Commentary Magazine


Posts For: September 23, 2009

Times: Inconvenient Truth About Cooling May Retard Efforts to Fight Warming

In an article that might well have deserved publication in the Onion, the New York Times introduced a heretical notion to its readership today. Despite the fact that any skepticism about global warming and the responsibility of humanity for this rise in temperatures is now considered proof of insanity, the Times reported that it appears more than likely that “global temperatures have been relatively stable for a decade and may even drop in the next few years.”

This must come as quite a shock to an American public that has been relentlessly propagandized on this issue and convinced that the end of civilization as we know it is just around the corner. But facts are stubborn things, and for all the hoopla about “saving the planet,” now even the Times is prepared to admit that far from heating up at the exponential rates Al Gore has discussed to near universal applause, it appears that the story is a bit more complicated than he may have let on. Indeed, according to researchers from the British climate-change office and published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, temperatures have hardly budged since 1998 and may well continue to dip in the coming decade.

Does this explode the whole global-warming theory? I don’t know, and I’d venture to say neither do most scientists, let alone Times reporter Andrew C. Revkin, who wrote today’s story. But it is interesting to note that this not insignificant piece of intelligence is presented not as a startling challenge to the environmentalist orthodoxy on global warming but as a troubling development that will give skeptics about the threat more ammunition. As Revkin writes, “The recent stability of global temperatures makes regular appearances in blog postings disputing the reality of global warming and is frequently invoked by pundits who oppose the climate bill that passed the House this year and is pending in the Senate.”

The problem, according to Revkin’s story, is that it has been difficult to get people to “understand and respond to environmental problems” and that “the current temperature stability has created confusion and apathy.”

In other words, facts contrary to the accepted narrative about the apocalyptic threat of global warming have clouded the picture and could make it harder to enforce uniformity of belief on the subject as well as to ram through Congress legislation that has the potential to cripple our economy. Or at least they will unless discussion about this is framed solely in terms of how best to get people to ignore some truly inconvenient truths.

In an article that might well have deserved publication in the Onion, the New York Times introduced a heretical notion to its readership today. Despite the fact that any skepticism about global warming and the responsibility of humanity for this rise in temperatures is now considered proof of insanity, the Times reported that it appears more than likely that “global temperatures have been relatively stable for a decade and may even drop in the next few years.”

This must come as quite a shock to an American public that has been relentlessly propagandized on this issue and convinced that the end of civilization as we know it is just around the corner. But facts are stubborn things, and for all the hoopla about “saving the planet,” now even the Times is prepared to admit that far from heating up at the exponential rates Al Gore has discussed to near universal applause, it appears that the story is a bit more complicated than he may have let on. Indeed, according to researchers from the British climate-change office and published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, temperatures have hardly budged since 1998 and may well continue to dip in the coming decade.

Does this explode the whole global-warming theory? I don’t know, and I’d venture to say neither do most scientists, let alone Times reporter Andrew C. Revkin, who wrote today’s story. But it is interesting to note that this not insignificant piece of intelligence is presented not as a startling challenge to the environmentalist orthodoxy on global warming but as a troubling development that will give skeptics about the threat more ammunition. As Revkin writes, “The recent stability of global temperatures makes regular appearances in blog postings disputing the reality of global warming and is frequently invoked by pundits who oppose the climate bill that passed the House this year and is pending in the Senate.”

The problem, according to Revkin’s story, is that it has been difficult to get people to “understand and respond to environmental problems” and that “the current temperature stability has created confusion and apathy.”

In other words, facts contrary to the accepted narrative about the apocalyptic threat of global warming have clouded the picture and could make it harder to enforce uniformity of belief on the subject as well as to ram through Congress legislation that has the potential to cripple our economy. Or at least they will unless discussion about this is framed solely in terms of how best to get people to ignore some truly inconvenient truths.

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What About This Strategy?

To hear President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tell it, there is not enough substance or consensus yet in the strategy recommendations they are getting on Afghanistan for the president to start making “resource decisions.” Clinton, in fact, had the following exchange in her interview for The News Hour:

HILLARY CLINTON: You know I think it’s fair to say, Margaret, that we have an open mind to any argument that is made. Now I’m sure each of us is entering into this process with our own points of view and our own base of understanding what will or will not work. And what General McChrystal has done is to provide his assessment. We will get assessments from others as well. And then we will hash it out in the National Security Council team and then we will present our best recommendations to the president. But at the end of the day it’s the president’s decision and I think what we heard the president saying yesterday is look, you’re going to have to convince me that whatever decision, is it classic counter-insurgency with additional troops? Is it counter-insurgency at the same troop level? Is it a different mix of troops? Is it a counter terrorism strategy?

MARGARET WARNER: Fewer troops?

HILLARY CLINTON: Who knows? I mean what we’re looking at though are the goals that we have.

We may wonder, however, if the State Department and the president’s advisers somehow missed this document: the coordinated plan of U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry and General Stanley McChrystal for implementing Obama’s strategic guidance from March 2009. The plan, forwarded on August 10, begins with this proposition:

The U.S. broad strategic goal in Afghanistan is to disrupt, dismantle, and eventually defeat Al Qaeda (AQ), its allies and its safe havens in Pakistan, and to prevent their return to Pakistan or Afghanistan.

This goal is stated verbatim from Obama’s policy speeches. The plan continues:

In order to make progress against this goal in the next three years, the USG will:

1. Promote a more capable, accountable, and effective government in Afghanistan that serves the Afghan people and can eventually function, especially regarding internal security, with limited international support.

2. Develop increasingly reliant Afghan security forces that can lead the counterinsurgency and counterterrorism fight with reduced U.S. assistance.

3. Involve the international community more actively to forge an international consensus to stabilize Afghanistan.

The plan explicitly seeks to integrate civilian and military lines of effort in Afghanistan and states clearly that it “represents the collaborative effort of all the USG Departments and Agencies operating in Afghanistan and the range of different equities, resources, and approaches.” See if its 34 pages of objectives, methods, resources, and measures of effectiveness strike you as a “strategy.”

The seeming dismissal in Washington of a properly staffed plan from the top U.S. officials in Afghanistan stands in peculiar contrast to the staffing of the surge strategy under Bush. For all the policy errors his administration had made before the surge was adopted, Bush coordinated and presented the surge strategy with a decisiveness and a unity of effort that seem to be missing in Obama’s Afghanistan process. Moreover, few but foreign-policy wonks are aware of the Eikenberry-McChrystal plan; under Bush, by contrast, General Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker were probably better-known advocates for the surge than Bush himself.

In any event, given the comprehensive detail of the Eikenberry-McChrystal plan, and its careful adherence to Obama’s original guidance, we may wonder what “others” Hillary Clinton is expecting to hear from, and what arguments the president is waiting to hear made, before serious thought can be given to resourcing the effort in Afghanistan.

