Commentary Magazine


Posts For: April 26, 2009

Appeasement in Pakistan

Rarely have we seen the perils of appeasement unfold so clearly as in Pakistan today. In February, the Zardari government signed a “peace treaty” with a Taliban group, allowing the latter party to govern the Swat Valley of Pakistan unmolested. For two-plus months, the Islamists have ruled the picturesque region of northwest Pakistan through the usual a la carte menu of restrictions, prohibitions, and beatings.

“Suddenly” on Sunday, every newspaper seemed to employ cartographers to report on the unstoppable outward spread of Taliban influence in Pakistan: “In short order this past week the Taliban captured Buner, a strategically vital district just 60 miles northwest of the capital, Islamabad,” went the New York Times’s representative formulation.

“Short order” is right. In February the thugs nabbed Swat; by April they halved their operational proximity to the capital with the “captur[ing]” of Buner. Will it be June in Islamabad?

Sadly, American fingerprints are all over this disaster. Obama administration officials in Pakistan privately okayed the original capitulation to the Taliban in February, hoping to create a rift between “Swat’s Taliban” and the  “Tehrik-e-Taliban” that’s been wreaking havoc along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The idea was to simply give the Swat’s Taliban power and influence in hopes that it would abandon its brother contingent’s battle.

This was unadulterated appeasement. It proved to be, “in short order,” both morally disgraceful and strategically disastrous. And to quote London’s Telegraph, “One source suggested it reflected the ‘smart power’ thinking outlined by Hillary Clinton in her Senate confirmation hearing as secretary of state.”

Can Pakistan endure any more of the State Department’s grey matter? Can the U.S.? Can anyone? While Islamists gobble up Pakistani territory and Hillary Clinton returns to the smart power playbook, Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal sits in wait. If the Zardari government cedes control to the Taliban and the country’s rotten Inter-Service Intelligence agency happily hands over the keys to the missile silos, will there be a new less deadly Islamist group to appease in hopes of a new breakthrough?

Rarely have we seen the perils of appeasement unfold so clearly as in Pakistan today. In February, the Zardari government signed a “peace treaty” with a Taliban group, allowing the latter party to govern the Swat Valley of Pakistan unmolested. For two-plus months, the Islamists have ruled the picturesque region of northwest Pakistan through the usual a la carte menu of restrictions, prohibitions, and beatings.

“Suddenly” on Sunday, every newspaper seemed to employ cartographers to report on the unstoppable outward spread of Taliban influence in Pakistan: “In short order this past week the Taliban captured Buner, a strategically vital district just 60 miles northwest of the capital, Islamabad,” went the New York Times’s representative formulation.

“Short order” is right. In February the thugs nabbed Swat; by April they halved their operational proximity to the capital with the “captur[ing]” of Buner. Will it be June in Islamabad?

Sadly, American fingerprints are all over this disaster. Obama administration officials in Pakistan privately okayed the original capitulation to the Taliban in February, hoping to create a rift between “Swat’s Taliban” and the  “Tehrik-e-Taliban” that’s been wreaking havoc along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The idea was to simply give the Swat’s Taliban power and influence in hopes that it would abandon its brother contingent’s battle.

This was unadulterated appeasement. It proved to be, “in short order,” both morally disgraceful and strategically disastrous. And to quote London’s Telegraph, “One source suggested it reflected the ‘smart power’ thinking outlined by Hillary Clinton in her Senate confirmation hearing as secretary of state.”

Can Pakistan endure any more of the State Department’s grey matter? Can the U.S.? Can anyone? While Islamists gobble up Pakistani territory and Hillary Clinton returns to the smart power playbook, Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal sits in wait. If the Zardari government cedes control to the Taliban and the country’s rotten Inter-Service Intelligence agency happily hands over the keys to the missile silos, will there be a new less deadly Islamist group to appease in hopes of a new breakthrough?

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Not the Version He Had in Mind

Mara Liasson gave her take on Fox News Sunday on what happened with our president last week in the interrogation memo frenzy:

 I think he was, as is his instinct, searching for common ground.  He had this pressure from the left — “You can’t let them get away, the Bush administration people” — and then you had his instincts, which is, “We have to look forward, not back.  Let’s not jeopardize our domestic agenda.  Let’s not create this horrible partisan warfare.”

And I think what he was trying to do was say, “Well, Eric Holder will make that decision,” you know, and I think that sometimes there is no common ground to be found.

So she opts for the explanation that Obama is a spineless politician who is buffeted by whomever shouts the loudest. And he doesn’t have the nerve to publicly make the call himself.  That might be right, but it’s hardly comforting to think the president knows better but has thrown open the door anyway to allow for a vicious political brawl.

