Commentary Magazine


Posts For: December 1, 2008

Mumbai Aftermath

The New York Times today ran a heart-wrenching photo of human pain in Mumbai.

Taken at a memorial service for Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, the Lubavitch emissaries who were murdered by Islamic terrorists, the photograph shows their orphaned son Moshe being comforted by a (presumably non-Jewish) Indian.  I cannot but see a cherubic child crying out to the heavens, a “globe” in his hand.

The New York Times today ran a heart-wrenching photo of human pain in Mumbai.

Taken at a memorial service for Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, the Lubavitch emissaries who were murdered by Islamic terrorists, the photograph shows their orphaned son Moshe being comforted by a (presumably non-Jewish) Indian.  I cannot but see a cherubic child crying out to the heavens, a “globe” in his hand.

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Commentary of the Day

Tom Paine, on Emanuele Ottolenghi:

Correct.

If the Muslim world were to disarm along its borders with Israel, nothing would happen except increased trade.

If Israel were to disarm along its borders with the Muslim world, there would be a bloodbath from one end of the country to the other.

Fools never even notice this point.

Tom Paine, on Emanuele Ottolenghi:

Correct.

If the Muslim world were to disarm along its borders with Israel, nothing would happen except increased trade.

If Israel were to disarm along its borders with the Muslim world, there would be a bloodbath from one end of the country to the other.

Fools never even notice this point.

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Nukes for “Points”

Apparently, we’ve achieved success in handling Iran

Things did get better, and [Condoleezza] Rice cooperated with European powers on several diplomatic projects. The Bush administration counts the evolution of Kosovo into an independent nation as one success story, and cooperation with European powers on Iran another. Rice dropped the Bush administration’s previous bans on negotiations with Iran in hopes of coaxing the regime to back down on its nuclear program. That hasn’t worked, but Rice got points with formerly quarrelsome allies for trying.

At the State Department, success isn’t measured by ends, but means. Because the ends are never positive. The point is to fail with grace, humility, and in the convivial company of other failures around the globe. The memoirs of lifetime negotiators are full of false soul searching passages about their best efforts not being good enough to sway their stubborn intimates. Instead of staying up 8 nights in a row with a map in front of Yassir Arafat’s face, they should have stayed up 9, darn it! Working at state is all about earning that self-important chapter in your best-seller. Keep in mind, North Korea is hiding nuclear fuel, Gaza leadership exists for the sole purpose of destroying Israel, Iran is well on its way to attaining nuclear weapons and Condoleezza Rice is currently taking a global victory lap.

And if the State Department considers Iran a success, just imagine what they really think about the Israel-Palestinian question. The truth is, the Middle East peace process–the holy grail of American diplomacy–is no longer even intended to achieve peace. It’s a PR stunt with an acceptable price tag, a loss leader designed to showcase American cooperation and understanding. If you fly to the Levant enough times with enough heads of state, you get to bank more of those “points with formerly quarrelsome allies for trying.”

From the same piece:

Rice has more goodbyes Tuesday in Brussels, where she sees NATO allies. The United States has a long-standing beef with some NATO nations over reluctance to send large numbers of fighting forces to Afghanistan, but the dispute has been cordial. The same is true for an emerging difference over engagement with Russia following last summer’s war with Georgia.

Keeping disputes cordial–kind of what Barack Obama is doing by making his adversary Secretary of State.

Apparently, we’ve achieved success in handling Iran

Things did get better, and [Condoleezza] Rice cooperated with European powers on several diplomatic projects. The Bush administration counts the evolution of Kosovo into an independent nation as one success story, and cooperation with European powers on Iran another. Rice dropped the Bush administration’s previous bans on negotiations with Iran in hopes of coaxing the regime to back down on its nuclear program. That hasn’t worked, but Rice got points with formerly quarrelsome allies for trying.

At the State Department, success isn’t measured by ends, but means. Because the ends are never positive. The point is to fail with grace, humility, and in the convivial company of other failures around the globe. The memoirs of lifetime negotiators are full of false soul searching passages about their best efforts not being good enough to sway their stubborn intimates. Instead of staying up 8 nights in a row with a map in front of Yassir Arafat’s face, they should have stayed up 9, darn it! Working at state is all about earning that self-important chapter in your best-seller. Keep in mind, North Korea is hiding nuclear fuel, Gaza leadership exists for the sole purpose of destroying Israel, Iran is well on its way to attaining nuclear weapons and Condoleezza Rice is currently taking a global victory lap.

And if the State Department considers Iran a success, just imagine what they really think about the Israel-Palestinian question. The truth is, the Middle East peace process–the holy grail of American diplomacy–is no longer even intended to achieve peace. It’s a PR stunt with an acceptable price tag, a loss leader designed to showcase American cooperation and understanding. If you fly to the Levant enough times with enough heads of state, you get to bank more of those “points with formerly quarrelsome allies for trying.”

From the same piece:

Rice has more goodbyes Tuesday in Brussels, where she sees NATO allies. The United States has a long-standing beef with some NATO nations over reluctance to send large numbers of fighting forces to Afghanistan, but the dispute has been cordial. The same is true for an emerging difference over engagement with Russia following last summer’s war with Georgia.

Keeping disputes cordial–kind of what Barack Obama is doing by making his adversary Secretary of State.

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The Netroots Are Rattled

Last week, I argued that the post-election season is “a period of reeducation:”

Clinton’s nomination: What better proof for the Arabs that Obama intends to continue the reviled policies of America? Not Bush’s America-America in general. Surely, American policies will be tweaked and revisited and changed in some areas. But Obama does not intend, nor can he, change American policy in the Middle East in the profound ways his Arab supporters would like him to.

But even earlier, I wrote that Obama’s decision to support Joe Lieberman as Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee position was “only the beginning of a long, sometimes devastating re-education of the radical wing of the Democratic Party.”

Today, we have an opportunity to check in with the pupils’ progress. The official blogospheric announcement has been made. Obama, it seems, has a “Netroots Problem:”

Obama won a decisive victory and Democrats picked up seats in the House and the Senate. The GOP will have a very hard time, indeed, mounting a filibuster and they’re not going to be stupid enough (well, probably) to try unless the Democrats push something that can be painted as radical.

That leaves the left wing of Obama’s own party. They’ve been out in the cold for the eight years of the Bush administration and, one could argue, much of the Clinton administration since, post-1994 election, he was triangulating against the hard left and hard right in order to bolster his own agenda.

Obama appears exceedingly unlikely to repeat Clinton’s early mistakes. While Clinton came with vastly more governing experience, he never had a fraction of Obama’s discipline. (Or, for that matter, the discipline of a hungry dog let loose in a butcher shop.) Obama’s going to cherry pick policy ideas that he thinks will work and be popular, to the consternation of Republicans and the left wing of his own party alike. To the extent he has a problem, then, it’ll be disaffected progressives who are greatly disappointed.

But, as James Kirchick wrote a couple of days ago, Obama does not fear the netroots:

Good for the Democrats for ignoring these people. Allowed to exercise more influence over the party than they already do, the Netroots would have the same disastrous effect that the presidential nomination of George McGovern did in 1972.

It is good–and not just for the Democrats.

Last week, I argued that the post-election season is “a period of reeducation:”

Clinton’s nomination: What better proof for the Arabs that Obama intends to continue the reviled policies of America? Not Bush’s America-America in general. Surely, American policies will be tweaked and revisited and changed in some areas. But Obama does not intend, nor can he, change American policy in the Middle East in the profound ways his Arab supporters would like him to.

But even earlier, I wrote that Obama’s decision to support Joe Lieberman as Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee position was “only the beginning of a long, sometimes devastating re-education of the radical wing of the Democratic Party.”

Today, we have an opportunity to check in with the pupils’ progress. The official blogospheric announcement has been made. Obama, it seems, has a “Netroots Problem:”

Obama won a decisive victory and Democrats picked up seats in the House and the Senate. The GOP will have a very hard time, indeed, mounting a filibuster and they’re not going to be stupid enough (well, probably) to try unless the Democrats push something that can be painted as radical.

That leaves the left wing of Obama’s own party. They’ve been out in the cold for the eight years of the Bush administration and, one could argue, much of the Clinton administration since, post-1994 election, he was triangulating against the hard left and hard right in order to bolster his own agenda.

Obama appears exceedingly unlikely to repeat Clinton’s early mistakes. While Clinton came with vastly more governing experience, he never had a fraction of Obama’s discipline. (Or, for that matter, the discipline of a hungry dog let loose in a butcher shop.) Obama’s going to cherry pick policy ideas that he thinks will work and be popular, to the consternation of Republicans and the left wing of his own party alike. To the extent he has a problem, then, it’ll be disaffected progressives who are greatly disappointed.

But, as James Kirchick wrote a couple of days ago, Obama does not fear the netroots:

Good for the Democrats for ignoring these people. Allowed to exercise more influence over the party than they already do, the Netroots would have the same disastrous effect that the presidential nomination of George McGovern did in 1972.