To hear President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tell it, there is not enough substance or consensus yet in the strategy recommendations they are getting on Afghanistan for the president to start making “resource decisions.” Clinton, in fact, had the following exchange in her interview for The News Hour:

HILLARY CLINTON: You know I think it’s fair to say, Margaret, that we have an open mind to any argument that is made. Now I’m sure each of us is entering into this process with our own points of view and our own base of understanding what will or will not work. And what General McChrystal has done is to provide his assessment. We will get assessments from others as well. And then we will hash it out in the National Security Council team and then we will present our best recommendations to the president. But at the end of the day it’s the president’s decision and I think what we heard the president saying yesterday is look, you’re going to have to convince me that whatever decision, is it classic counter-insurgency with additional troops? Is it counter-insurgency at the same troop level? Is it a different mix of troops? Is it a counter terrorism strategy?

MARGARET WARNER: Fewer troops?

HILLARY CLINTON: Who knows? I mean what we’re looking at though are the goals that we have.

We may wonder, however, if the State Department and the president’s advisers somehow missed this document: the coordinated plan of U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry and General Stanley McChrystal for implementing Obama’s strategic guidance from March 2009. The plan, forwarded on August 10, begins with this proposition:

The U.S. broad strategic goal in Afghanistan is to disrupt, dismantle, and eventually defeat Al Qaeda (AQ), its allies and its safe havens in Pakistan, and to prevent their return to Pakistan or Afghanistan.

This goal is stated verbatim from Obama’s policy speeches. The plan continues:

In order to make progress against this goal in the next three years, the USG will:

1. Promote a more capable, accountable, and effective government in Afghanistan that serves the Afghan people and can eventually function, especially regarding internal security, with limited international support.

2. Develop increasingly reliant Afghan security forces that can lead the counterinsurgency and counterterrorism fight with reduced U.S. assistance.

3. Involve the international community more actively to forge an international consensus to stabilize Afghanistan.

The plan explicitly seeks to integrate civilian and military lines of effort in Afghanistan and states clearly that it “represents the collaborative effort of all the USG Departments and Agencies operating in Afghanistan and the range of different equities, resources, and approaches.” See if its 34 pages of objectives, methods, resources, and measures of effectiveness strike you as a “strategy.”

The seeming dismissal in Washington of a properly staffed plan from the top U.S. officials in Afghanistan stands in peculiar contrast to the staffing of the surge strategy under Bush. For all the policy errors his administration had made before the surge was adopted, Bush coordinated and presented the surge strategy with a decisiveness and a unity of effort that seem to be missing in Obama’s Afghanistan process. Moreover, few but foreign-policy wonks are aware of the Eikenberry-McChrystal plan; under Bush, by contrast, General Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker were probably better-known advocates for the surge than Bush himself.

In any event, given the comprehensive detail of the Eikenberry-McChrystal plan, and its careful adherence to Obama’s original guidance, we may wonder what “others” Hillary Clinton is expecting to hear from, and what arguments the president is waiting to hear made, before serious thought can be given to resourcing the effort in Afghanistan.

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Obama’s UN Speech, Dissected

In the UN speech earlier today, President Obama once again succumbed to what has become almost a clinical addiction: criticizing the United States in front of an international audience.

In the latest stop on his American Apology Tour, Obama aimed his fire at America on the issue of global warming (“the days when America dragged its feet on this issue are over”) and democracy (“in the past America has too often been selective in its promotion of democracy”). And Obama, after humbly declaring at the outset of his speech that “I am well aware of the expectations that accompany my presidency around the world . . . they are also rooted in hope—the hope that real change is possible, and the hope that America will be a leader in bringing about such change,” went on to say this:

I took office at a time when many around the world had come to view America with skepticism and distrust. Part of this was due to misperceptions and misinformation about my country. Part of this was due to opposition to specific policies, and a belief that on certain critical issues, America has acted unilaterally, without regard for the interests of others. This has fed an almost reflexive anti-Americanism, which too often has served as an excuse for our collective inaction.

Where oh where to begin? How about by pointing out that America did not act unilaterally in Iraq or anywhere else during the Bush presidency. For example, and for the record, more than 35 countries gave crucial support—from the use of naval and air bases to help with intelligence and logistics to the deployment of combat units. President Bush answered the “unilateral” charge in his 2004 State of the Union address:

Some critics have said our duties in Iraq must be internationalized. This particular criticism is hard to explain to our partners in Britain, Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Italy, Spain, Poland, Denmark, Hungary, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania, the Netherlands, Norway, El Salvador, and the 17 other countries that have committed troops to Iraq. As we debate at home, we must never ignore the vital contributions of our international partners, or dismiss their sacrifices.

Second, the United States actually did have in mind the interests of others—beginning with 25 million Iraqis—when it acted. The Iraq war, whatever you think about its wisdom and execution, was in part a war of liberation, undertaken for noble purposes: to liberate a captive people and to depose an aggressive dictator. We know about the Iraqi regime under Saddam Hussein; it was one of the most brutal and malevolent in modern history. The fact that we believed the Iraq war advanced America’s national interests doesn’t mean it was a war waged without regard for the interests of others. And for Obama to allow this misperception of America to go unchallenged—indeed, to give such a false and malicious charge legitimacy—is disturbing.

Third, in his speech the President said, “I pledge that America will always stand with those who stand up for their dignity and their rights.” Oh really? If so, then why was he so reluctant to speak out for the brave Iranians who rose up against the brutal rule of President Ahmadinejad? Because of his fear not to offend the Iranian regime, he essentially put America on its side rather than on the side of the Iranians who stood up for their dignity and rights. In addition, Obama and his secretary of state are purposefully downplaying human rights in their dealings with China—including refusing to meet with the Dalai Lama. It is no secret that Obama—in an effort to distance himself from his predecessor—has very few words, and none memorable, to say on behalf of basic human rights. He will from time to time mouth empty slogans so he can check off the “human-rights box,” but he does not give any evidence that he feels these values deep in his bones.

There is more to be said about the Obama speech—including the president’s tiresome pretense that he and he alone will lead the world out of its cul-de-sac, where “we bicker about outdated grievances.” But I cannot escape a depressing thought, one I hope is proved to be wrong over time: that Barack Obama, even though he is the leader of America, is constantly placing himself above it. His criticisms of our country are now part of a troubling routine, so much so that Obama is now winning the applause of people who genuinely hate America (like Fidel Castro, who complimented Obama for his “brave gesture” and “courage” in criticizing the United States at the UN).

Obama not only fails to strongly defend the United States; he is actually adding brush strokes to a portrait of our country that diminishes its achievements and standing. He seems unable or unwilling to speak out—in a heartfelt and passionate way—on its behalf. He is, of course, too clever not to ever say a word of praise for America; no, this sophisticated wordsmith and smooth politician, this cool customer ever in search of The Golden Mean, can speak in both text and subtext. He says just enough to deny the charge that he is not a strong defender of the country he leads. But by now we’re on to the game.