At this point, some form of public inquisition may be unstoppable. But the results may be far from what Obama envisioned. As Bill Kristol says:

Let’s have a big national debate on this.  Let’s have Steve Bradbury confront his accusers, who are one-tenth the lawyers he is, and who were not under the pressure he was under, and there was not a real threat. Let’s have George Tenet testify.  Let’s have Mike Hayden testify. Let’s have a serious debate.  Let’s have Dick Cheney take on anyone the left wants to produce about whether we were responsible, whether this was a dark chapter in our history, something we have to be ashamed of, or whether the U.S. government behaved in a very fine way, I think in a very impressive way…

(This supposes that all of the star witnesses will be granted immunity or will waive their Fifth Amendment rights, believing that the Justice Department won’t have the nerve to prosecute them.)

We are indeed, for better or worse, going down some path toward public inquest unless Nancy Pelosi and Pat Leahy are going to pack it in  — and Eric Holder decides there’s nothing here to prosecute. The latter would suggest Holder has more political courage than the president, who found it impossible to stand up to the howling mob this week.

In any event, Obama seemed to think he could have a “just our version of the truth” commission. That is the only scenario which now seems entirely out of the question.

Mara Liasson gave her take on Fox News Sunday on what happened with our president last week in the interrogation memo frenzy:

 I think he was, as is his instinct, searching for common ground.  He had this pressure from the left — “You can’t let them get away, the Bush administration people” — and then you had his instincts, which is, “We have to look forward, not back.  Let’s not jeopardize our domestic agenda.  Let’s not create this horrible partisan warfare.”

And I think what he was trying to do was say, “Well, Eric Holder will make that decision,” you know, and I think that sometimes there is no common ground to be found.

So she opts for the explanation that Obama is a spineless politician who is buffeted by whomever shouts the loudest. And he doesn’t have the nerve to publicly make the call himself.  That might be right, but it’s hardly comforting to think the president knows better but has thrown open the door anyway to allow for a vicious political brawl.

At this point, some form of public inquisition may be unstoppable. But the results may be far from what Obama envisioned. As Bill Kristol says:

Let’s have a big national debate on this.  Let’s have Steve Bradbury confront his accusers, who are one-tenth the lawyers he is, and who were not under the pressure he was under, and there was not a real threat. Let’s have George Tenet testify.  Let’s have Mike Hayden testify. Let’s have a serious debate.  Let’s have Dick Cheney take on anyone the left wants to produce about whether we were responsible, whether this was a dark chapter in our history, something we have to be ashamed of, or whether the U.S. government behaved in a very fine way, I think in a very impressive way…

(This supposes that all of the star witnesses will be granted immunity or will waive their Fifth Amendment rights, believing that the Justice Department won’t have the nerve to prosecute them.)

We are indeed, for better or worse, going down some path toward public inquest unless Nancy Pelosi and Pat Leahy are going to pack it in  — and Eric Holder decides there’s nothing here to prosecute. The latter would suggest Holder has more political courage than the president, who found it impossible to stand up to the howling mob this week.

In any event, Obama seemed to think he could have a “just our version of the truth” commission. That is the only scenario which now seems entirely out of the question.

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A History Lesson for Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman isn’t one for subtlety, but his latest column about CIA interrogations during the Bush years really takes hyperbole to new heights:

In the past, our government has sometimes done an imperfect job of upholding those [founding American] ideals. But never before have our leaders so utterly betrayed everything our nation stands for.

As a liberal, Krugman ought to be eminently familiar with the entire catalogue of American sins. Were the memos released last week really demonstrative of a greater “betrayal” of American ideals than slavery, massacres of Native Americans, Jim Crow, and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II? One doesn’t have to be a devotee of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States to be familiar with these events. Perhaps Krugman conveniently overlooked these instances of American dishonor because Democrats presided over them.

This hyperbole is demonstrative of the the outrage racket indulged in by the Left since Abu Ghraib. Proclaiming one’s shame of the United States isn’t anything new for liberals, but in the aftermath of 9/11 they had to wait a few years before finding a reasonable pretext. In the freshest round of self-flagellation, the more scandalized one can become over revelations that American interrogators put wet towels on the faces of terrorist masterminds or subjected them to loud music for hours on end, the greater moral standing one can claim for oneself. To be unmoved by these tactics is to be cold and heartless. Outrage, much of it insincere, has become a badge of pride for swathes of the liberal commentariat and earns them membership in the club of the self-righteous. If you aren’t outraged at what’s taken place in your name — and if you’re not willing to share it with the country on a regular basis — then you’re simply a Cheney-esque barbarian, no different from Nazis and Communists.

The moral vanity of these people is a thing to behold.

