As usual, Israel kept its side of the deal. And that’s where things ended.

Indeed, this time it was even worse than usual. Rather than being disarmed, Hezbollah is now far, far better armed than ever.  Rather than being isolated, it is now an integral part of the Lebanese government, holding veto power over actions of that government.

And what about Goldwasser and Regev, whose kidnapping was the catalyst for the whole conflict? Remember, Hezbollah wanted to trade them for the release of child murderer Samir Quntar. One would presume that their plan would be thwarted, right?

Wrong.

Earlier this year, Israel released Quntar (and four Lebanese terrorists) and the bodies of 200 dead terrorists for the return of Wasserman and Regev. Or, rather, their bodies; the two had apparently been killed in the initial attack, but Hezbollah pretended that the two were alive for almost two years. Quntar was treated as a conquering hero upon his arrival in Lebanon, embraced by the government leadership and lauded by Al Jazeera.

Amid its rank failure to enforce the resolution it passed ending the Israel-Hezbollah conflict (and laying the groundwork for Hezbollah to launch another, far more brutal conflict any time it wishes), the UN still has time to decide that Israel is responsible for about 83% of the world’s human-rights violations and condemn them for it.

At what point do we realize that the United Nations causes (or, at least, tolerates and foments) far more trouble in the world than it prevents? When do we decide to reclaim that very valuable hunk of real estate on Manhattan and tell this fetid collection of tyrants and parasites to shove off? When do we work on a new international body, composed of actual democracies and genuinely interested in human rights and freedom?

Senator McCain, during his presidential campaign, often called for such an organization. I sincerely doubt that it will be a priority for President Obama — who seems more interested in collecting the adoration of the world than in actually addressing issues.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Bloomberg reports: “The U.S. government is prepared to lend more than $7.4 trillion on behalf of American taxpayers, or half the value of everything produced in the nation last year, to rescue the financial system since the credit markets seized up 15 months ago.” But where is it all going to come from?

With that staggering sum, James Pinkerton observes, “I think that we will have to add some zeroes to our notion of ‘stimulus.’  And to our calculations for the deficit and the national debt. And, oh yes, to inflation.  So the prudent investor will go long on wheelbarrows.”

Smart counsel from Paul Weyrich: “Will Republicans come back significantly in 2010? It is difficult to say. Unless Republicans become more credible as conservatives – conservatives who actually do something about public schools, energy, the economy and government reform – their gains in elections will probably be meager. Nevertheless, there is the possibility that the leftist majority in Congress will overreach the limits of their power. . . But when a team has to depend upon its opponents mistakes and fumbles in order to score, that team probably will lose.”

The smartest take I’ve yet read on the Minnesota Senate recount is here.

A handy summary on Eric Holder.

This says it all: “Congress encourages Detroit to focus on electric models, even though they’re not yet profitable.” Perhaps the auto companies would do better without the federal government’s “help.”

None of these candidates for the RNC Chair strike me as the sort to remake the GOP into an effective national party again. That task, it seems, is going to have to be done by activists, state houses, and Congress and, most especially, by governors. Still it would help to have someone to improve the nuts and bolts of fundraising, communication, and party organization.

Advice to President-elect Obama on a Middle East peace “deal”: “Manage it as best you can: help support an Israeli-Hamas ceasefire, train PA security forces, pour economic aid into the West Bank and Gaza, even nurture Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on the big issues, but don’t think you can solve it; you can’t.” I’m not so game on “pour economic aid into the West Bank and Gaza,” since it would be a bigger waste than giving it to the Big Three auto companies. But the rest is sound.

A compendium of half-truths and scare tactics designed to drum up support for an auto bailout. What is missing? Any reasoned explanation for how a bailout would return the car companies to health. Even the President-elect isn’t giving them the money without that.

Chuck Todd catches the President-elect fudging on “creating”/”saving” 2.5. million jobs.

Leave it to the Democrats to turn Maine Senator Susan Collins into an aggrieved partisan. Nice work, fellas. In all the years they’ve been trying, Republicans haven’t done it.

Tony Lake and Susan Rice are being marginalized, one observer notes: “How strange it would be if Obama is arranging his foreign policy team so as not to offend the woman whose foreign policy provided the foil for his primary candidacy.”

Bloomberg reports: “The U.S. government is prepared to lend more than $7.4 trillion on behalf of American taxpayers, or half the value of everything produced in the nation last year, to rescue the financial system since the credit markets seized up 15 months ago.” But where is it all going to come from?

With that staggering sum, James Pinkerton observes, “I think that we will have to add some zeroes to our notion of ‘stimulus.’  And to our calculations for the deficit and the national debt. And, oh yes, to inflation.  So the prudent investor will go long on wheelbarrows.”