No one believes America’s history is pristine; we are all familiar with the catalogue of our own sins, beginning with slavery. Other presidents have recognized them, and a few have given voice to them. But it was done in the context of a reverence for America—for what it has been and stands for, for what it is and can be. Think of the words of George Washington, who said of America, “I was summoned by my Country, whose voice I can never hear but with veneration and love.” That is a noble sentiment from a man whose love of country knew no bounds. They are also words that I cannot imagine President Obama saying, at least with conviction. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t like his country or admire things about it; it means that he has yet to really speak out for it. And it means that he has shown, so far at least, that he is more interested in advancing his interests than in speaking on behalf of the nation that elected him. There are enough critics of America in the world; we don’t need to add America’s president to that list.

Perhaps Mr. Obama will come to understand that there is a problem when the president of the United States—an “inestimable jewel,” Lincoln called her—has harsher things to say about his own country than he does about many of the worst regimes on Earth.

It is all quite disturbing, and to have to say this about an American president almost makes me sick.

In the UN speech earlier today, President Obama once again succumbed to what has become almost a clinical addiction: criticizing the United States in front of an international audience.

In the latest stop on his American Apology Tour, Obama aimed his fire at America on the issue of global warming (“the days when America dragged its feet on this issue are over”) and democracy (“in the past America has too often been selective in its promotion of democracy”). And Obama, after humbly declaring at the outset of his speech that “I am well aware of the expectations that accompany my presidency around the world . . . they are also rooted in hope—the hope that real change is possible, and the hope that America will be a leader in bringing about such change,” went on to say this:

I took office at a time when many around the world had come to view America with skepticism and distrust. Part of this was due to misperceptions and misinformation about my country. Part of this was due to opposition to specific policies, and a belief that on certain critical issues, America has acted unilaterally, without regard for the interests of others. This has fed an almost reflexive anti-Americanism, which too often has served as an excuse for our collective inaction.

Where oh where to begin? How about by pointing out that America did not act unilaterally in Iraq or anywhere else during the Bush presidency. For example, and for the record, more than 35 countries gave crucial support—from the use of naval and air bases to help with intelligence and logistics to the deployment of combat units. President Bush answered the “unilateral” charge in his 2004 State of the Union address:

Some critics have said our duties in Iraq must be internationalized. This particular criticism is hard to explain to our partners in Britain, Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Italy, Spain, Poland, Denmark, Hungary, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania, the Netherlands, Norway, El Salvador, and the 17 other countries that have committed troops to Iraq. As we debate at home, we must never ignore the vital contributions of our international partners, or dismiss their sacrifices.

Second, the United States actually did have in mind the interests of others—beginning with 25 million Iraqis—when it acted. The Iraq war, whatever you think about its wisdom and execution, was in part a war of liberation, undertaken for noble purposes: to liberate a captive people and to depose an aggressive dictator. We know about the Iraqi regime under Saddam Hussein; it was one of the most brutal and malevolent in modern history. The fact that we believed the Iraq war advanced America’s national interests doesn’t mean it was a war waged without regard for the interests of others. And for Obama to allow this misperception of America to go unchallenged—indeed, to give such a false and malicious charge legitimacy—is disturbing.

Third, in his speech the President said, “I pledge that America will always stand with those who stand up for their dignity and their rights.” Oh really? If so, then why was he so reluctant to speak out for the brave Iranians who rose up against the brutal rule of President Ahmadinejad? Because of his fear not to offend the Iranian regime, he essentially put America on its side rather than on the side of the Iranians who stood up for their dignity and rights. In addition, Obama and his secretary of state are purposefully downplaying human rights in their dealings with China—including refusing to meet with the Dalai Lama. It is no secret that Obama—in an effort to distance himself from his predecessor—has very few words, and none memorable, to say on behalf of basic human rights. He will from time to time mouth empty slogans so he can check off the “human-rights box,” but he does not give any evidence that he feels these values deep in his bones.

There is more to be said about the Obama speech—including the president’s tiresome pretense that he and he alone will lead the world out of its cul-de-sac, where “we bicker about outdated grievances.” But I cannot escape a depressing thought, one I hope is proved to be wrong over time: that Barack Obama, even though he is the leader of America, is constantly placing himself above it. His criticisms of our country are now part of a troubling routine, so much so that Obama is now winning the applause of people who genuinely hate America (like Fidel Castro, who complimented Obama for his “brave gesture” and “courage” in criticizing the United States at the UN).

Obama not only fails to strongly defend the United States; he is actually adding brush strokes to a portrait of our country that diminishes its achievements and standing. He seems unable or unwilling to speak out—in a heartfelt and passionate way—on its behalf. He is, of course, too clever not to ever say a word of praise for America; no, this sophisticated wordsmith and smooth politician, this cool customer ever in search of The Golden Mean, can speak in both text and subtext. He says just enough to deny the charge that he is not a strong defender of the country he leads. But by now we’re on to the game.

No one believes America’s history is pristine; we are all familiar with the catalogue of our own sins, beginning with slavery. Other presidents have recognized them, and a few have given voice to them. But it was done in the context of a reverence for America—for what it has been and stands for, for what it is and can be. Think of the words of George Washington, who said of America, “I was summoned by my Country, whose voice I can never hear but with veneration and love.” That is a noble sentiment from a man whose love of country knew no bounds. They are also words that I cannot imagine President Obama saying, at least with conviction. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t like his country or admire things about it; it means that he has yet to really speak out for it. And it means that he has shown, so far at least, that he is more interested in advancing his interests than in speaking on behalf of the nation that elected him. There are enough critics of America in the world; we don’t need to add America’s president to that list.

Perhaps Mr. Obama will come to understand that there is a problem when the president of the United States—an “inestimable jewel,” Lincoln called her—has harsher things to say about his own country than he does about many of the worst regimes on Earth.

It is all quite disturbing, and to have to say this about an American president almost makes me sick.

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How’s It Going?

In case that photo op had you fooled, the Middle East “peace process’ is nowhere, as this report explains:

Israelis and Palestinians said Wednesday that their envoys would meet with U.S. officials but not with each other, cementing the impression that a U.S.-sponsored meeting between their leaders had fallen flat.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said there would be no follow-up session with the Israelis because the two sides hadn’t bridged the divides that have prevented them from resuming talks.

“It’s not happening because we agreed to continue dealing with the Americans until we reach the agreement that will enable us to relaunch the negotiations,” Erekat said.

The Palestinians refuse to restart talks until Israel freezes settlement construction in territories the Palestinians claim for a future state.

By elevating the issue of settlements, Obama only played into the Palestinians’ natural inclination toward rejectionism and obstructionism. But let’s be candid: the Palestinians are in no position to make a deal—or discuss a deal. What promise could they give about terrorism? What offer of recognition would they be empowered to make? All that has happened is that the naive and self-described “impatient” U.S. president has given the Palestinians a ready-made excuse not to show up.

Meanwhile, Sen. Joe Lieberman suggests that the president refocus:

The Obama administration needs to get tougher on Iran if it wants to broker peace in the Middle East, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) said Wednesday.

The Senate Armed Services Committee member also reiterated his support for tough economic sanctions against Tehran, which he argued was the only way to show President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the United States was serious about nuclear non-proliferation.

“The original Obama administration position seemed to suggest the biggest obstacle to peace in the Middle East was the Israeli policy of building on territory [believed to be Palestinian],” Lieberman told MSNBC. “The real threat to peace in the Middle East is Iran.”