Paul Krugman isn’t one for subtlety, but his latest column about CIA interrogations during the Bush years really takes hyperbole to new heights:

In the past, our government has sometimes done an imperfect job of upholding those [founding American] ideals. But never before have our leaders so utterly betrayed everything our nation stands for.

As a liberal, Krugman ought to be eminently familiar with the entire catalogue of American sins. Were the memos released last week really demonstrative of a greater “betrayal” of American ideals than slavery, massacres of Native Americans, Jim Crow, and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II? One doesn’t have to be a devotee of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States to be familiar with these events. Perhaps Krugman conveniently overlooked these instances of American dishonor because Democrats presided over them.

This hyperbole is demonstrative of the the outrage racket indulged in by the Left since Abu Ghraib. Proclaiming one’s shame of the United States isn’t anything new for liberals, but in the aftermath of 9/11 they had to wait a few years before finding a reasonable pretext. In the freshest round of self-flagellation, the more scandalized one can become over revelations that American interrogators put wet towels on the faces of terrorist masterminds or subjected them to loud music for hours on end, the greater moral standing one can claim for oneself. To be unmoved by these tactics is to be cold and heartless. Outrage, much of it insincere, has become a badge of pride for swathes of the liberal commentariat and earns them membership in the club of the self-righteous. If you aren’t outraged at what’s taken place in your name — and if you’re not willing to share it with the country on a regular basis — then you’re simply a Cheney-esque barbarian, no different from Nazis and Communists.

The moral vanity of these people is a thing to behold.

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Stuff Just Slips Through the Cracks

A little insight into your government at work comes from ABC News ,which describes the apology DHS Secretary Napolitano was forced to cough up after the “rightwing extremism” report:

A DHS official tells ABC News that the secretary met personally with Rehbein and issued a mea culpa. The official said Napolitano told Rehbein that “the report was poorly written. It didn’t pass the standards of an internal review and therefore it shouldn’t have gone out the door.”

When pressed about how such an oversight could have occurred, the senior DHS official said that because of the massive size of the department — more than 220,000 employees — “sometimes things slip through the cracks,” and that new internal processes have now been put in place to make sure such a mistake doesn’t happen again.

220,000 employees in one department? That’s twice the size of the IRS and  bigger than the Marines. You may recall those who raised concerns about creating a mammoth department thought DHS would become unmanageable and make us less secure. We now have a bureaucracy so big that “things slip through the cracks.” We can hope that what’s slipping through is just sloppy paperwork, but one suspects the problem is not limited to an errant report.

The biggest problem for DHS then may not be that its secretary did not know how the 9-11 terrorists got into the country. It has become what its critics feared: a jumble of agencies too big to manage and too disorganized to effectively do its job.

A little insight into your government at work comes from ABC News ,which describes the apology DHS Secretary Napolitano was forced to cough up after the “rightwing extremism” report:

A DHS official tells ABC News that the secretary met personally with Rehbein and issued a mea culpa. The official said Napolitano told Rehbein that “the report was poorly written. It didn’t pass the standards of an internal review and therefore it shouldn’t have gone out the door.”

When pressed about how such an oversight could have occurred, the senior DHS official said that because of the massive size of the department — more than 220,000 employees — “sometimes things slip through the cracks,” and that new internal processes have now been put in place to make sure such a mistake doesn’t happen again.

220,000 employees in one department? That’s twice the size of the IRS and  bigger than the Marines. You may recall those who raised concerns about creating a mammoth department thought DHS would become unmanageable and make us less secure. We now have a bureaucracy so big that “things slip through the cracks.” We can hope that what’s slipping through is just sloppy paperwork, but one suspects the problem is not limited to an errant report.

The biggest problem for DHS then may not be that its secretary did not know how the 9-11 terrorists got into the country. It has become what its critics feared: a jumble of agencies too big to manage and too disorganized to effectively do its job.

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Split on Syria Talks

Avigdor Lieberman is apparently trying to send a message to the rest of his coalition: He’s not going to be a rubber stump for peace processing. This is an annoyance for Binyamin Netanyahu, who has to deal repeatedly with headlines about his foreign minister. It’s an international headache – because Lieberman is all Netanyahu’s opponents were hoping for, and more. And it’s a domestic headache – with Lieberman and Labor’s Ehud Barak at odds, and unofficially competing for attention. Lieberman can’t be seen as a third wheel in the Netanyahu-Barak government and Barak can’t be made irrelevant by the more hawkish elements of the coalition.