It is good–and not just for the Democrats.

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Pity the Poor Terrorists

In the Los Angeles Times, Asra Q. Nomani claims that the long-standing mistreatment of India’s Muslims lead to the attacks in Mumbai:

Indeed, the government report I read about in the newspapers two years ago acknowledged that Muslims in India had become “backward.” “Fearing for their security,” the report said, “Muslims are increasingly resorting to living in ghettos around the country.” Branding of Muslims as anti-national, terrorists and agents of Pakistan “has a depressing effect on their psyche,” the report said, noting Muslims live in “a sense of despair and suspicion.”

According to the report, produced by a committee led by a former Indian chief justice, Rajender Sachar, Muslims were now worse off than the Dalit caste, or those called untouchables. Some 52% of Muslim men were unemployed, compared with 47% of Dalit men. Among Muslim women, 91% were unemployed, compared with 77% of Dalit women. Almost half of Muslims over the age of 46 couldn’t read or write. While making up 11% of the population, Muslims accounted for 40% of India’s prison population. Meanwhile, they held less than 5% of government jobs.

There’s no chicken-or-the-egg mystery here. I don’t doubt Nomani’s data, but it’s hard to employ a group of people who largely refuse to partake of the processes that get people hired. How do you give a proper education to a population that has launched a madrassa system to rival Saudi Arabia’s? There are nearly 10,000 New Delhi-founded Deobandi madrassas throughout Asia. These are radical institutions, and if you don’t believe me, ask Taliban leader, Mullah Omar. He was educated in one.

Nomani is, of course, not alone. Writing in Time magazine, Sameer Reddy offered a near-perfect self-parody of the “poor, alienated terrorist” argument:

If there is a quantum of solace to be extracted from this tragedy, it’s that it serves as an urgent call to address the underlying causes of terrorism, the most pressing issue of our time, with a targeted effort to counteract the destabilizing effects of poverty, lack of basic education, health care and civil rights. Whether the assailants in India came from within, or were foreign agents sent from Pakistan or the Middle East to undermine the country, the fact is, their motives likely originated in alienated circumstances.

And whose fault is that?

In the Los Angeles Times, Asra Q. Nomani claims that the long-standing mistreatment of India’s Muslims lead to the attacks in Mumbai:

Indeed, the government report I read about in the newspapers two years ago acknowledged that Muslims in India had become “backward.” “Fearing for their security,” the report said, “Muslims are increasingly resorting to living in ghettos around the country.” Branding of Muslims as anti-national, terrorists and agents of Pakistan “has a depressing effect on their psyche,” the report said, noting Muslims live in “a sense of despair and suspicion.”

According to the report, produced by a committee led by a former Indian chief justice, Rajender Sachar, Muslims were now worse off than the Dalit caste, or those called untouchables. Some 52% of Muslim men were unemployed, compared with 47% of Dalit men. Among Muslim women, 91% were unemployed, compared with 77% of Dalit women. Almost half of Muslims over the age of 46 couldn’t read or write. While making up 11% of the population, Muslims accounted for 40% of India’s prison population. Meanwhile, they held less than 5% of government jobs.

There’s no chicken-or-the-egg mystery here. I don’t doubt Nomani’s data, but it’s hard to employ a group of people who largely refuse to partake of the processes that get people hired. How do you give a proper education to a population that has launched a madrassa system to rival Saudi Arabia’s? There are nearly 10,000 New Delhi-founded Deobandi madrassas throughout Asia. These are radical institutions, and if you don’t believe me, ask Taliban leader, Mullah Omar. He was educated in one.

Nomani is, of course, not alone. Writing in Time magazine, Sameer Reddy offered a near-perfect self-parody of the “poor, alienated terrorist” argument:

If there is a quantum of solace to be extracted from this tragedy, it’s that it serves as an urgent call to address the underlying causes of terrorism, the most pressing issue of our time, with a targeted effort to counteract the destabilizing effects of poverty, lack of basic education, health care and civil rights. Whether the assailants in India came from within, or were foreign agents sent from Pakistan or the Middle East to undermine the country, the fact is, their motives likely originated in alienated circumstances.

And whose fault is that?

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What’s Next in Iraq

BAGHDAD – For the past two weeks I’ve been embedded with the United States Army in Baghdad, and I find myself unable to figure out what to make of this place. Baghdad, despite the remarkable success of the surge, is as mind-bogglingly run-down and dysfunctional as ever, even compared with other Arabic countries. Iraq is a dark place. At times it feels like a doomed country that has only been temporarily spared the reckoning that is coming. Other times it is possible to look past the grimness and see progress beyond the mere slackening off of violence and war. Is Iraq truly on the mend, or has a total breakdown been merely postponed? Opinions here among Americans and Iraqis are mixed, but nearly everyone seems to agree about one thing at least: terrorists and insurgents will respond with a surge of their own in the wake of the upcoming withdrawal of American forces.

Sergeant Nick Franklin took me to meet an Iraqi woman named Malath who works with the local Sons of Iraq security organization in the Adhamiyah district of Baghdad. When I asked her if she thought her area was ready to stand on its own without American help, she bluntly answered “Of course not.” She doesn’t think Iraq needs another year or two or even three. She thinks it will need decades. “We won’t be ready until young people replace the older generation in the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police. They need to replace the old Baath Party members who are still inside.”

Her view is the darkest. But Iraqis who think the job should only require a few more years are still pessimistic about what they think is likely to happen when the negotiated Status of Forces Agreement goes into effect and American troops withdraw from Iraqi cities in 2009. “We’ve seen hell,” an Iraqi intelligence source said when I met him in his house. “And that hell, if the American forces evacuate, will repeat. If Obama forces an evacuation from Iraq soon, everything will turn against him in this land.”

Many American soldiers agree. “Everyone says things will implode after we leave,” Lieutenant Eric Kuylman told me. “They’ll blame it on politics and religion, but it’s not going to be any of that. It’s going to be about straight power. It’s going to be guys trying to one-up each other. It’s going to be key people in cities just like this who will want to seize the power gaps. It’s going to break down along tribal lines and these militias that we’ve put in place. When we pull out, there will be power vacuums. There will be pockets of people that we’ve put in power. I mean, everybody already has shaky alliances as it is. So what you’re going to see is the straight seizing of power. People are going to try to put their own tags on it, but it’s just about the seizure of power. It’s not going to be Sunni or Shia, nothing like it. It’s just going to be men who want control.”

Not everyone holds such a bleak view, however. And pessimists have been losing the argument in Iraq ever since General David Petraeus radically transformed the American counterinsurgency strategy. But once American soldiers withdraw from urban areas, the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police will be on their own whether they’re ready or not.

I spoke to Captain AJ Boyes at Combat Outpost Ford on the outskirts of Sadr City. His company did more of the fighting in Sadr City back in the spring than any other, but he stresses that the Iraqi Army took and holds 75 percent of Sadr City all by itself. He isn’t nearly as gloomy about the future in this country as some of the others I spoke to. Though he considers himself a realist, he sounded to me like an optimist.

“If we take a snapshot of Iraqi politics, security, and governance right now in 2008,” he said, “and come back two generations from now and compare them side-by-side, I think we’ll see a huge difference. And will it be for better or for worse? I think it will be almost entirely better.”

I suspect he is probably right. Fifty years is a long time. By then the insurgency period of Iraq’s history will be as distant as King Faisal’s era is now. But what about the short and medium term? Everyone who makes policy decisions in Iraq should be far more concerned with what the country might look like in one year than in fifty.

“Will it get worse in one year?” I said to Captain Boyes. “That’s the big question.”

“Well, yes,” he said. “It will. Any time something new happens in a counterinsurgency, when there are new security forces, there is an immediate spike in violence because the insurgents are testing the ability of the new element. When we leave and transition all of what we do now to the Iraqi security forces, will there be a spike in activity? Absolutely. One hundred percent.”

And that’s the optimist view.

He thinks Iraq will be okay, even so. The Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police are still shaky institutions at best, but they are much more competent than they were a few years ago. The Iraqi Army proved itself earlier this year, against nearly all expectations, when it took back areas under the control of Moqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia in Basra and Sadr City with only a limited amount of help from Americans.

It’s possible, of course, that everybody is wrong. Iraq has made fools of almost everyone who has tried to predict its future. There are too many unstable and unpredictable variables. But we should still brace ourselves for disconcerting news in 2009.

“There will be a spike in violence,” Captain Boyes said. “The insurgents are going to want to test the new Iraqi security forces. How will the Iraqis operate completely independently? It should be up to the media to portray that as an expected thing.”