Smart counsel from Paul Weyrich: “Will Republicans come back significantly in 2010? It is difficult to say. Unless Republicans become more credible as conservatives – conservatives who actually do something about public schools, energy, the economy and government reform – their gains in elections will probably be meager. Nevertheless, there is the possibility that the leftist majority in Congress will overreach the limits of their power. . . But when a team has to depend upon its opponents mistakes and fumbles in order to score, that team probably will lose.”

The smartest take I’ve yet read on the Minnesota Senate recount is here.

A handy summary on Eric Holder.

This says it all: “Congress encourages Detroit to focus on electric models, even though they’re not yet profitable.” Perhaps the auto companies would do better without the federal government’s “help.”

None of these candidates for the RNC Chair strike me as the sort to remake the GOP into an effective national party again. That task, it seems, is going to have to be done by activists, state houses, and Congress and, most especially, by governors. Still it would help to have someone to improve the nuts and bolts of fundraising, communication, and party organization.

Advice to President-elect Obama on a Middle East peace “deal”: “Manage it as best you can: help support an Israeli-Hamas ceasefire, train PA security forces, pour economic aid into the West Bank and Gaza, even nurture Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on the big issues, but don’t think you can solve it; you can’t.” I’m not so game on “pour economic aid into the West Bank and Gaza,” since it would be a bigger waste than giving it to the Big Three auto companies. But the rest is sound.

A compendium of half-truths and scare tactics designed to drum up support for an auto bailout. What is missing? Any reasoned explanation for how a bailout would return the car companies to health. Even the President-elect isn’t giving them the money without that.

Chuck Todd catches the President-elect fudging on “creating”/”saving” 2.5. million jobs.

Leave it to the Democrats to turn Maine Senator Susan Collins into an aggrieved partisan. Nice work, fellas. In all the years they’ve been trying, Republicans haven’t done it.

Tony Lake and Susan Rice are being marginalized, one observer notes: “How strange it would be if Obama is arranging his foreign policy team so as not to offend the woman whose foreign policy provided the foil for his primary candidacy.”

Read Less

Holy Land Convictions

In a major precedent, a jury yesterday convicted the founders of the Holy Land Foundation on 108 counts of terror financing, money laundering, and tax fraud – the central claim being that they were, essentially, a front for Hamas. Although the New York Times seems to be siding with the defense, giving disproportionate voice to claims that the government dealt in “fear-mongering” and scaring the jury, the fact is that twelve American citizens were convinced that Holy Land, at one point the biggest Muslim charity in America, was a front for terror funding.

This is not good for Holy Land’s founders, who face lengthy jail terms. But it also sends a crucial signal to the many and multifarious so-called charities that give money to terror. (Disclosure: I work with an organization that represents terror victims in terror-financing lawsuits, though it was not involved in this case.)

Perhaps many donors to such organizations really are looking to help the Palestinians address their difficult humanitarian position. But as anyone involved in the non-profit sector will tell you, philanthropists are not powerless to influence the work of the organizations they give to. If building Palestinian schools were so important to them, how hard would it be to make sure the money stayed out of the terrorists’ hands? If the answer is “very difficult,” then there are plenty of needy Muslims elsewhere in the world who could use their money instead. And if they insist on giving to Hamas anyway, they should not be surprised to face jail time for supporting terror.

In a major precedent, a jury yesterday convicted the founders of the Holy Land Foundation on 108 counts of terror financing, money laundering, and tax fraud – the central claim being that they were, essentially, a front for Hamas. Although the New York Times seems to be siding with the defense, giving disproportionate voice to claims that the government dealt in “fear-mongering” and scaring the jury, the fact is that twelve American citizens were convinced that Holy Land, at one point the biggest Muslim charity in America, was a front for terror funding.

This is not good for Holy Land’s founders, who face lengthy jail terms. But it also sends a crucial signal to the many and multifarious so-called charities that give money to terror. (Disclosure: I work with an organization that represents terror victims in terror-financing lawsuits, though it was not involved in this case.)

Perhaps many donors to such organizations really are looking to help the Palestinians address their difficult humanitarian position. But as anyone involved in the non-profit sector will tell you, philanthropists are not powerless to influence the work of the organizations they give to. If building Palestinian schools were so important to them, how hard would it be to make sure the money stayed out of the terrorists’ hands? If the answer is “very difficult,” then there are plenty of needy Muslims elsewhere in the world who could use their money instead. And if they insist on giving to Hamas anyway, they should not be surprised to face jail time for supporting terror.

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.