The current mini-scandal – surely not the last one – is not about the Palestinians, a topic Lieberman (and Barak) explored last week. Now Syria is on the line. Last Friday, in an interview with an Austrian paper, Lieberman explained his stand on talks with Syria: “Syria supports Hezbollah and its arms trafficking into southern Lebanon. Syria supports Iran’s nuclear program. That is why I cannot see in Syria a real partner for any type of agreement.”

While the facts Lieberman mentions are hard to dispute, the position he espouses is not Barak’s:

Removing Syria from the axis of evil is in Israel’s interests, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Saturday in response to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s statement that Damascus ‘must stop supporting terror before peace negotiations are launched.”… Barak, who was reportedly outraged over Lieberman’s comments, has said in closed meetings recently that Israel must look for a way to resume talks with Syria without hindering the negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.

While one can argue that on the Palestinian front the differences between Lieberman’s and Barak’s positions are more rhetorical than substantial (as I did), on Syria there’s a real gap between the two. This was true Friday and still holds true today even after Lieberman had supposedly clarified his position this morning:

“I’d be glad to negotiate with Syria this evening, but without preconditions,” Lieberman said in the Sunday interview to Israel Radio. “They say, first go back to ’67 lines and give up the Golan. If we agree to that, what is there to negotiate?” he said.

Whether Netanyahu tends to agree more with Lieberman or with Barak on Syria is not exactly clear. There’s reason to believe that he intends to explore the possibility of talks, but that is also skeptical about the outcome. For now, we only know that while Lieberman’s positions help paint Netanyahu as a moderate, they also require handling within the coalition.  

Avigdor Lieberman is apparently trying to send a message to the rest of his coalition: He’s not going to be a rubber stump for peace processing. This is an annoyance for Binyamin Netanyahu, who has to deal repeatedly with headlines about his foreign minister. It’s an international headache – because Lieberman is all Netanyahu’s opponents were hoping for, and more. And it’s a domestic headache – with Lieberman and Labor’s Ehud Barak at odds, and unofficially competing for attention. Lieberman can’t be seen as a third wheel in the Netanyahu-Barak government and Barak can’t be made irrelevant by the more hawkish elements of the coalition.

The current mini-scandal – surely not the last one – is not about the Palestinians, a topic Lieberman (and Barak) explored last week. Now Syria is on the line. Last Friday, in an interview with an Austrian paper, Lieberman explained his stand on talks with Syria: “Syria supports Hezbollah and its arms trafficking into southern Lebanon. Syria supports Iran’s nuclear program. That is why I cannot see in Syria a real partner for any type of agreement.”

While the facts Lieberman mentions are hard to dispute, the position he espouses is not Barak’s:

Removing Syria from the axis of evil is in Israel’s interests, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Saturday in response to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s statement that Damascus ‘must stop supporting terror before peace negotiations are launched.”… Barak, who was reportedly outraged over Lieberman’s comments, has said in closed meetings recently that Israel must look for a way to resume talks with Syria without hindering the negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.

While one can argue that on the Palestinian front the differences between Lieberman’s and Barak’s positions are more rhetorical than substantial (as I did), on Syria there’s a real gap between the two. This was true Friday and still holds true today even after Lieberman had supposedly clarified his position this morning:

“I’d be glad to negotiate with Syria this evening, but without preconditions,” Lieberman said in the Sunday interview to Israel Radio. “They say, first go back to ’67 lines and give up the Golan. If we agree to that, what is there to negotiate?” he said.

Whether Netanyahu tends to agree more with Lieberman or with Barak on Syria is not exactly clear. There’s reason to believe that he intends to explore the possibility of talks, but that is also skeptical about the outcome. For now, we only know that while Lieberman’s positions help paint Netanyahu as a moderate, they also require handling within the coalition.  

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Giving Credit Where It Is Due

Amidst a troubling uptick in violence in Iraq we get this report:

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Saturday assured Iraq that the Obama administration would not abandon the country even as it presses ahead with plans to withdraw American troops amid a recent surge in violence. Clinton, on an unannounced trip to Baghdad, said the drawdown would be handled in a “responsible and careful way” and would not affect efforts to improve the professionalism of Iraq’s security forces or reconstruction and development projects that are to be expanded.

[. . .]

“Let me assure you and repeat what President Obama said, we are committed to Iraq, we want to see a stable, sovereign, self-reliant Iraq,” she told a nervous but receptive crowd at a town hall meeting at the U.S. Embassy here.

One can scoff at the utter hypocrisy of the Clinton-Obama duo who duked it out in the primary for the title of “Most Ready To Flee Iraq.” Yet one is hard pressed to quibble when reality intervenes and the new administration chooses to pursue a responsible course of action. It is one thing during a campaign to blithely brush off the threat of regional chaos which would follow a premature retreat; it is quite another to preside over it.