BAGHDAD – For the past two weeks I’ve been embedded with the United States Army in Baghdad, and I find myself unable to figure out what to make of this place. Baghdad, despite the remarkable success of the surge, is as mind-bogglingly run-down and dysfunctional as ever, even compared with other Arabic countries. Iraq is a dark place. At times it feels like a doomed country that has only been temporarily spared the reckoning that is coming. Other times it is possible to look past the grimness and see progress beyond the mere slackening off of violence and war. Is Iraq truly on the mend, or has a total breakdown been merely postponed? Opinions here among Americans and Iraqis are mixed, but nearly everyone seems to agree about one thing at least: terrorists and insurgents will respond with a surge of their own in the wake of the upcoming withdrawal of American forces.

Sergeant Nick Franklin took me to meet an Iraqi woman named Malath who works with the local Sons of Iraq security organization in the Adhamiyah district of Baghdad. When I asked her if she thought her area was ready to stand on its own without American help, she bluntly answered “Of course not.” She doesn’t think Iraq needs another year or two or even three. She thinks it will need decades. “We won’t be ready until young people replace the older generation in the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police. They need to replace the old Baath Party members who are still inside.”

Her view is the darkest. But Iraqis who think the job should only require a few more years are still pessimistic about what they think is likely to happen when the negotiated Status of Forces Agreement goes into effect and American troops withdraw from Iraqi cities in 2009. “We’ve seen hell,” an Iraqi intelligence source said when I met him in his house. “And that hell, if the American forces evacuate, will repeat. If Obama forces an evacuation from Iraq soon, everything will turn against him in this land.”

Many American soldiers agree. “Everyone says things will implode after we leave,” Lieutenant Eric Kuylman told me. “They’ll blame it on politics and religion, but it’s not going to be any of that. It’s going to be about straight power. It’s going to be guys trying to one-up each other. It’s going to be key people in cities just like this who will want to seize the power gaps. It’s going to break down along tribal lines and these militias that we’ve put in place. When we pull out, there will be power vacuums. There will be pockets of people that we’ve put in power. I mean, everybody already has shaky alliances as it is. So what you’re going to see is the straight seizing of power. People are going to try to put their own tags on it, but it’s just about the seizure of power. It’s not going to be Sunni or Shia, nothing like it. It’s just going to be men who want control.”

Not everyone holds such a bleak view, however. And pessimists have been losing the argument in Iraq ever since General David Petraeus radically transformed the American counterinsurgency strategy. But once American soldiers withdraw from urban areas, the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police will be on their own whether they’re ready or not.

I spoke to Captain AJ Boyes at Combat Outpost Ford on the outskirts of Sadr City. His company did more of the fighting in Sadr City back in the spring than any other, but he stresses that the Iraqi Army took and holds 75 percent of Sadr City all by itself. He isn’t nearly as gloomy about the future in this country as some of the others I spoke to. Though he considers himself a realist, he sounded to me like an optimist.

“If we take a snapshot of Iraqi politics, security, and governance right now in 2008,” he said, “and come back two generations from now and compare them side-by-side, I think we’ll see a huge difference. And will it be for better or for worse? I think it will be almost entirely better.”

I suspect he is probably right. Fifty years is a long time. By then the insurgency period of Iraq’s history will be as distant as King Faisal’s era is now. But what about the short and medium term? Everyone who makes policy decisions in Iraq should be far more concerned with what the country might look like in one year than in fifty.

“Will it get worse in one year?” I said to Captain Boyes. “That’s the big question.”

“Well, yes,” he said. “It will. Any time something new happens in a counterinsurgency, when there are new security forces, there is an immediate spike in violence because the insurgents are testing the ability of the new element. When we leave and transition all of what we do now to the Iraqi security forces, will there be a spike in activity? Absolutely. One hundred percent.”

And that’s the optimist view.

He thinks Iraq will be okay, even so. The Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police are still shaky institutions at best, but they are much more competent than they were a few years ago. The Iraqi Army proved itself earlier this year, against nearly all expectations, when it took back areas under the control of Moqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia in Basra and Sadr City with only a limited amount of help from Americans.

It’s possible, of course, that everybody is wrong. Iraq has made fools of almost everyone who has tried to predict its future. There are too many unstable and unpredictable variables. But we should still brace ourselves for disconcerting news in 2009.

“There will be a spike in violence,” Captain Boyes said. “The insurgents are going to want to test the new Iraqi security forces. How will the Iraqis operate completely independently? It should be up to the media to portray that as an expected thing.”

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WMD Terrorists

“Terrorism is only as important as you let it be,” wrote syndicated columnist Gwynne Dyer last week. She has a point in arguing that nations should keep this problem in perspective. Yet there is one situation where it is almost impossible for policymakers to overreact: terrorists possessing unconventional weapons.

“Unless the world community acts decisively and with great urgency, it is more likely than not that a weapon of mass destruction will be used in a terrorist attack somewhere in the world by the end of 2013,” states a report to be issued later this week by the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Terrorism, a Congressionally sponsored panel. “America’s margin of safety is shrinking, not growing.”

The margin is shrinking because there are more and more sources of plutonium, uranium, microbes, and chemicals. Nonetheless, it’s not easy for nonstate actors to obtain these dangerous materials. Once they get them, however, the odds shift dramatically in their favor. On a typical day, people successfully smuggle 21,000 pounds of cocaine and marijuana into the United States. On a typical day, 31,000 trucks, 6,500 rail cars, 1,200 buses, 50,000 cargo containers, and 334,000 cars cross into America. On a typical day, 134,000 pedestrians enter our country legally and another 14,500 people do so illegally. How can we be confident that, in the midst of all this traffic and over the course of decades, we will be able to find every disassembled nuke, softball of uranium, orange of plutonium, canister of germs, and container of chemicals? We may catch shipments now and then, but all it takes is one failure to change the course of history.

If we are going to avoid history of this sort, we will have to pursue, capture, and kill terrorists with greater efficiency and speed than we do at present. Yet far more important, we need to go after dangerous states, the parties supplying lethal materials. We must, for instance, disarm North Korea, stop Iran and Syria, and stabilize Pakistan. And to do that, we have no choice but to summon the political will to end Russian and Chinese proliferation of nuclear technologies.

President Bush, following on the initiatives of his predecessor, has tried to enlist the support of Moscow and Beijing in stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Unfortunately, Dubya has ended up tolerating their grossly destructive behavior while obtaining little in return. If President-elect Obama cannot do significantly better, the odds say we will transition to an unimaginably horrible world.

“Terrorism is only as important as you let it be,” wrote syndicated columnist Gwynne Dyer last week. She has a point in arguing that nations should keep this problem in perspective. Yet there is one situation where it is almost impossible for policymakers to overreact: terrorists possessing unconventional weapons.

“Unless the world community acts decisively and with great urgency, it is more likely than not that a weapon of mass destruction will be used in a terrorist attack somewhere in the world by the end of 2013,” states a report to be issued later this week by the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Terrorism, a Congressionally sponsored panel. “America’s margin of safety is shrinking, not growing.”

The margin is shrinking because there are more and more sources of plutonium, uranium, microbes, and chemicals. Nonetheless, it’s not easy for nonstate actors to obtain these dangerous materials. Once they get them, however, the odds shift dramatically in their favor. On a typical day, people successfully smuggle 21,000 pounds of cocaine and marijuana into the United States. On a typical day, 31,000 trucks, 6,500 rail cars, 1,200 buses, 50,000 cargo containers, and 334,000 cars cross into America. On a typical day, 134,000 pedestrians enter our country legally and another 14,500 people do so illegally. How can we be confident that, in the midst of all this traffic and over the course of decades, we will be able to find every disassembled nuke, softball of uranium, orange of plutonium, canister of germs, and container of chemicals? We may catch shipments now and then, but all it takes is one failure to change the course of history.

If we are going to avoid history of this sort, we will have to pursue, capture, and kill terrorists with greater efficiency and speed than we do at present. Yet far more important, we need to go after dangerous states, the parties supplying lethal materials. We must, for instance, disarm North Korea, stop Iran and Syria, and stabilize Pakistan. And to do that, we have no choice but to summon the political will to end Russian and Chinese proliferation of nuclear technologies.

President Bush, following on the initiatives of his predecessor, has tried to enlist the support of Moscow and Beijing in stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Unfortunately, Dubya has ended up tolerating their grossly destructive behavior while obtaining little in return. If President-elect Obama cannot do significantly better, the odds say we will transition to an unimaginably horrible world.

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Take Good News Where You Find It

An unexpected headline: US deaths in Afghanistan in November drop sharply.

An unexpected headline: US deaths in Afghanistan in November drop sharply.

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Obama’s Q-and-A

President-elect Obama on Mumbai was cautious in his responses, sticking to his “one President at a time” position. He nevertheless did stress “unequivocably” his team’s commitment to “eliminating terrorists” and declared we could not tolerate attacks motivated by “twisted ideology.” This statement could have been delivered by John McCain.