“If you look at our policy, which is a global policy, to stop the Iranians from building nuclear weapons, everything we have done thus far has failed,” Lieberman added, noting that he was preparing a bill that would levy new economic sanctions on the country. “I think the only way we’re going to stop this development… is for us to make it clear to the Iranians that if they don’t stop, they’ll suffer.”

Well, now that there’s no peace being processed, perhaps the Obama team will take him up on his fine suggestion.

In case that photo op had you fooled, the Middle East “peace process’ is nowhere, as this report explains:

Israelis and Palestinians said Wednesday that their envoys would meet with U.S. officials but not with each other, cementing the impression that a U.S.-sponsored meeting between their leaders had fallen flat.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said there would be no follow-up session with the Israelis because the two sides hadn’t bridged the divides that have prevented them from resuming talks.

“It’s not happening because we agreed to continue dealing with the Americans until we reach the agreement that will enable us to relaunch the negotiations,” Erekat said.

The Palestinians refuse to restart talks until Israel freezes settlement construction in territories the Palestinians claim for a future state.

By elevating the issue of settlements, Obama only played into the Palestinians’ natural inclination toward rejectionism and obstructionism. But let’s be candid: the Palestinians are in no position to make a deal—or discuss a deal. What promise could they give about terrorism? What offer of recognition would they be empowered to make? All that has happened is that the naive and self-described “impatient” U.S. president has given the Palestinians a ready-made excuse not to show up.

Meanwhile, Sen. Joe Lieberman suggests that the president refocus:

The Obama administration needs to get tougher on Iran if it wants to broker peace in the Middle East, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) said Wednesday.

The Senate Armed Services Committee member also reiterated his support for tough economic sanctions against Tehran, which he argued was the only way to show President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the United States was serious about nuclear non-proliferation.

“The original Obama administration position seemed to suggest the biggest obstacle to peace in the Middle East was the Israeli policy of building on territory [believed to be Palestinian],” Lieberman told MSNBC. “The real threat to peace in the Middle East is Iran.”

“If you look at our policy, which is a global policy, to stop the Iranians from building nuclear weapons, everything we have done thus far has failed,” Lieberman added, noting that he was preparing a bill that would levy new economic sanctions on the country. “I think the only way we’re going to stop this development… is for us to make it clear to the Iranians that if they don’t stop, they’ll suffer.”

Well, now that there’s no peace being processed, perhaps the Obama team will take him up on his fine suggestion.

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Re: No More Allies

Abe, there also isn’t apparently any aggression or any aggressors. What about rogue states threatening nuclear development—specifically the Iranian regime, which also speaks fondly of eradicating the Jewish state? We get this embarrassing pabulum:

In their actions to date, the governments of North Korea and Iran threaten to take us down this dangerous slope. We respect their rights as members of the community of nations. I’ve said before and I will repeat, I am committed to diplomacy that opens a path to greater prosperity and more secure peace for both nations if they live up to their obligations.

But if the governments of Iran and North Korea choose to ignore international standards; if they put the pursuit of nuclear weapons ahead of regional stability and the security and opportunity of their own people; if they are oblivious to the dangers of escalating nuclear arms races in both East Asia and the Middle East — then they must be held accountable. The world must stand together to demonstrate that international law is not an empty promise, and that treaties will be enforced. We must insist that the future does not belong to fear.

By the way, when you are held “accountable,” is that sort of an international traffic ticket—you pay a fine and go on your way? He didn’t actually say they weren’t to be allowed to succeed. Think they noticed in Tehran and Pyongyang? Yeah, I do too.

Now, in his four pillars of foreign policy, what was missing? Why, human rights and democracy, of course.

A speechwriter must have noticed because, at the end, Obama threw in a perfunctory mention that America will stand with “those who stand up for their dignity and their rights” (the caveat apparently being that Iran, Cuba, North Korea, China, Russia, and Venezuela are not among the places where anyone is standing up). But then he veers back to safe ground—moral relativism: “Democracy cannot be imposed on any nation from the outside. Each society must search for its own path, and no path is perfect.” Better throw in a nice sentence or two—not in the four-pillar section, mind you, but right before the conclusion: “There are basic principles that are universal; there are certain truths which are self-evident—and the United States of America will never waver in our efforts to stand up for the right of people everywhere to determine their own destiny.” Well, except if you’re the Dalai Lama and there’s a visit from the Chinese president coming up, or you’re an Iranian democracy protester hoping the U.S. might help, even rhetorically, to upend the Iranian regime.

The president keeps telling us he isn’t naive (funny how Ronald Reagan and even Bill Clinton didn’t have to keep compulsively telling us that). Well, maybe he’s just incredibly cynical. Or uninterested in facing the real dangers to America and its allies. In his view, they simply don’t exist.

Abe, there also isn’t apparently any aggression or any aggressors. What about rogue states threatening nuclear development—specifically the Iranian regime, which also speaks fondly of eradicating the Jewish state? We get this embarrassing pabulum:

In their actions to date, the governments of North Korea and Iran threaten to take us down this dangerous slope. We respect their rights as members of the community of nations. I’ve said before and I will repeat, I am committed to diplomacy that opens a path to greater prosperity and more secure peace for both nations if they live up to their obligations.

But if the governments of Iran and North Korea choose to ignore international standards; if they put the pursuit of nuclear weapons ahead of regional stability and the security and opportunity of their own people; if they are oblivious to the dangers of escalating nuclear arms races in both East Asia and the Middle East — then they must be held accountable. The world must stand together to demonstrate that international law is not an empty promise, and that treaties will be enforced. We must insist that the future does not belong to fear.

By the way, when you are held “accountable,” is that sort of an international traffic ticket—you pay a fine and go on your way? He didn’t actually say they weren’t to be allowed to succeed. Think they noticed in Tehran and Pyongyang? Yeah, I do too.

Now, in his four pillars of foreign policy, what was missing? Why, human rights and democracy, of course.

A speechwriter must have noticed because, at the end, Obama threw in a perfunctory mention that America will stand with “those who stand up for their dignity and their rights” (the caveat apparently being that Iran, Cuba, North Korea, China, Russia, and Venezuela are not among the places where anyone is standing up). But then he veers back to safe ground—moral relativism: “Democracy cannot be imposed on any nation from the outside. Each society must search for its own path, and no path is perfect.” Better throw in a nice sentence or two—not in the four-pillar section, mind you, but right before the conclusion: “There are basic principles that are universal; there are certain truths which are self-evident—and the United States of America will never waver in our efforts to stand up for the right of people everywhere to determine their own destiny.” Well, except if you’re the Dalai Lama and there’s a visit from the Chinese president coming up, or you’re an Iranian democracy protester hoping the U.S. might help, even rhetorically, to upend the Iranian regime.

The president keeps telling us he isn’t naive (funny how Ronald Reagan and even Bill Clinton didn’t have to keep compulsively telling us that). Well, maybe he’s just incredibly cynical. Or uninterested in facing the real dangers to America and its allies. In his view, they simply don’t exist.