As with the economy, this is war is now Obama’s. Whether he will have the judgment and determination to adjust timetables and commit resources based on conditions on the ground remains to be seen. But on this one, he has for now put away “childish things.” Perhaps it will be habit-forming.

Amidst a troubling uptick in violence in Iraq we get this report:

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Saturday assured Iraq that the Obama administration would not abandon the country even as it presses ahead with plans to withdraw American troops amid a recent surge in violence. Clinton, on an unannounced trip to Baghdad, said the drawdown would be handled in a “responsible and careful way” and would not affect efforts to improve the professionalism of Iraq’s security forces or reconstruction and development projects that are to be expanded.

[. . .]

“Let me assure you and repeat what President Obama said, we are committed to Iraq, we want to see a stable, sovereign, self-reliant Iraq,” she told a nervous but receptive crowd at a town hall meeting at the U.S. Embassy here.

One can scoff at the utter hypocrisy of the Clinton-Obama duo who duked it out in the primary for the title of “Most Ready To Flee Iraq.” Yet one is hard pressed to quibble when reality intervenes and the new administration chooses to pursue a responsible course of action. It is one thing during a campaign to blithely brush off the threat of regional chaos which would follow a premature retreat; it is quite another to preside over it.

As with the economy, this is war is now Obama’s. Whether he will have the judgment and determination to adjust timetables and commit resources based on conditions on the ground remains to be seen. But on this one, he has for now put away “childish things.” Perhaps it will be habit-forming.

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Is Lieberman Hurting Israel’s Relations With Europe?

A central tenet of the anti-Avigdor Lieberman campaign currently being waged in both the American and Israeli press is that Lieberman, with the fairly silent consent of Prime Minister Netanyahu, is causing immediate and serious damage to Israel’s ties with the U.S. and, to a greater extent, Europe. The most vivid example cited is the call from EU figures a few weeks ago, warning Netanyahu that ties with the EU would suffer if Israel did not re-affirm its commitment to a two-state solution with the Palestinians.

The most obvious objection to the criticism is that Israel’s ties with the rest of the world always suffer when Israel asserts its independence in foreign policy. Today I heard one Israel radio commentator asserting that “a foreign minister’s job is to put out fires, while Lieberman is going around lighting them.” But is that really a foreign minister’s job? Or is it to represent the nation’s policies and interests in the most compelling way possible, and forge the necessary alliances to advance those policies? I’m not saying whether Lieberman is succeeding or failing at that, but it is really way too early to tell whether his tough stances and unusual maneuvers are helping or hurting. What is clear is that we should ignore anyone who asserts that the definition of a good Israeli policy is one that makes either the Obama administration or the EU more publicly friendly to Israel.

But leaving all that aside, one wonders whether the damage to Israel’s relations with Europe is real at all. Over the last decade, European governments have largely shifted towards far greater support for Israel. The willingness of countries like Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and Germany to boycott Durban II, alongside the most pro-Israel government France has had since the early 1960s, and the overtly friendly government in the Czech Republic, reflects a Europe that is the most heavily supportive of Israel in a very long time. Part of this may have something to do with Israel’s pulling out of Gaza in 2005, which made it politically easier for European leaders to soften their stances. But there are alternate explanations as well: the combination of 8 years of unflinching American solidarity with Israel, an increasing European awareness that its true enemies are the same Islamic extremists that Israel is fighting, and the actual rise of Hamas, Hezbollah, and the prospect of a nuclear Iran — all these have made a great many Europeans understand that pressuring Israel may hurt Europeans in the long run more than alienating the sources of their oil. If Europe once managed to present a united front in support of Israel’s concessions to the Palestinians, today Europe seems utterly divided.

A central tenet of the anti-Avigdor Lieberman campaign currently being waged in both the American and Israeli press is that Lieberman, with the fairly silent consent of Prime Minister Netanyahu, is causing immediate and serious damage to Israel’s ties with the U.S. and, to a greater extent, Europe. The most vivid example cited is the call from EU figures a few weeks ago, warning Netanyahu that ties with the EU would suffer if Israel did not re-affirm its commitment to a two-state solution with the Palestinians.

The most obvious objection to the criticism is that Israel’s ties with the rest of the world always suffer when Israel asserts its independence in foreign policy. Today I heard one Israel radio commentator asserting that “a foreign minister’s job is to put out fires, while Lieberman is going around lighting them.” But is that really a foreign minister’s job? Or is it to represent the nation’s policies and interests in the most compelling way possible, and forge the necessary alliances to advance those policies? I’m not saying whether Lieberman is succeeding or failing at that, but it is really way too early to tell whether his tough stances and unusual maneuvers are helping or hurting. What is clear is that we should ignore anyone who asserts that the definition of a good Israeli policy is one that makes either the Obama administration or the EU more publicly friendly to Israel.