In responding to a query on his team’s strong viewpoints and personalities, he again emphasized his commitment to military strength. His emphasis was on strengthening our capabilities “in all dimensions.” (This would seem to mesh with my take that he’s not going to be abandoning “hard” power, but rather attempting to supplement it.)

On the right of India to move militarily against Pakistan, he said that sovereign nations have a right to protect themselves but declined to comment further. He reiterated his support for India.

Twice in response to questions he noted that disagreement among his team was expected and welcomed. In response to a very pointed question about his past belittling of Hillary Clinton, he declined to rise to the bait. Outside the “heat of the campaign,” he confirmed that they shared a world view. Again in a subsequent question he expressed his admiration and sung her praises.

On the 16-month withdrawal date, Obama said he had promised to remove combat troops but to keep a “residual force.” He continued that the Status of Forces Agreements “points us in the right direction.” (Clearly, firm deadlines are out and “listening to the commanders” is in, with a high priority for protecting the safety of American troops. The responsibility of power has a sobering effect, indeed.)

All in all, an entirely sober, responsible national security kickoff. The Left may be grinding its teeth. But those hoping for a robust, clear-eyed national security approach had much to be heartened by.

President-elect Obama on Mumbai was cautious in his responses, sticking to his “one President at a time” position. He nevertheless did stress “unequivocably” his team’s commitment to “eliminating terrorists” and declared we could not tolerate attacks motivated by “twisted ideology.” This statement could have been delivered by John McCain.

In responding to a query on his team’s strong viewpoints and personalities, he again emphasized his commitment to military strength. His emphasis was on strengthening our capabilities “in all dimensions.” (This would seem to mesh with my take that he’s not going to be abandoning “hard” power, but rather attempting to supplement it.)

On the right of India to move militarily against Pakistan, he said that sovereign nations have a right to protect themselves but declined to comment further. He reiterated his support for India.

Twice in response to questions he noted that disagreement among his team was expected and welcomed. In response to a very pointed question about his past belittling of Hillary Clinton, he declined to rise to the bait. Outside the “heat of the campaign,” he confirmed that they shared a world view. Again in a subsequent question he expressed his admiration and sung her praises.

On the 16-month withdrawal date, Obama said he had promised to remove combat troops but to keep a “residual force.” He continued that the Status of Forces Agreements “points us in the right direction.” (Clearly, firm deadlines are out and “listening to the commanders” is in, with a high priority for protecting the safety of American troops. The responsibility of power has a sobering effect, indeed.)

All in all, an entirely sober, responsible national security kickoff. The Left may be grinding its teeth. But those hoping for a robust, clear-eyed national security approach had much to be heartened by.

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Important News from the New America Foundation

The emailed invitation to an upcoming event says:

The Cheney Vice Presidency

The Silent Coup That Changed America

Well, it does make sense that it was a silent coup, given that the Bush junta muzzled the press during the first months of its reign. Does the now-revealed Cheney coup mean that Obama is not going to be sworn in on January 20th?

The emailed invitation to an upcoming event says:

The Cheney Vice Presidency

The Silent Coup That Changed America

Well, it does make sense that it was a silent coup, given that the Bush junta muzzled the press during the first months of its reign. Does the now-revealed Cheney coup mean that Obama is not going to be sworn in on January 20th?

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Re: All Just Cover?

Jennifer, the Obama administration’s grand “shift,” toward engaging “in projects around the world aimed at preventing conflicts and rebuilding failed states,” is a funny plan for a guy whose entire campaign foreign policy message was built on abandoning the Iraqis as they rebuild their country and escalating the conflict in Afghanistan. That’s because building up the diplomatic corps and employing more aid workers isn’t really “aimed at preventing conflicts and rebuilding failed states,” but at avoiding conflicts and soothing the American conscience about states we let fail.

This isn’t a shift. It’s a return. In a famous 1996 Foreign Affairs article entitled “Foreign Policy as Social Work,” Michael Mandelbaum criticized the Clinton administration’s misguided efforts abroad. Mandelbaum argued that, while Clinton intervened in accordance with “the standards of Mother Teresa” in Bosnia, Somalia, and Haiti, he ignored serious threats to American interests elsewhere. Where the Left always goes wrong is in thinking we have to choose between “social work” and American interests. For example, every time there’s a display of anti-American violence anywhere in the world, you’re certain to find a liberal who’ll tell you the answer isn’t bombs and tanks, but textbooks and education. In a way, they’re not wrong. But how after, say, 9/11, was the U.S. supposed to revamp the social studies curriculum in Mohammed Atta’s hometown in the Nile delta?

By comparison, you can be sure there’s a lot more Jefferson and Thomas Paine material available in Iraq today than there was before the shock and awe campaign lit up Baghdad skies. Consider this blurb from the website of none other than the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (initiated in 2004):

Why is AUI-S called an “American” University?

American colleges and universities are very distinctive things in this world. Most universities that are not American universities are institutes that have as their aim professional training, not a comprehensive, broad and liberal education. AUI-S not only will prepare you for a profession and make you an “expert” in your field, but it will also open up your mind more broadly, and educate you more widely.

How’s that for social work? The Left can’t stand the fact that curriculums change when regimes change, or when larger historical forces are brought to bear on regimes in need of change. At the end of the day, successful do-goodism is no less messy than war, and often amounts to the same thing.

Jennifer, the Obama administration’s grand “shift,” toward engaging “in projects around the world aimed at preventing conflicts and rebuilding failed states,” is a funny plan for a guy whose entire campaign foreign policy message was built on abandoning the Iraqis as they rebuild their country and escalating the conflict in Afghanistan. That’s because building up the diplomatic corps and employing more aid workers isn’t really “aimed at preventing conflicts and rebuilding failed states,” but at avoiding conflicts and soothing the American conscience about states we let fail.

This isn’t a shift. It’s a return. In a famous 1996 Foreign Affairs article entitled “Foreign Policy as Social Work,” Michael Mandelbaum criticized the Clinton administration’s misguided efforts abroad. Mandelbaum argued that, while Clinton intervened in accordance with “the standards of Mother Teresa” in Bosnia, Somalia, and Haiti, he ignored serious threats to American interests elsewhere. Where the Left always goes wrong is in thinking we have to choose between “social work” and American interests. For example, every time there’s a display of anti-American violence anywhere in the world, you’re certain to find a liberal who’ll tell you the answer isn’t bombs and tanks, but textbooks and education. In a way, they’re not wrong. But how after, say, 9/11, was the U.S. supposed to revamp the social studies curriculum in Mohammed Atta’s hometown in the Nile delta?

By comparison, you can be sure there’s a lot more Jefferson and Thomas Paine material available in Iraq today than there was before the shock and awe campaign lit up Baghdad skies. Consider this blurb from the website of none other than the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (initiated in 2004):

Why is AUI-S called an “American” University?

American colleges and universities are very distinctive things in this world. Most universities that are not American universities are institutes that have as their aim professional training, not a comprehensive, broad and liberal education. AUI-S not only will prepare you for a profession and make you an “expert” in your field, but it will also open up your mind more broadly, and educate you more widely.

How’s that for social work? The Left can’t stand the fact that curriculums change when regimes change, or when larger historical forces are brought to bear on regimes in need of change. At the end of the day, successful do-goodism is no less messy than war, and often amounts to the same thing.

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Guns Would’ve Helped

I am not much of a gun enthusiast. I don’t hunt, I don’t own a collection of firearms, I don’t belong to the NRA, and I don’t think that major metropolitan areas would be better off if everyone was packing heat. But the recent atrocities in Mumbai make the pro-gun case rather forcefully. Just read this Wall Street Journal article which cites incident after incident where the gunmen had free reign because security guards and even police officers were unarmed.

To take just two examples:

The two gunmen moved along two separate paths toward the station’s main entrance, firing as they walked. They met virtually no resistance, even though several dozen police officers are usually deployed at the station. “They were killing the public, and the police just ran away,” says Ram Vir, a coffee vendor whose stand is near Platform 8.

B.S. Sidhu, head of the Railway Protection Force for the Mumbai region, says that while some officers tried to fight back, there was little his force could do. Most police officers at the station — as they are throughout India — were unarmed or carried only bamboo sticks known as lathis.

[…]

At about 9:45 p.m., two gunmen, slender and in their mid-20s, ran up the circular driveway at the entrance to the Trident. They shot the security guard and two bellhops. The hotel had metal detectors, but none of its security personnel carried weapons because of the difficulties in obtaining gun permits from the Indian government, according to the hotel company’s chairman, P.R.S. Oberoi.

India may be hewing a bit too closely to the British tradition–itself now being modified–of “bobbies” on the beat going unarmed. While I remain skeptical of handing out weapons to the general public–unless, as in Israel, a lot of the members of that public are army reservists–the Mumbai massacre certainly makes the case for arming security personnel.