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No More Allies

Barack Obama’s address to the UN General Assembly was much more than some feel-good, can’t-we-all-get-along pep rally for the multi-culti set. It was a straightforward explication of a worldview that seeks to redefine international relations along frighteningly utopian lines. It is a glimpse into the ideological stew that has produced the dangerous real-world policies toward our one-time allies that we now see unfolding everywhere, from Israel to Poland and the Czech Republic to Honduras. Obama said,

In an era when our destiny is shared, power is no longer a zero sum game. No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation. No world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed. No balance of power among nations will hold. The traditional division between nations of the south and north makes no sense in an interconnected world. Nor do alignments of nations rooted in the cleavages of a long gone Cold War.

Holding up the heaven-on-earth stuff is the logical architecture for an ally-free America. Line by line:

  • “In an era when our destiny is shared, power is no longer a zero sum game.” Ideally, there is to be no more competition among nations.
  • “No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation.” It follows that there is to be no hierarchy among nations.
  • “No world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed.” There is no exceptionalism, American or otherwise. And no nations are to play favorites. That means, among other things, the U.S. will not extend special privileges to democracies or other free societies.
  • “No balance of power among nations will hold.” With no competition, no hierarchy, and no favored-nation status, states that have found themselves in a fortunate position as the result of dated rivalries and alliances can no longer be relied upon to impose balance on a region from the outside. (Like all utopian fantasies, this is propped up by a contradiction: balance will exist, but any attempt to maintain or impose that balance will, by definition, constitute a violation of that balance.)
  • “The traditional division between nations of the south and north makes no sense in an interconnected world.” There will be no distinctions between developing and developed nations.
  • “Nor do alignments of nations rooted in the cleavages of a long gone Cold War.” An incontrovertible renunciation of our long-held alliances.

The next time some democratic leader is woken up in the middle of the night with a phone call from the U.S. State Department telling him that he’s on his own, he would do well to refer back to today’s speech as he scratches his head and tries to figure out what happened to his friends, the Americans.

Barack Obama’s address to the UN General Assembly was much more than some feel-good, can’t-we-all-get-along pep rally for the multi-culti set. It was a straightforward explication of a worldview that seeks to redefine international relations along frighteningly utopian lines. It is a glimpse into the ideological stew that has produced the dangerous real-world policies toward our one-time allies that we now see unfolding everywhere, from Israel to Poland and the Czech Republic to Honduras. Obama said,

In an era when our destiny is shared, power is no longer a zero sum game. No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation. No world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed. No balance of power among nations will hold. The traditional division between nations of the south and north makes no sense in an interconnected world. Nor do alignments of nations rooted in the cleavages of a long gone Cold War.

Holding up the heaven-on-earth stuff is the logical architecture for an ally-free America. Line by line:

  • “In an era when our destiny is shared, power is no longer a zero sum game.” Ideally, there is to be no more competition among nations.
  • “No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation.” It follows that there is to be no hierarchy among nations.
  • “No world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed.” There is no exceptionalism, American or otherwise. And no nations are to play favorites. That means, among other things, the U.S. will not extend special privileges to democracies or other free societies.
  • “No balance of power among nations will hold.” With no competition, no hierarchy, and no favored-nation status, states that have found themselves in a fortunate position as the result of dated rivalries and alliances can no longer be relied upon to impose balance on a region from the outside. (Like all utopian fantasies, this is propped up by a contradiction: balance will exist, but any attempt to maintain or impose that balance will, by definition, constitute a violation of that balance.)
  • “The traditional division between nations of the south and north makes no sense in an interconnected world.” There will be no distinctions between developing and developed nations.
  • “Nor do alignments of nations rooted in the cleavages of a long gone Cold War.” An incontrovertible renunciation of our long-held alliances.

The next time some democratic leader is woken up in the middle of the night with a phone call from the U.S. State Department telling him that he’s on his own, he would do well to refer back to today’s speech as he scratches his head and tries to figure out what happened to his friends, the Americans.

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Biden vs. McChrystal

The New York Times provides some insight into the internal discussions over the president’s apparent loss of will to follow the recommendation of the general he hired to provide a workable strategy for his stated objective: ridding Afghanistan of the Taliban. The report explains:

Although Mr. Obama has said that a stable Afghanistan is central to the security of the United States, some advisers said he was also wary of becoming trapped in an overseas quagmire. Some Pentagon officials say they worry that he is having what they called “buyer’s remorse” after ordering an extra 21,000 troops there within weeks of taking office before even settling on a strategy.

The mastermind behind an alternative approach—one without a counterinsurgency effort—appears to be Joe Biden. You recall that he earned his fame as a military strategist while devising a plan to carve up Iraq into three parts. His notion that we could avoid the need for a major troop commitment by focusing on zapping al-Qaeda cells instead has been tried, of course, in Iraq. It is what the surge replaced. He hasn’t yet, it seems, won over his colleagues:

Mrs. [Hillary] Clinton, who opposed Mr. Biden in March, appeared to refer to this debate in an interview on Monday night on PBS. “Some people say, ‘Well, Al Qaeda’s no longer in Afghanistan,’ ” she said. “If Afghanistan were taken over by the Taliban, I can’t tell you how fast Al Qaeda would be back in Afghanistan.”

But unfortunately for Biden and for those who would like to find a cheaper, easier way to win this war, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the expert Obama put in charge of the effort, is telling him this non-counterinsurgency approach won’t work. And now the president is trapped:

Representative Ike Skelton, Democrat of Missouri and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, sent Mr. Obama a six-page letter arguing the case for more troops for General McChrystal. “There is no strategy short of a properly resourced counterinsurgency campaign that is likely to provide lasting security,” he wrote.

Mr. Obama now has to reconcile past statements and policy with his current situation.

“The problem for President Obama is he has made the case in the past that we took our eye off the ball and we should have stayed in Afghanistan,” said former Defense Secretary William S. Cohen. But now that he is in charge of the war, Mr. Cohen said, Mr. Obama is discovering “he doesn’t have much in the way of options” and time is of the essence.

Mr. Cohen added, “The longer you wait, the harder it will be to reverse it.”

Unfortunately, the president can’t quite bring himself to make the call. So we wait. And it will get harder. (And if the public gets the idea that Obama is taking Biden’s advice over that of McChrystal and Gen. David Petraeus, it will get much harder.)

The New York Times provides some insight into the internal discussions over the president’s apparent loss of will to follow the recommendation of the general he hired to provide a workable strategy for his stated objective: ridding Afghanistan of the Taliban. The report explains:

Although Mr. Obama has said that a stable Afghanistan is central to the security of the United States, some advisers said he was also wary of becoming trapped in an overseas quagmire. Some Pentagon officials say they worry that he is having what they called “buyer’s remorse” after ordering an extra 21,000 troops there within weeks of taking office before even settling on a strategy.