But leaving all that aside, one wonders whether the damage to Israel’s relations with Europe is real at all. Over the last decade, European governments have largely shifted towards far greater support for Israel. The willingness of countries like Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and Germany to boycott Durban II, alongside the most pro-Israel government France has had since the early 1960s, and the overtly friendly government in the Czech Republic, reflects a Europe that is the most heavily supportive of Israel in a very long time. Part of this may have something to do with Israel’s pulling out of Gaza in 2005, which made it politically easier for European leaders to soften their stances. But there are alternate explanations as well: the combination of 8 years of unflinching American solidarity with Israel, an increasing European awareness that its true enemies are the same Islamic extremists that Israel is fighting, and the actual rise of Hamas, Hezbollah, and the prospect of a nuclear Iran — all these have made a great many Europeans understand that pressuring Israel may hurt Europeans in the long run more than alienating the sources of their oil. If Europe once managed to present a united front in support of Israel’s concessions to the Palestinians, today Europe seems utterly divided.

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What He Thinks and Why

Reuel Marc Gerecht writes about the release of interrogation memos:

Morally and legally, President Obama’s position makes little sense. If U.S. officials are guilty of serious crimes, they should be prosecuted. The notion that CIA officers should escape criminal prosecution because they thought they were following legal orders flies in the face of the historic understanding that soldiers must not obey illegal commands. It will be outrageous cowardice if a Democratic Congress, or the administration, decides to seek the heads of Yoo and Bybee and not seek the prosecution of President Bush, Vice President Cheney, George Tenet, Condoleezza Rice, and others higher up.

It makes even less sense to exempt CIA operatives “in the room” while leaving it to Attorney General Eric Holder to decide the fate of the lawyers and “middle management” officials who devised our policies. The dividing lines between those whose fate is presumably in Holder’s hands and those who either have been promised protection (sort of) by the president or those who occupied the highest levels of office are utterly artificial. This suggests a political methodology is at work: how much revenge can the administration enact without risking a backlash?

There is no logic by which the president and his spinners declare that the central concern is whether “laws were broken,” but then rule out prosecution (for good and legitimate national security reasons) for a select group of those suspected of law-breaking. Moreover, it is the role of the president not the attorney general to determine whether, for reasons of national security and political sobriety, we wish to go down this road. There is a slipperiness and fundamental lack of political courage in repeatedly dodging critical questions that go to the heart of controversial matters.

Perhaps the president needs an address to the nation to make clear what he thinks on these and other issues:

Are all the methods described in the memos (slapping on the face included) “torture” in his mind?

Does he think lives were saved by these techniques? If not, did Admiral Blair, General Hayden, and others get it wrong?

What is the rationale for exempting some but not all officials from the prospect of a witchhunt?

Does he fear those in his administration might face retribution in the future?

How can Leon Panetta credibly  face the intelligence community after the administration disregarded his advice about revealing interrogation methods?

The list goes on. This is one issue on which Obama cannot satisfy everyone, even in his own party. But the country deserves to know what he thinks and why.

Reuel Marc Gerecht writes about the release of interrogation memos:

Morally and legally, President Obama’s position makes little sense. If U.S. officials are guilty of serious crimes, they should be prosecuted. The notion that CIA officers should escape criminal prosecution because they thought they were following legal orders flies in the face of the historic understanding that soldiers must not obey illegal commands. It will be outrageous cowardice if a Democratic Congress, or the administration, decides to seek the heads of Yoo and Bybee and not seek the prosecution of President Bush, Vice President Cheney, George Tenet, Condoleezza Rice, and others higher up.

It makes even less sense to exempt CIA operatives “in the room” while leaving it to Attorney General Eric Holder to decide the fate of the lawyers and “middle management” officials who devised our policies. The dividing lines between those whose fate is presumably in Holder’s hands and those who either have been promised protection (sort of) by the president or those who occupied the highest levels of office are utterly artificial. This suggests a political methodology is at work: how much revenge can the administration enact without risking a backlash?

There is no logic by which the president and his spinners declare that the central concern is whether “laws were broken,” but then rule out prosecution (for good and legitimate national security reasons) for a select group of those suspected of law-breaking. Moreover, it is the role of the president not the attorney general to determine whether, for reasons of national security and political sobriety, we wish to go down this road. There is a slipperiness and fundamental lack of political courage in repeatedly dodging critical questions that go to the heart of controversial matters.

Perhaps the president needs an address to the nation to make clear what he thinks on these and other issues:

Are all the methods described in the memos (slapping on the face included) “torture” in his mind?