I am not much of a gun enthusiast. I don’t hunt, I don’t own a collection of firearms, I don’t belong to the NRA, and I don’t think that major metropolitan areas would be better off if everyone was packing heat. But the recent atrocities in Mumbai make the pro-gun case rather forcefully. Just read this Wall Street Journal article which cites incident after incident where the gunmen had free reign because security guards and even police officers were unarmed.

To take just two examples:

The two gunmen moved along two separate paths toward the station’s main entrance, firing as they walked. They met virtually no resistance, even though several dozen police officers are usually deployed at the station. “They were killing the public, and the police just ran away,” says Ram Vir, a coffee vendor whose stand is near Platform 8.

B.S. Sidhu, head of the Railway Protection Force for the Mumbai region, says that while some officers tried to fight back, there was little his force could do. Most police officers at the station — as they are throughout India — were unarmed or carried only bamboo sticks known as lathis.

[…]

At about 9:45 p.m., two gunmen, slender and in their mid-20s, ran up the circular driveway at the entrance to the Trident. They shot the security guard and two bellhops. The hotel had metal detectors, but none of its security personnel carried weapons because of the difficulties in obtaining gun permits from the Indian government, according to the hotel company’s chairman, P.R.S. Oberoi.

India may be hewing a bit too closely to the British tradition–itself now being modified–of “bobbies” on the beat going unarmed. While I remain skeptical of handing out weapons to the general public–unless, as in Israel, a lot of the members of that public are army reservists–the Mumbai massacre certainly makes the case for arming security personnel.

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Re: “Desperately Corroded from Within”

There’s no use writing much of a refutation of Roger Cohen’s silly column. If you can imagine every fashionable lefty cliché that has been written about the Israeli-Arab conflict since, oh, the Six Day War — that is Cohen’s column. Yawn.

But there is one thing beyond what Emanuele noted that’s worth commenting on. It is the following claim, stated after Cohen notes Ehud Olmert’s recent habit of articulating the Meretz Party line on Israeli security:

“The fact such views come from a former Likudnik is a measure of how the political ground has shifted in Israel ahead of elections early next year.”

This is embarrassing. Cohen clearly has not been following Israeli politics, not even slightly. Olmert’s sudden transformation into a caricature of a peacenik tracks perfectly with the revelations of his corruption, the blame he rightfully earned after the 2006 Hezbollah war, and his resulting historically low public-approval numbers. Ehud Olmert is reviled by the Israeli people, and he is busy returning the favor in the most effective way possible — by going around saying all the bad things about Israel that dumb western liberals wish to believe.

Okay, so Cohen hasn’t been keeping up with the Olmert psychodrama. But he does say that the “ground has shifted” in Israeli politics, and he implies that political opinion has moved toward Olmert’s newfound views. So, which party’s political fortunes have in fact risen precipitously? Likud’s. The latest polling shows Bibi & his team winning a substantial 37 Knesset seats, as opposed to 25 for Kadima and just 7 for Labor. Support for other hawkish parties has risen, and support for the dovish parties has fallen. The political ground is indeed shifting in Israel — it is running away horrified from the ideas contained within Ehud Olmert’s recent tantrums.

Between Roger Cohen and Nicolas Kristof, the Times is truly at the bottom of the barrel in Israel commentary. But we probably shouldn’t take offense. At this point, that observation holds true for most everything the Times covers.

There’s no use writing much of a refutation of Roger Cohen’s silly column. If you can imagine every fashionable lefty cliché that has been written about the Israeli-Arab conflict since, oh, the Six Day War — that is Cohen’s column. Yawn.

But there is one thing beyond what Emanuele noted that’s worth commenting on. It is the following claim, stated after Cohen notes Ehud Olmert’s recent habit of articulating the Meretz Party line on Israeli security:

“The fact such views come from a former Likudnik is a measure of how the political ground has shifted in Israel ahead of elections early next year.”

This is embarrassing. Cohen clearly has not been following Israeli politics, not even slightly. Olmert’s sudden transformation into a caricature of a peacenik tracks perfectly with the revelations of his corruption, the blame he rightfully earned after the 2006 Hezbollah war, and his resulting historically low public-approval numbers. Ehud Olmert is reviled by the Israeli people, and he is busy returning the favor in the most effective way possible — by going around saying all the bad things about Israel that dumb western liberals wish to believe.

Okay, so Cohen hasn’t been keeping up with the Olmert psychodrama. But he does say that the “ground has shifted” in Israeli politics, and he implies that political opinion has moved toward Olmert’s newfound views. So, which party’s political fortunes have in fact risen precipitously? Likud’s. The latest polling shows Bibi & his team winning a substantial 37 Knesset seats, as opposed to 25 for Kadima and just 7 for Labor. Support for other hawkish parties has risen, and support for the dovish parties has fallen. The political ground is indeed shifting in Israel — it is running away horrified from the ideas contained within Ehud Olmert’s recent tantrums.

Between Roger Cohen and Nicolas Kristof, the Times is truly at the bottom of the barrel in Israel commentary. But we probably shouldn’t take offense. At this point, that observation holds true for most everything the Times covers.

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The National Security Team Announcement

President-elect Obama formally introduced his national security team this morning. He stressed “a new beginning” and confirmed he would be giving the military a new mission of “ending the war in Iraq.” Yet his comments, in large part, could have been delivered by a Republican. He spoke of the Mumbai attacks and pledged to halt the “advance of hateful extremism.” He confirmed his “relentlessness in defense of our people” and declared that his nominees shared his “pragmatism about the use of power.” He deemed the U.N. an “indespensible and imperfect forum” and reiterated his intention to “reform” that institution.

In the introductory comments, Hillary Clinton’s remarks were noteworthy for her personal sentiments about leaving the Senate. (Those who contend it is always about her won’t be surprised.) The other nominees’ comments were appropriate and to the point. Vice President-elect Joe Biden also was allowed to speak — the first we have heard from him since the election. He stuck to the script (but was in typical Biden fashion was not so brief). He too noted “the challenge to Democratic states from radical ideologies.”

President-elect Obama formally introduced his national security team this morning. He stressed “a new beginning” and confirmed he would be giving the military a new mission of “ending the war in Iraq.” Yet his comments, in large part, could have been delivered by a Republican. He spoke of the Mumbai attacks and pledged to halt the “advance of hateful extremism.” He confirmed his “relentlessness in defense of our people” and declared that his nominees shared his “pragmatism about the use of power.” He deemed the U.N. an “indespensible and imperfect forum” and reiterated his intention to “reform” that institution.

In the introductory comments, Hillary Clinton’s remarks were noteworthy for her personal sentiments about leaving the Senate. (Those who contend it is always about her won’t be surprised.) The other nominees’ comments were appropriate and to the point. Vice President-elect Joe Biden also was allowed to speak — the first we have heard from him since the election. He stuck to the script (but was in typical Biden fashion was not so brief). He too noted “the challenge to Democratic states from radical ideologies.”

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M(ullah)TV, UK

I was blessed with a press release on Friday, informing me that the Iranian-backed Press TV will start broadcasting on Sky TV in the UK. Great news ahead! According to the statement, “PRESS TV, a 24-hour English language news channel, is set to give British viewers a genuine alternative to the western establishment consensus when it launches on Sky on December 1.” The network describes itself thusly:

Since its launch in July 2007, Press TV has asked the questions that the BBC and CNN will never ask; has interviewed the people that major western broadcasters never touch; and has tackled the topics that the western media consider too hot to handle.

They do indeed. They are the only satellite channel to host Holocaust deniers and give a platform to conspiracy theories. For example, on today’s homepage, they “report” about the Mossad being behind a failed coup in Turkey. They reproduce a “speech” by Noam Chomsky (“America’s most influential public intellectual”) and post a background piece about “Obama: the next neocon president?” in which they rely on the wise counsel of “prominent historian” Stephen Sniegoski. Who? Sniegoski! You’ve heard of him, right? He’s the author of The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel, a book whose foreword was written Paul Findley, another conspiracy theory crank.

Sky TV is going to host the Mullahs’ English language mouthpiece. Terrific! Libertarians may find it distasteful to even entertain the thought of shutting down this channel. But in Europe, some of these messages are forbidden by law. Less than two weeks ago, Germany banned Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV on the ground that its messages violate the German constitution. Anyone care to look into Press TV to see if the same can be said of their “genuine alternative”?

I was blessed with a press release on Friday, informing me that the Iranian-backed Press TV will start broadcasting on Sky TV in the UK. Great news ahead! According to the statement, “PRESS TV, a 24-hour English language news channel, is set to give British viewers a genuine alternative to the western establishment consensus when it launches on Sky on December 1.” The network describes itself thusly:

Since its launch in July 2007, Press TV has asked the questions that the BBC and CNN will never ask; has interviewed the people that major western broadcasters never touch; and has tackled the topics that the western media consider too hot to handle.