The mastermind behind an alternative approach—one without a counterinsurgency effort—appears to be Joe Biden. You recall that he earned his fame as a military strategist while devising a plan to carve up Iraq into three parts. His notion that we could avoid the need for a major troop commitment by focusing on zapping al-Qaeda cells instead has been tried, of course, in Iraq. It is what the surge replaced. He hasn’t yet, it seems, won over his colleagues:

Mrs. [Hillary] Clinton, who opposed Mr. Biden in March, appeared to refer to this debate in an interview on Monday night on PBS. “Some people say, ‘Well, Al Qaeda’s no longer in Afghanistan,’ ” she said. “If Afghanistan were taken over by the Taliban, I can’t tell you how fast Al Qaeda would be back in Afghanistan.”

But unfortunately for Biden and for those who would like to find a cheaper, easier way to win this war, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the expert Obama put in charge of the effort, is telling him this non-counterinsurgency approach won’t work. And now the president is trapped:

Representative Ike Skelton, Democrat of Missouri and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, sent Mr. Obama a six-page letter arguing the case for more troops for General McChrystal. “There is no strategy short of a properly resourced counterinsurgency campaign that is likely to provide lasting security,” he wrote.

Mr. Obama now has to reconcile past statements and policy with his current situation.

“The problem for President Obama is he has made the case in the past that we took our eye off the ball and we should have stayed in Afghanistan,” said former Defense Secretary William S. Cohen. But now that he is in charge of the war, Mr. Cohen said, Mr. Obama is discovering “he doesn’t have much in the way of options” and time is of the essence.

Mr. Cohen added, “The longer you wait, the harder it will be to reverse it.”

Unfortunately, the president can’t quite bring himself to make the call. So we wait. And it will get harder. (And if the public gets the idea that Obama is taking Biden’s advice over that of McChrystal and Gen. David Petraeus, it will get much harder.)

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Medicare Front and Center

Medicare is fast becoming the main battleground in the health-care reform fight. There is no greater threat to ObamaCare than the rising ire of seniors who see their benefits endangered and the potential for their care worsening under the mantle of “reform.” But that is exactly what is in store for them under proposals currently under consideration.

The CBO, continuing to bedevil the White House’s effort to play fast and loose with the facts, is at it again—and this time on Medicare:

Congress’ chief budget officer is contradicting President Barack Obama’s oft-stated claim that seniors wouldn’t see their Medicare benefits cut under a health care overhaul.

The head of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, Douglas Elmendorf, told senators Tuesday that seniors in Medicare’s managed care plans would see reduced benefits under a bill in the Finance Committee.

The bill would cut payments to the Medicare Advantage plans by more than $100 billion over 10 years.

Elmendorf said the changes would reduce the extra benefits that would be made available to beneficiaries.

Meanwhile, the Senate Democrats are plotting to construct an über–Medicare board to slash care. James Capretta explains that in July the administration came up with an idea for IMAC, an Independent Medicare Advisory Commission with “sweeping powers” to make changes in Medicare. IMAC is back—on steroids—in Sen. Max Baucus’s health-care plan:

It would be required to come forward with recommendations to hit specific spending-reduction targets each year, beginning in 2015, but the kinds of changes it could recommend would be very limited. As stated in the Baucus mark, the commission could not make recommendations that would change the structure of the Medicare entitlement. Amendments that altered “cost-sharing, benefits, or eligibility” would be off-limits.

What does that leave? Price controls, of course. Inevitably, the Baucus commission would feel the same political pressures Congress does today, which means it would resort to the same kinds of arbitrary, across-the-board price cuts that are routinely adopted whenever budgetary targets must be hit. Just look at the health-care bill Sen. Baucus is pushing through his committee this week. It is filled with cuts in payment rates for hospitals, insurers, and others, as well as new industry-specific taxes. These kinds of cuts and fees make no distinctions based on quality or value; all providers are treated exactly the same, no matter how well or badly they treat their patients.

All that—as word gets out—is likely to further inflame seniors who were already souring on ObamaCare. And of course seniors are the very people who wouldn’t dream of missing a non-presidential election. Congressmen and senators who think they can slip this by without incurring the wrath of the most dependable voters in the country are kidding themselves. And so is Obama if he thinks he can sweet-talk the CBO or the public with vague rhetoric while dismantling Medicare.

Medicare is fast becoming the main battleground in the health-care reform fight. There is no greater threat to ObamaCare than the rising ire of seniors who see their benefits endangered and the potential for their care worsening under the mantle of “reform.” But that is exactly what is in store for them under proposals currently under consideration.

The CBO, continuing to bedevil the White House’s effort to play fast and loose with the facts, is at it again—and this time on Medicare:

Congress’ chief budget officer is contradicting President Barack Obama’s oft-stated claim that seniors wouldn’t see their Medicare benefits cut under a health care overhaul.

The head of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, Douglas Elmendorf, told senators Tuesday that seniors in Medicare’s managed care plans would see reduced benefits under a bill in the Finance Committee.

The bill would cut payments to the Medicare Advantage plans by more than $100 billion over 10 years.

Elmendorf said the changes would reduce the extra benefits that would be made available to beneficiaries.

Meanwhile, the Senate Democrats are plotting to construct an über–Medicare board to slash care. James Capretta explains that in July the administration came up with an idea for IMAC, an Independent Medicare Advisory Commission with “sweeping powers” to make changes in Medicare. IMAC is back—on steroids—in Sen. Max Baucus’s health-care plan:

It would be required to come forward with recommendations to hit specific spending-reduction targets each year, beginning in 2015, but the kinds of changes it could recommend would be very limited. As stated in the Baucus mark, the commission could not make recommendations that would change the structure of the Medicare entitlement. Amendments that altered “cost-sharing, benefits, or eligibility” would be off-limits.

What does that leave? Price controls, of course. Inevitably, the Baucus commission would feel the same political pressures Congress does today, which means it would resort to the same kinds of arbitrary, across-the-board price cuts that are routinely adopted whenever budgetary targets must be hit. Just look at the health-care bill Sen. Baucus is pushing through his committee this week. It is filled with cuts in payment rates for hospitals, insurers, and others, as well as new industry-specific taxes. These kinds of cuts and fees make no distinctions based on quality or value; all providers are treated exactly the same, no matter how well or badly they treat their patients.

All that—as word gets out—is likely to further inflame seniors who were already souring on ObamaCare. And of course seniors are the very people who wouldn’t dream of missing a non-presidential election. Congressmen and senators who think they can slip this by without incurring the wrath of the most dependable voters in the country are kidding themselves. And so is Obama if he thinks he can sweet-talk the CBO or the public with vague rhetoric while dismantling Medicare.

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What Existential Threat?

Eric Cantor, in a Politico interview, says Obama’s stance toward Israel does not suggest that we are “dealing with a true friend.” He takes the administration to task for “disproportionate focus” on the settlement issue and for ignoring the “existential threat” posed by Iran. Almost comically, the White House confirms the latter accusation by declaring that the way America evidences its friendship is to secure a peace deal with the Palestinians. Hmm. What about the existential-threat part? Nada.