Does he think lives were saved by these techniques? If not, did Admiral Blair, General Hayden, and others get it wrong?

What is the rationale for exempting some but not all officials from the prospect of a witchhunt?

Does he fear those in his administration might face retribution in the future?

How can Leon Panetta credibly  face the intelligence community after the administration disregarded his advice about revealing interrogation methods?

The list goes on. This is one issue on which Obama cannot satisfy everyone, even in his own party. But the country deserves to know what he thinks and why.

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Obama: The Reality Show

President Obama may be wearing out his welcome in prime time television, or so hinted the Washington Post’s Lisa de Moraes yesterday.  Obama’s decision to hold a news conference marking his 100th day in office Wednesday will cost networks around $10 million in lost ad revenue-right in the middle of the May sweeps.  Noted de Moraes:

In fact, this makes the fourth time in three months Obama has preempted prime time to take his message directly to the people. Obama took over the 8 o’clock hour for a news conference Monday, Feb. 9; he gave his Not Quite State of the Union Address at 9 on Feb. 24. And he staged another news conference in the 8 o’clock hour on March 24.

So, here’s a thought.  Why not just let Obama and family have its own reality TV show.  That way we could follow Bo’s housebreaking, Michelle’s gardening, and the girls’ lemonade stand in real time, rather than have to wait until the morning papers filled us in on the latest doings of the First Family. And the president’s adoring fans could watch him minute by minute as he flip-flopped on whether to prosecute former Bush administration officials who sanctioned rough treatment of terrorists. Maybe Frank Luntz could hook up viewers to weigh in with those gadgets that chart audience approval or disapproval as the president wrestles with the economy or what to do about Iranian nukes.

Think of what Obamadrama would mean: millions in ad revenues for the networks, unparalleled transparency in government, and maybe even a respite for those who are getting tired of seeing President Obama constantly on camera.  After all, if he had his own show, the president might quit running around the country giving meaningless speeches and holding press conferences every few days. And the reporters who accompany him now could stay home and do some real reporting for a change.

President Obama may be wearing out his welcome in prime time television, or so hinted the Washington Post’s Lisa de Moraes yesterday.  Obama’s decision to hold a news conference marking his 100th day in office Wednesday will cost networks around $10 million in lost ad revenue-right in the middle of the May sweeps.  Noted de Moraes:

In fact, this makes the fourth time in three months Obama has preempted prime time to take his message directly to the people. Obama took over the 8 o’clock hour for a news conference Monday, Feb. 9; he gave his Not Quite State of the Union Address at 9 on Feb. 24. And he staged another news conference in the 8 o’clock hour on March 24.

So, here’s a thought.  Why not just let Obama and family have its own reality TV show.  That way we could follow Bo’s housebreaking, Michelle’s gardening, and the girls’ lemonade stand in real time, rather than have to wait until the morning papers filled us in on the latest doings of the First Family. And the president’s adoring fans could watch him minute by minute as he flip-flopped on whether to prosecute former Bush administration officials who sanctioned rough treatment of terrorists. Maybe Frank Luntz could hook up viewers to weigh in with those gadgets that chart audience approval or disapproval as the president wrestles with the economy or what to do about Iranian nukes.

Think of what Obamadrama would mean: millions in ad revenues for the networks, unparalleled transparency in government, and maybe even a respite for those who are getting tired of seeing President Obama constantly on camera.  After all, if he had his own show, the president might quit running around the country giving meaningless speeches and holding press conferences every few days. And the reporters who accompany him now could stay home and do some real reporting for a change.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Former Vice President Dick Cheney tells Stephen Hayes he observed those who “left the little guys out to dry” during the Iran Contra scandal: “And this time around I’ll do my damndest to defend anybody out there–be they in the agency carrying out the orders or the lawyers who wrote the opinions. I don’t know whether anybody else will, but I sure as hell will.”

You want truth? Noemie Emery will give you truth. Perhaps Democrats might want to reconsider show trials  if potential witnesses come prepared with testimony like this.

Stuart Taylor has more: “The fashionable assumption that coercive interrogation (up to and including torture) never saved a single life makes it easy to resolve what otherwise would be an agonizing moral quandary.The same assumption makes it even easier for congressional Democrats, human-rights activists, and George W. Bush-hating avengers to call for prosecuting and imprisoning the former president and his entire national security team, including their lawyers. . . .But there is a body of evidence suggesting that brutal interrogation methods may indeed have saved lives, perhaps a great many lives — and that renouncing those methods may someday end up costing many, many more.”