They do indeed. They are the only satellite channel to host Holocaust deniers and give a platform to conspiracy theories. For example, on today’s homepage, they “report” about the Mossad being behind a failed coup in Turkey. They reproduce a “speech” by Noam Chomsky (“America’s most influential public intellectual”) and post a background piece about “Obama: the next neocon president?” in which they rely on the wise counsel of “prominent historian” Stephen Sniegoski. Who? Sniegoski! You’ve heard of him, right? He’s the author of The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel, a book whose foreword was written Paul Findley, another conspiracy theory crank.

Sky TV is going to host the Mullahs’ English language mouthpiece. Terrific! Libertarians may find it distasteful to even entertain the thought of shutting down this channel. But in Europe, some of these messages are forbidden by law. Less than two weeks ago, Germany banned Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV on the ground that its messages violate the German constitution. Anyone care to look into Press TV to see if the same can be said of their “genuine alternative”?

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Flotsam and Jetsam

A lovely and heartbreaking interview with a friend of the murdered Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka. (h/t Newsbusters) And we should all remember the name of the Indian woman — Sandra Samuel – who risked her own life to save the Holtzberg’s two-year old son.

Sending Secretary of State Condi Rice to India is strong and appropriate move in the right direction. Better still would be some joint statements by the President and President-elect which recognize that there will be no loss of momentum or softening of U.S. policy with regard to combating jihadists.

Dorothy Rabinowitz goes after Deepak Chopra and his ilk who manage to blame America for Mumbai and other acts of terror. She observes that they never get to the real root of the problem: “the religious fanaticism that has sent fevered mobs rioting, burning and killing over alleged slights to the Quran or the prophet. Not to mention the countless others enlisted to blow themselves and others up in the name of God. Nor did we hear, in these media meditations, any particular expression of sorrow from the New Delhi-born Dr. Chopra for the anguish of Mumbai’s victims: a striking lack, no doubt unintentional, but not surprising, either.”

Is Sarah Palin showing “loyalty” or is she really a non-doctrinaire maverick too? Perhaps she’s not exactly what the conservative base thinks she is. She did after all seem quite positive about immigration reform.

The UAW says it’s management’s fault and their wages are just right. And we should be encouraging this behavior by giving the companies billions from taxpayers making far less than domestic auto company workers?

A “math problem” for Al Franken? Well, that’s how his liberal home-state newspaper (which is plainly down in the dumps about the difficulty in wresting the election from the winner Norm Coleman) describes it. Others would say: he got fewer votes than the winner. You don’t have the sense that helping him steal the election is going to be high on the priority list in the Senate. Why risk derailing the entire “honeymoon” with a bare-knuckle brawl over an obnoxious comedian’s effort to undo the ballot results?

A good idea: “let’s stop worrying about recessions and start growing again.”

Since the election Joe Biden has been seen but not heard in public these days — proof that the Obama team learned its lesson in the campaign ( i.e. Biden is incapable of staying on script and lacks both wisdom and tact). So let’s hope the answer to this query is “Yes!”: “Will Vice President Cheney, a man who has expanded the powers of the Office of the Vice President more than any VP in recent memory, be succeeded by a wall moth?”

We aren’t exactly seeing the lobbyists thrown out Washington, as candidate Obama led us to believe he would do. In a masterpiece of understatement Politico puts it this way: “Barack Obama’s expected pick of former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle to be secretary of health and human services bumps up against the president-elect’s pledge to rid the White House of special interests. ” Bumps up? That’s a delicate way of excusing the appointment to HHS of an “advisor” to a lobbying firm that made millions in healthcare.

In case you were worried about the “emoluments” problem posed by the appointment of Hillary Clinton to State — you can rest easy.

Bill Roggio provides helpful information on the connection between Lashkar-e-Taiba and al Qaeda. The bottom line — there is no “org” chart, but they have similar goals and tactics and train in tandem.

Should President Obama mimic the New Deal, pressing ahead with his “bold” agenda on energy and healthcare? Robert J. Samuelson thinks not: “Any program to refashion the energy and health-care sectors — to take two obvious candidates — would be complicated and contentious. Some producers and consumers would win; others would lose. Proposals would create massive uncertainties for businesses and raise the probability of higher costs. To succeed in curbing greenhouse gas emissions, for example, any cap-and-trade program must involve higher energy prices.” Put differently, there’s no money for the stimulus package. And there really isn’t any to do much of anything else.

Joseph Epstein contends that there is more to being a good president than being a good Ivy League student. He reminds us: “Harry S. Truman and Ronald Reagan were two of the greatest presidents of the twentieth century. Truman didn’t go to college at all, and Reagan, one strains to remember, went to Eureka College in Eureka, Illinois. Each was his own man, each, in his different way, without the least trace of conformity or hostage to received opinion or conventional wisdom. Schooling, even what passes for the best schooling, would, one feels, have made either man less himself and thereby probably worse.” Perhaps if American universities weren’t bastions of anti-Americanism and multiculturalism we’d feel better about the graduates who excelled in that environment.

The National Community Reinvestment Coalition sues the rating services for helping the Coalition make subprime loans to high risk borrowers that it had advocated should be supported by the government. Nothing like a mix of victimology, trial lawyers, and bad housing policy.

A lovely and heartbreaking interview with a friend of the murdered Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka. (h/t Newsbusters) And we should all remember the name of the Indian woman — Sandra Samuel – who risked her own life to save the Holtzberg’s two-year old son.

Sending Secretary of State Condi Rice to India is strong and appropriate move in the right direction. Better still would be some joint statements by the President and President-elect which recognize that there will be no loss of momentum or softening of U.S. policy with regard to combating jihadists.

Dorothy Rabinowitz goes after Deepak Chopra and his ilk who manage to blame America for Mumbai and other acts of terror. She observes that they never get to the real root of the problem: “the religious fanaticism that has sent fevered mobs rioting, burning and killing over alleged slights to the Quran or the prophet. Not to mention the countless others enlisted to blow themselves and others up in the name of God. Nor did we hear, in these media meditations, any particular expression of sorrow from the New Delhi-born Dr. Chopra for the anguish of Mumbai’s victims: a striking lack, no doubt unintentional, but not surprising, either.”

Is Sarah Palin showing “loyalty” or is she really a non-doctrinaire maverick too? Perhaps she’s not exactly what the conservative base thinks she is. She did after all seem quite positive about immigration reform.

The UAW says it’s management’s fault and their wages are just right. And we should be encouraging this behavior by giving the companies billions from taxpayers making far less than domestic auto company workers?

A “math problem” for Al Franken? Well, that’s how his liberal home-state newspaper (which is plainly down in the dumps about the difficulty in wresting the election from the winner Norm Coleman) describes it. Others would say: he got fewer votes than the winner. You don’t have the sense that helping him steal the election is going to be high on the priority list in the Senate. Why risk derailing the entire “honeymoon” with a bare-knuckle brawl over an obnoxious comedian’s effort to undo the ballot results?

A good idea: “let’s stop worrying about recessions and start growing again.”

Since the election Joe Biden has been seen but not heard in public these days — proof that the Obama team learned its lesson in the campaign ( i.e. Biden is incapable of staying on script and lacks both wisdom and tact). So let’s hope the answer to this query is “Yes!”: “Will Vice President Cheney, a man who has expanded the powers of the Office of the Vice President more than any VP in recent memory, be succeeded by a wall moth?”

We aren’t exactly seeing the lobbyists thrown out Washington, as candidate Obama led us to believe he would do. In a masterpiece of understatement Politico puts it this way: “Barack Obama’s expected pick of former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle to be secretary of health and human services bumps up against the president-elect’s pledge to rid the White House of special interests. ” Bumps up? That’s a delicate way of excusing the appointment to HHS of an “advisor” to a lobbying firm that made millions in healthcare.

In case you were worried about the “emoluments” problem posed by the appointment of Hillary Clinton to State — you can rest easy.

Bill Roggio provides helpful information on the connection between Lashkar-e-Taiba and al Qaeda. The bottom line — there is no “org” chart, but they have similar goals and tactics and train in tandem.

Should President Obama mimic the New Deal, pressing ahead with his “bold” agenda on energy and healthcare? Robert J. Samuelson thinks not: “Any program to refashion the energy and health-care sectors — to take two obvious candidates — would be complicated and contentious. Some producers and consumers would win; others would lose. Proposals would create massive uncertainties for businesses and raise the probability of higher costs. To succeed in curbing greenhouse gas emissions, for example, any cap-and-trade program must involve higher energy prices.” Put differently, there’s no money for the stimulus package. And there really isn’t any to do much of anything else.

Joseph Epstein contends that there is more to being a good president than being a good Ivy League student. He reminds us: “Harry S. Truman and Ronald Reagan were two of the greatest presidents of the twentieth century. Truman didn’t go to college at all, and Reagan, one strains to remember, went to Eureka College in Eureka, Illinois. Each was his own man, each, in his different way, without the least trace of conformity or hostage to received opinion or conventional wisdom. Schooling, even what passes for the best schooling, would, one feels, have made either man less himself and thereby probably worse.” Perhaps if American universities weren’t bastions of anti-Americanism and multiculturalism we’d feel better about the graduates who excelled in that environment.