Aside from the paucity of results and the obvious diplomatic rebuff that Rick and others have pointed to, the Obama administration’s failed gambit also strips the Obama team of one fig leaf for not directly addressing Iran’s nuclear ambitions—it was too busy assembling support for a peace deal that would, in turn, help Israel with its Iran problem. This of course was poppycock from the start. Israel’s Arab neighbors have as much interest in defanging Iran as Israel does, peace deal or no peace deal.

Given that the administration hasn’t made much progress on the peace-process front, one might conclude that the White House hasn’t been a very good “friend”—even on its own terms. So maybe now the White House will turn its attention to our friend’s main concern—the Iranian nuclear threat. Iran’s “no Israeli state” solution does seem like it should be of more immediate concern than chasing the two-state solution that is always just a conference or two away, just over the horizon.

Eric Cantor, in a Politico interview, says Obama’s stance toward Israel does not suggest that we are “dealing with a true friend.” He takes the administration to task for “disproportionate focus” on the settlement issue and for ignoring the “existential threat” posed by Iran. Almost comically, the White House confirms the latter accusation by declaring that the way America evidences its friendship is to secure a peace deal with the Palestinians. Hmm. What about the existential-threat part? Nada.

Aside from the paucity of results and the obvious diplomatic rebuff that Rick and others have pointed to, the Obama administration’s failed gambit also strips the Obama team of one fig leaf for not directly addressing Iran’s nuclear ambitions—it was too busy assembling support for a peace deal that would, in turn, help Israel with its Iran problem. This of course was poppycock from the start. Israel’s Arab neighbors have as much interest in defanging Iran as Israel does, peace deal or no peace deal.

Given that the administration hasn’t made much progress on the peace-process front, one might conclude that the White House hasn’t been a very good “friend”—even on its own terms. So maybe now the White House will turn its attention to our friend’s main concern—the Iranian nuclear threat. Iran’s “no Israeli state” solution does seem like it should be of more immediate concern than chasing the two-state solution that is always just a conference or two away, just over the horizon.

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Senate Democrats Have Reason to Worry

Time magazine provides details of the 2010 Senate races. It seems that this is not shaping up as the banner year Democrats had envisioned:

The political scandals surrounding Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and Senator Roland Burris have handicapped the Democrats’ chances of keeping Obama’s old Senate seat. Governors in Colorado and New York appointed two relative unknowns to fill Ken Salazar’s and Hillary Clinton’s shoes, respectively, both of whom left for the Cabinet. And then Ted Kennedy died, prompting a Massachusetts special election due to be held in January.

Even worse, there are at least five incumbents who are facing competitive races: Arkansas’s Blanche Lincoln, Pennsylvania’s new Democratic Senator Arlen Specter, Senate majority leader Harry Reid of Nevada, Connecticut’s Chris Dodd and Barbara Boxer, who will face off with former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina in California. Reid and Dodd have some of the worst polls in the Senate — hovering near 30% approval ratings. “Illinois, Pennsylvania, Connecticut: those will be the most expensive to defend,” says Nathan Gonzales, political editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report, which tracks congressional races. “The more money you have to spend on defense takes away from what you’re spending on offense.”

Time insists that the Democrats are still headed for a net pickup, but it doesn’t look that way if you go through the open seats. Time, for example, lists Richard Burr of North Carolina among the vulnerable Republicans, but recent polling has him up by a comfortable margin.

So what happens if the Democrats, not the Republicans, lose a couple of seats? Republicans still won’t control committees and will be badly outvoted on budget matters. But the filibuster comes back into play, albeit with little room for error, if 2010 turns out to be a backlash election against the Democrats’ one-party rule.

You understand, then, why Obama is in such a hurry to jam through whatever he can, as fast as he can. The window of opportunity may close sooner than many Democrats ever imagined.

Time magazine provides details of the 2010 Senate races. It seems that this is not shaping up as the banner year Democrats had envisioned:

The political scandals surrounding Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and Senator Roland Burris have handicapped the Democrats’ chances of keeping Obama’s old Senate seat. Governors in Colorado and New York appointed two relative unknowns to fill Ken Salazar’s and Hillary Clinton’s shoes, respectively, both of whom left for the Cabinet. And then Ted Kennedy died, prompting a Massachusetts special election due to be held in January.

Even worse, there are at least five incumbents who are facing competitive races: Arkansas’s Blanche Lincoln, Pennsylvania’s new Democratic Senator Arlen Specter, Senate majority leader Harry Reid of Nevada, Connecticut’s Chris Dodd and Barbara Boxer, who will face off with former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina in California. Reid and Dodd have some of the worst polls in the Senate — hovering near 30% approval ratings. “Illinois, Pennsylvania, Connecticut: those will be the most expensive to defend,” says Nathan Gonzales, political editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report, which tracks congressional races. “The more money you have to spend on defense takes away from what you’re spending on offense.”

Time insists that the Democrats are still headed for a net pickup, but it doesn’t look that way if you go through the open seats. Time, for example, lists Richard Burr of North Carolina among the vulnerable Republicans, but recent polling has him up by a comfortable margin.

So what happens if the Democrats, not the Republicans, lose a couple of seats? Republicans still won’t control committees and will be badly outvoted on budget matters. But the filibuster comes back into play, albeit with little room for error, if 2010 turns out to be a backlash election against the Democrats’ one-party rule.

You understand, then, why Obama is in such a hurry to jam through whatever he can, as fast as he can. The window of opportunity may close sooner than many Democrats ever imagined.

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Obama’s Cul-de-Sac

The Washington Post‘s editors notice Obama’s near humiliation in his complete failure to bully Israel and box the parties into a fixed schedule for peace talks:

The summit President Obama convened Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas fell well short of the administration’s hopes. Mr. Obama had wanted to announce agreement on the opening of talks on the creation of a Palestinian state, with a deadline of two years. He wanted to outline agreements on how those negotiations would proceed and some of the principles that would underpin them. And he expected to reveal a series of opening confidence-building measures by the two sides, including a freeze on Israeli settlement construction and steps toward normalization by several Arab states.

Actually, all he got was a photo opportunity, the Post‘s editors concede. They rightly see that the failure is indicative of the “difficulties” and the “miscalculations” the Obama team is encountering. This is the president who boldly declared his intent to put “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel and who directed American Jewish leaders to engage in some self-reflection. The Obama strategy, as many of us argued, was badly conceived and poorly executed (a familiar combination when you look at every aspect of his foreign policy—from missile defense to Honduras):

Mr. Obama and his aides assumed that Israelis and Arab governments around the region would welcome an aggressive effort by the new U.S. president to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace. As a practical matter, that hasn’t proved true. Mr. Netanyahu’s right-wing government would prefer to bolster Mr. Abbas’s government economically before beginning final peace talks; Mr. Abbas himself has been preoccupied with consolidating his own authority and gaining the upper hand over the rival Hamas movement. Their rhetoric aside, leading Arab states such as Saudi Arabia appear — like Israel — much more concerned with how the Obama administration will handle the threat of Iran.