Michael Barone nails it: “It’s tough trying to please people who crave vengeance almost as much as Madame Defarge, the unsparing French revolutionary in Dickens’ ‘Tale of Two Cities.’ That’s what Barack Obama found out last week — and will find out next week and for weeks to come unless he settles once and for all that he will follow the practice of all his predecessors and not prosecute decision-makers in the previous administration.”

But the public may have more sense than Nancy Pelosi: “President Obama and Senate Democratic leaders are opposed to more investigations of how the Bush administration treated terrorism suspects, and 58% of U.S. voters agree with them. A number of congressional Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, are pushing for a wider probe. Just 28% think the Obama administration should do further investigating of how suspected terrorists were questioned during the Bush years, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Thirteen percent (13%) are not sure.”

The White House press corps gives (at least publicly) “mixed grades” to Robert Gibbs, mostly quibbling with the extent of (non)transparency. These people must be grading on the Scott McClellan curve. (Or maybe they don’t want to imperil the job of a highly mockable  press secretary who makes them look brilliant by comparison.)

Time may be running out on Jack Murtha: “Democracy 21 and other good-government groups are expected to ask the House ethics committee next week for an investigation into lawmakers with close ties to defunct lobbying firm PMA Group, Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer said on Friday. The request will seek a probe into whether the millions of dollars in campaign contributions the firm generated for favored Members of Congress influenced the tens of millions of dollars in earmarks those lawmakers secured for PMA clients. . . .Democratic leaders have remained in a defensive crouch in the wake of reports that federal investigators are probing the earmark empire of Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), the defense-spending chief in the House and a close confidant of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).”

And the stories keep piling up telling us that “a string of federal criminal investigations of contractors or lobbyists close to Mr. Murtha, the top Democrat on the defense appropriations subcommittee, are threatening to undermine his backroom clout.” I keep waiting for the most ethical Congress ever to do something about him.

More evidence the public likes the president personally a lot more than his fiscal policies.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney tells Stephen Hayes he observed those who “left the little guys out to dry” during the Iran Contra scandal: “And this time around I’ll do my damndest to defend anybody out there–be they in the agency carrying out the orders or the lawyers who wrote the opinions. I don’t know whether anybody else will, but I sure as hell will.”

You want truth? Noemie Emery will give you truth. Perhaps Democrats might want to reconsider show trials  if potential witnesses come prepared with testimony like this.

Stuart Taylor has more: “The fashionable assumption that coercive interrogation (up to and including torture) never saved a single life makes it easy to resolve what otherwise would be an agonizing moral quandary.The same assumption makes it even easier for congressional Democrats, human-rights activists, and George W. Bush-hating avengers to call for prosecuting and imprisoning the former president and his entire national security team, including their lawyers. . . .But there is a body of evidence suggesting that brutal interrogation methods may indeed have saved lives, perhaps a great many lives — and that renouncing those methods may someday end up costing many, many more.”

Michael Barone nails it: “It’s tough trying to please people who crave vengeance almost as much as Madame Defarge, the unsparing French revolutionary in Dickens’ ‘Tale of Two Cities.’ That’s what Barack Obama found out last week — and will find out next week and for weeks to come unless he settles once and for all that he will follow the practice of all his predecessors and not prosecute decision-makers in the previous administration.”

But the public may have more sense than Nancy Pelosi: “President Obama and Senate Democratic leaders are opposed to more investigations of how the Bush administration treated terrorism suspects, and 58% of U.S. voters agree with them. A number of congressional Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, are pushing for a wider probe. Just 28% think the Obama administration should do further investigating of how suspected terrorists were questioned during the Bush years, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Thirteen percent (13%) are not sure.”

The White House press corps gives (at least publicly) “mixed grades” to Robert Gibbs, mostly quibbling with the extent of (non)transparency. These people must be grading on the Scott McClellan curve. (Or maybe they don’t want to imperil the job of a highly mockable  press secretary who makes them look brilliant by comparison.)

Time may be running out on Jack Murtha: “Democracy 21 and other good-government groups are expected to ask the House ethics committee next week for an investigation into lawmakers with close ties to defunct lobbying firm PMA Group, Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer said on Friday. The request will seek a probe into whether the millions of dollars in campaign contributions the firm generated for favored Members of Congress influenced the tens of millions of dollars in earmarks those lawmakers secured for PMA clients. . . .Democratic leaders have remained in a defensive crouch in the wake of reports that federal investigators are probing the earmark empire of Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), the defense-spending chief in the House and a close confidant of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).”

And the stories keep piling up telling us that “a string of federal criminal investigations of contractors or lobbyists close to Mr. Murtha, the top Democrat on the defense appropriations subcommittee, are threatening to undermine his backroom clout.” I keep waiting for the most ethical Congress ever to do something about him.

More evidence the public likes the president personally a lot more than his fiscal policies.

Read Less




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