The National Community Reinvestment Coalition sues the rating services for helping the Coalition make subprime loans to high risk borrowers that it had advocated should be supported by the government. Nothing like a mix of victimology, trial lawyers, and bad housing policy.

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“Desperately Corroded from Within”

In case you thought all silliness from the Western commentariat had been concentrated in the past few days on the Mumbai massacres, Roger Cohen goes out of his way to prove you wrong. He’s written a silly column on an imaginary message that outgoing Israeli Prime minister, Ehud Olmert, should (in Cohen’s world, at least) send incoming U.S. President Barack Obama. That message is:

The United States has been wrong to write Israel a blank check every year; wrong to turn a blind eye to the settlements in the West Bank; wrong not to be more explicit about the need to divide Jerusalem; wrong to equip us with weaponry so sophisticated we now believe military might is the answer to all our problems; and wrong in not helping us reach out to Syria. Your prospective secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, said during the campaign that “The United States stands with Israel, now and forever.” Well, that’s not good enough. You need to stand against us sometimes so we can avoid the curse of eternal militarism.

What Cohen wants from the new administration is obvious– more pressure on Israel.  He defends this demand by presenting his pro-Israel credentials (or at least what he considers to be pro-Israel credentials):

I am fiercely attached to Israel’s security. Everything depends, however, on how that security is viewed. Israel can continue humiliating the Palestinians, flaunting its power with a bully’s braggadocio. It will survive that way – and be desperately corroded from within. Neither domination nor demography favors Israel over time.

There is little evidence that Israel is being “desperately corroded from within.” By all standards, Israeli civil society is doing very well–vibrant, pugnacious, self-critical, pluralistic. The only moral corrosion one can attest to is that of Roger Cohen and his colleagues, who confuse a resilient will to survive with militarism. Any doubt? Cohen quotes Olmert:

“We could contend with any of our enemies or against all our enemies combined and win,” Olmert said. “The question that I ask myself is, what happens when we win? First of all, we’d have to pay a painful price. And after we paid the price, what would we say to them? ‘Let’s talk’.”

The truly shocking aspect of this article is not that Cohen has Israeli security at heart and thinks that it can best be achieved by pressuring Israel into more concessions. The thing is that, like Olmert, Cohen apparently believes that because Israel will inevitably win all wars, its national security is actually not at stake. But the question Olmert should have asked–the question one should always ask–is ‘”What if Israel were to lose? Even just once?” Once the answer to that question is formulated in detail, one begins to realize that Israel is not such a bully, that militarism is not its most distinctive trait, and that the risks Cohen would want Israel to take are not things a friend should ask of a friend. They are terms of surrender–the one thing Israel has never agreed to do and that people like Cohen continue to fault it for.

In case you thought all silliness from the Western commentariat had been concentrated in the past few days on the Mumbai massacres, Roger Cohen goes out of his way to prove you wrong. He’s written a silly column on an imaginary message that outgoing Israeli Prime minister, Ehud Olmert, should (in Cohen’s world, at least) send incoming U.S. President Barack Obama. That message is:

The United States has been wrong to write Israel a blank check every year; wrong to turn a blind eye to the settlements in the West Bank; wrong not to be more explicit about the need to divide Jerusalem; wrong to equip us with weaponry so sophisticated we now believe military might is the answer to all our problems; and wrong in not helping us reach out to Syria. Your prospective secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, said during the campaign that “The United States stands with Israel, now and forever.” Well, that’s not good enough. You need to stand against us sometimes so we can avoid the curse of eternal militarism.

What Cohen wants from the new administration is obvious– more pressure on Israel.  He defends this demand by presenting his pro-Israel credentials (or at least what he considers to be pro-Israel credentials):

I am fiercely attached to Israel’s security. Everything depends, however, on how that security is viewed. Israel can continue humiliating the Palestinians, flaunting its power with a bully’s braggadocio. It will survive that way – and be desperately corroded from within. Neither domination nor demography favors Israel over time.

There is little evidence that Israel is being “desperately corroded from within.” By all standards, Israeli civil society is doing very well–vibrant, pugnacious, self-critical, pluralistic. The only moral corrosion one can attest to is that of Roger Cohen and his colleagues, who confuse a resilient will to survive with militarism. Any doubt? Cohen quotes Olmert:

“We could contend with any of our enemies or against all our enemies combined and win,” Olmert said. “The question that I ask myself is, what happens when we win? First of all, we’d have to pay a painful price. And after we paid the price, what would we say to them? ‘Let’s talk’.”

The truly shocking aspect of this article is not that Cohen has Israeli security at heart and thinks that it can best be achieved by pressuring Israel into more concessions. The thing is that, like Olmert, Cohen apparently believes that because Israel will inevitably win all wars, its national security is actually not at stake. But the question Olmert should have asked–the question one should always ask–is ‘”What if Israel were to lose? Even just once?” Once the answer to that question is formulated in detail, one begins to realize that Israel is not such a bully, that militarism is not its most distinctive trait, and that the risks Cohen would want Israel to take are not things a friend should ask of a friend. They are terms of surrender–the one thing Israel has never agreed to do and that people like Cohen continue to fault it for.

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All Just Cover?

This story in the New York Times posits that the President-elect’s new, decidedly right-of-center national security line-up is, in effect, a “cover” for a new departure in foreign policy:

The shift would create a greatly expanded corps of diplomats and aid workers that, in the vision of the incoming Obama administration, would be engaged in projects around the world aimed at preventing conflicts and rebuilding failed states.

Goodness knows if this is really what the Obama team is up to. Are we about to see a “shift,” or instead merely some additional non-military resources based on the demands of events in the real world? Oh yes, the real world. There, it seems, even the Gray Lady would concede, the priority is for a substantial increase in military forces in Afghanistan. And “rebuilding failed states” — which states precisely are those? Perhaps Iraq, where Secretary Gates has warned against a precipitous withdrawal of U.S. military forces.

It may well be that we’ll see more diplomatic scurrying about and more foreign aid (India should be at the top of the list, if we’re looking to bolster allies). Some of this may be helpful (especially if we can assist allies through mutually beneficial free trade agreements). Some will be a waste of time (e.g the Middle East “Peace Process”). And still others will be a dangerous distraction from growing threats (e.g. yet another endless round of negotiations with Iran as it proceeds with its nuclear development).

But the notion that all of this is going to replace the need for a robust military or become the mechanism for combating violent aggression of the type we witnessed in Mumbai is misguided in the extreme. Shifting from “hard” to “soft” power is the sort of thing that the New York Times thinks is a swell idea, but which bears no relation to the threats we face.

But the Left is frankly desperate to put a happy face on the Obama roll out of distinctly non-Left national security advisors. We’ll see if Hillary Clinton, James L. Jones, and Robert Gates are the sort to “have embraced a sweeping shift of priorities and resources in the national security arena.” Even if they wanted to, the real world has a funny way of intruding and calling upon American military force. In a year or so we’ll see just how much “shifting” we did and just how much continuity there is. And if we are able to “shift,” it will, I suspect, be as a result of some very successful military action of the type currently delivering peace and stability to Iraq.

This story in the New York Times posits that the President-elect’s new, decidedly right-of-center national security line-up is, in effect, a “cover” for a new departure in foreign policy:

The shift would create a greatly expanded corps of diplomats and aid workers that, in the vision of the incoming Obama administration, would be engaged in projects around the world aimed at preventing conflicts and rebuilding failed states.

Goodness knows if this is really what the Obama team is up to. Are we about to see a “shift,” or instead merely some additional non-military resources based on the demands of events in the real world? Oh yes, the real world. There, it seems, even the Gray Lady would concede, the priority is for a substantial increase in military forces in Afghanistan. And “rebuilding failed states” — which states precisely are those? Perhaps Iraq, where Secretary Gates has warned against a precipitous withdrawal of U.S. military forces.

It may well be that we’ll see more diplomatic scurrying about and more foreign aid (India should be at the top of the list, if we’re looking to bolster allies). Some of this may be helpful (especially if we can assist allies through mutually beneficial free trade agreements). Some will be a waste of time (e.g the Middle East “Peace Process”). And still others will be a dangerous distraction from growing threats (e.g. yet another endless round of negotiations with Iran as it proceeds with its nuclear development).

But the notion that all of this is going to replace the need for a robust military or become the mechanism for combating violent aggression of the type we witnessed in Mumbai is misguided in the extreme. Shifting from “hard” to “soft” power is the sort of thing that the New York Times thinks is a swell idea, but which bears no relation to the threats we face.

But the Left is frankly desperate to put a happy face on the Obama roll out of distinctly non-Left national security advisors. We’ll see if Hillary Clinton, James L. Jones, and Robert Gates are the sort to “have embraced a sweeping shift of priorities and resources in the national security arena.” Even if they wanted to, the real world has a funny way of intruding and calling upon American military force. In a year or so we’ll see just how much “shifting” we did and just how much continuity there is. And if we are able to “shift,” it will, I suspect, be as a result of some very successful military action of the type currently delivering peace and stability to Iraq.

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Mr. Obama, You’re No Ronald Reagan

Well, it was bound to happen. Now that things look like they finally are working out well for Iraq, the media powers that be are eagerly giving full credit to Barack Obama and the Democrats — never mind that most of them opposed the war (after most of them voted for it), voted against every successful measure, and declared the war lost on numerous occasions.

One is put in mind of the Iran Hostage Crisis. That particular situation was one of the key factors in the utter failure of the Carter administration — he bumbled into it, stumbled through it, and fumbled the ending. The Iranians chose to release the hostages just as Carter was leaving office, either as one last insult to the Blunderer In Chief or out of fear of what Ronald Reagan would do (or, possibly, both).

Reagan, it must be said, had nothing directly to do with the peaceful resolution of the hostage crisis. (“October Surprise” conspiracy nuts notwithstanding.) But many observers believe that Iran was in no way eager to put the solidly-hawkish Reagan to the same test they had used to destroy Carter so effectively. (Albeit with a great deal of help from Carter himself.)

Almost the exact contrary is true of the current situation with Iraq. The pending arrival of the Obama administration probably has quite a few Iraqis eager to wrap up as many details and form as many ties with the U.S. while Bush is still in office, to give Obama as many excuses as they can to not keep his promise to pull all American troops out within 16 months.

To ascribe any credit at all to Obama for the success in Iraq is to fly in the face of the facts. At every step, Obama has counseled for withdrawal, for appeasement, for retreat. He opposed every single successful strategy, even voting against General Petraeus’s surge strategy that is credited with the current state of affairs.

But that won’t keep the press from trying to rewrite history even as it is being made.

Well, it was bound to happen. Now that things look like they finally are working out well for Iraq, the media powers that be are eagerly giving full credit to Barack Obama and the Democrats — never mind that most of them opposed the war (after most of them voted for it), voted against every successful measure, and declared the war lost on numerous occasions.

One is put in mind of the Iran Hostage Crisis. That particular situation was one of the key factors in the utter failure of the Carter administration — he bumbled into it, stumbled through it, and fumbled the ending. The Iranians chose to release the hostages just as Carter was leaving office, either as one last insult to the Blunderer In Chief or out of fear of what Ronald Reagan would do (or, possibly, both).

Reagan, it must be said, had nothing directly to do with the peaceful resolution of the hostage crisis. (“October Surprise” conspiracy nuts notwithstanding.) But many observers believe that Iran was in no way eager to put the solidly-hawkish Reagan to the same test they had used to destroy Carter so effectively. (Albeit with a great deal of help from Carter himself.)

Almost the exact contrary is true of the current situation with Iraq. The pending arrival of the Obama administration probably has quite a few Iraqis eager to wrap up as many details and form as many ties with the U.S. while Bush is still in office, to give Obama as many excuses as they can to not keep his promise to pull all American troops out within 16 months.

To ascribe any credit at all to Obama for the success in Iraq is to fly in the face of the facts. At every step, Obama has counseled for withdrawal, for appeasement, for retreat. He opposed every single successful strategy, even voting against General Petraeus’s surge strategy that is credited with the current state of affairs.

But that won’t keep the press from trying to rewrite history even as it is being made.

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Why Can The Competition Turn A Profit?

The Wall Street Journal editors let the cat out of the bag: there are companies that produce cars profitably in the U.S. They explain:

These are the 12 “foreign,” or so-called transplant, producers making cars across America’s South and Midwest. Toyota, BMW, Kia and others now make 54% of the cars Americans buy. The internationals also employ some 113,000 Americans, compared with 239,000 at U.S.-owned carmakers, and several times that number indirectly.

The root causes, of course, for the inability of the domestically-owned Big Three to do the same are not hard to find: ludicrously expensive labor obligations, out of date work rules, and a resulting cost structure which prices them out of the market and makes innovation difficult, if not impossible. The editors conclude:

Last year Detroit struck a deal with the unions to unload retiree health obligations by 2010 to a trust fund set up by the UAW. The trio’s productivity has improved as well. In 1995, a GM car took 46 hours to make, Chrysler 43 and Toyota 29.4. By 2006, according to Harbour Consulting, GM had moved it to 32.4 hours per vehicle and Chrysler 32.9. Toyota stayed at 29.9.

Yet these moves born of desperation have come so late that the companies are still in jeopardy. Both management and unions chose to sign contracts that let them live better and work less efficiently in the short-term while condemning the companies to their current pass over time. It is deeply unfair for government now to ask taxpayers who have never earned such wages or benefits to shield the UAW and Detroit from the consequences of those contracts.

There’s no natural law that America must have a Detroit automotive industry, any more than steel had to be made for all time in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania or textiles in New England. Britain sold off all its car plants to foreigners and was no less an advanced economy as a result, though it was a healthier one. Detroit may yet adjust to avoid destruction in the best spirit of American capitalism. The other American car industry is a model for how to do it.

What is not clear is whether this argument, as unassailable as its logic is, will carry the day. The President-elect and members of Congress still seem clouded in a haze of nostalgia for the “American car industry.” (And they don’t mean Honda.) They seem unwilling to force the hand of the companies into the most viable arrangement — a prepackaged bankruptcy proceeding that would provide the legal framework for the massive reoorganization required to make these companies viable. And, although the Big Three’s CEO’s submarined their own efforts last time, they will be back this week with new pleas and half-measures as they try to convince Congress to shovel more taxpayer money their way.

We’ll see if Congress and the President-elect have enough guts and foresight to point to the Big Three’s foreign competitors and ask a simple question: Even if we gave you billions, how would you compete against them? Unless and until they get a satisfactory answer with a complete plan for how to get from here to there the Congress should hold firm. Will they? I’d be surprised if they did. Nevertheless, smart conservatives would be advised to make a principled stance on behalf of taxpayers and workers who will be forced to subsidize the gluttony of the UAW and the ineptitude of Detroit’s management.

The Wall Street Journal editors let the cat out of the bag: there are companies that produce cars profitably in the U.S. They explain:

These are the 12 “foreign,” or so-called transplant, producers making cars across America’s South and Midwest. Toyota, BMW, Kia and others now make 54% of the cars Americans buy. The internationals also employ some 113,000 Americans, compared with 239,000 at U.S.-owned carmakers, and several times that number indirectly.

The root causes, of course, for the inability of the domestically-owned Big Three to do the same are not hard to find: ludicrously expensive labor obligations, out of date work rules, and a resulting cost structure which prices them out of the market and makes innovation difficult, if not impossible. The editors conclude:

Last year Detroit struck a deal with the unions to unload retiree health obligations by 2010 to a trust fund set up by the UAW. The trio’s productivity has improved as well. In 1995, a GM car took 46 hours to make, Chrysler 43 and Toyota 29.4. By 2006, according to Harbour Consulting, GM had moved it to 32.4 hours per vehicle and Chrysler 32.9. Toyota stayed at 29.9.

Yet these moves born of desperation have come so late that the companies are still in jeopardy. Both management and unions chose to sign contracts that let them live better and work less efficiently in the short-term while condemning the companies to their current pass over time. It is deeply unfair for government now to ask taxpayers who have never earned such wages or benefits to shield the UAW and Detroit from the consequences of those contracts.

There’s no natural law that America must have a Detroit automotive industry, any more than steel had to be made for all time in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania or textiles in New England. Britain sold off all its car plants to foreigners and was no less an advanced economy as a result, though it was a healthier one. Detroit may yet adjust to avoid destruction in the best spirit of American capitalism. The other American car industry is a model for how to do it.

What is not clear is whether this argument, as unassailable as its logic is, will carry the day. The President-elect and members of Congress still seem clouded in a haze of nostalgia for the “American car industry.” (And they don’t mean Honda.) They seem unwilling to force the hand of the companies into the most viable arrangement — a prepackaged bankruptcy proceeding that would provide the legal framework for the massive reoorganization required to make these companies viable. And, although the Big Three’s CEO’s submarined their own efforts last time, they will be back this week with new pleas and half-measures as they try to convince Congress to shovel more taxpayer money their way.

We’ll see if Congress and the President-elect have enough guts and foresight to point to the Big Three’s foreign competitors and ask a simple question: Even if we gave you billions, how would you compete against them? Unless and until they get a satisfactory answer with a complete plan for how to get from here to there the Congress should hold firm. Will they? I’d be surprised if they did. Nevertheless, smart conservatives would be advised to make a principled stance on behalf of taxpayers and workers who will be forced to subsidize the gluttony of the UAW and the ineptitude of Detroit’s management.

Read Less




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