The administration also concluded, wrongly, that obtaining an unconditional Israeli settlement freeze was an essential first step. In fact settlements are no longer a strategic obstacle to peace; as a practical matter, most of the construction is in areas that will not be part of a Palestinian state. The administration’s inflexible stance, unwisely spelled out in public by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, led to an unwinnable confrontation with Mr. Netanyahu, turned Israeli public opinion against Mr. Obama and prompted Palestinians to harden their own position. The compromise now being discussed between Washington and Jerusalem will differ little from past deals.

Who bears the responsibility for this debacle? Well, some combination of Rahm Emanuel—who thought he had Bibi and domestic Israeli politics figured out—Clinton and Mitchell devised this un-smart approach to diplomacy. But ultimately it is the president’s vision, longstanding and formed in the cocoon of Hyde Park, we are told, that is at the heart of the issue.

Obama neither understands nor is willing to state that the Jewish state’s legitimacy is built on more that Holocaust sympathy. He casts the Palestinians in the role of oppressed people, analogous to that of enslaved American blacks. He seems not to appreciate or absorb the lessons of multiple administrations and the Palestinians’ predilection for embracing victimhood and rejectionism. In short, he has adopted the Palestinian paradigm, viewing Israel in much the same way they do—occupier, bully, obstructionist. And it has led Obama, just as it has led the Palestinians time and time again, into a cul-de-sac. Peace is not coming from a photo op, but neither is it coming from the umpteenth round of “peace talks,” not until the real issues—terrorism and the refusal to recognize the Jewish state (not to mention the problem of Hamas and the unhelpful indifference of the Arab states)—are resolved.

Might the president learn from his embarrassment? Perhaps. But he’s more likely to do what seems to be his default approach to foreign policy—retreat and go on TV to talk about health-care reform.

The Washington Post‘s editors notice Obama’s near humiliation in his complete failure to bully Israel and box the parties into a fixed schedule for peace talks:

The summit President Obama convened Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas fell well short of the administration’s hopes. Mr. Obama had wanted to announce agreement on the opening of talks on the creation of a Palestinian state, with a deadline of two years. He wanted to outline agreements on how those negotiations would proceed and some of the principles that would underpin them. And he expected to reveal a series of opening confidence-building measures by the two sides, including a freeze on Israeli settlement construction and steps toward normalization by several Arab states.

Actually, all he got was a photo opportunity, the Post‘s editors concede. They rightly see that the failure is indicative of the “difficulties” and the “miscalculations” the Obama team is encountering. This is the president who boldly declared his intent to put “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel and who directed American Jewish leaders to engage in some self-reflection. The Obama strategy, as many of us argued, was badly conceived and poorly executed (a familiar combination when you look at every aspect of his foreign policy—from missile defense to Honduras):

Mr. Obama and his aides assumed that Israelis and Arab governments around the region would welcome an aggressive effort by the new U.S. president to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace. As a practical matter, that hasn’t proved true. Mr. Netanyahu’s right-wing government would prefer to bolster Mr. Abbas’s government economically before beginning final peace talks; Mr. Abbas himself has been preoccupied with consolidating his own authority and gaining the upper hand over the rival Hamas movement. Their rhetoric aside, leading Arab states such as Saudi Arabia appear — like Israel — much more concerned with how the Obama administration will handle the threat of Iran.

The administration also concluded, wrongly, that obtaining an unconditional Israeli settlement freeze was an essential first step. In fact settlements are no longer a strategic obstacle to peace; as a practical matter, most of the construction is in areas that will not be part of a Palestinian state. The administration’s inflexible stance, unwisely spelled out in public by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, led to an unwinnable confrontation with Mr. Netanyahu, turned Israeli public opinion against Mr. Obama and prompted Palestinians to harden their own position. The compromise now being discussed between Washington and Jerusalem will differ little from past deals.

Who bears the responsibility for this debacle? Well, some combination of Rahm Emanuel—who thought he had Bibi and domestic Israeli politics figured out—Clinton and Mitchell devised this un-smart approach to diplomacy. But ultimately it is the president’s vision, longstanding and formed in the cocoon of Hyde Park, we are told, that is at the heart of the issue.

Obama neither understands nor is willing to state that the Jewish state’s legitimacy is built on more that Holocaust sympathy. He casts the Palestinians in the role of oppressed people, analogous to that of enslaved American blacks. He seems not to appreciate or absorb the lessons of multiple administrations and the Palestinians’ predilection for embracing victimhood and rejectionism. In short, he has adopted the Palestinian paradigm, viewing Israel in much the same way they do—occupier, bully, obstructionist. And it has led Obama, just as it has led the Palestinians time and time again, into a cul-de-sac. Peace is not coming from a photo op, but neither is it coming from the umpteenth round of “peace talks,” not until the real issues—terrorism and the refusal to recognize the Jewish state (not to mention the problem of Hamas and the unhelpful indifference of the Arab states)—are resolved.

Might the president learn from his embarrassment? Perhaps. But he’s more likely to do what seems to be his default approach to foreign policy—retreat and go on TV to talk about health-care reform.

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Obama Finds the Threat to Our Way of Life

President Obama declared: “The security and stability of each nation and all peoples—our prosperity, our health, and our safety—are in jeopardy. . . . And the time we have to reverse this tide is running out.” Wow—a new commitment to defang Iran? Maybe a reiteration of our determination to rid Afghanistan of the Taliban threat and deal al-Qaeda a death blow? Hardly. This of course is the hyped and hysterical rhetoric he employs on the real threat as he sees it—global warming.

It is telling that only when talking about the incremental threat of small increases in global temperature caused in part (some think) by human activity that Obama gets really revved up about a threat to America. The acquisition within just a few years by Iran of nuclear weapons that could kill millions of people barely gets a rise out of him. But global warming is serious stuff.

Still, even on an issue that commands Obama’s attention, there are tell-tale signs of Obama’s feckless international modus operandi. First, everything takes a backseat to health-care reform:

During his address, the President pointed to the efforts the United States is taking to grapple with the challenges of global warming. He highlighted a bill that the House of Representatives passed in June that would put limits on greenhouse gas emissions as particularly important. The Senate—busy dealing with the health care reform debate—has only had the bill considered by one committee so far.

Carol Browner, the President’s assistant on energy and climate change, said in a briefing, “The health care has obviously taken up more time than was originally anticipated.

So that danger to the security and stability of the planet has to get in line behind ObamaCare—along with the Afghanistan-war strategy.

And when it finally comes down to doing something about the security and stability of the planet, there is far less action than one would expect, given the magnitude of the threat the president outlines. It seems that what we need to do is make sure everyone tries real hard to do what they can. As this report put it:

Several world leaders on Tuesday gave the most decisive indication in months that they will work to revive floundering negotiations aimed at securing a new international climate pact. But the vision that President Obama and others outlined at the United Nations climate summit—in which countries offered a series of individual commitments—suggests that a potential deal may look much different from what its backers originally envisioned.

The gap between rhetoric and policy isn’t unique to Obama’s approach to climate change, but it is stark. And it’s equally noteworthy that the only dangers that get Obama’s juices flowing require no military expenditure and demand no confrontation with his liberal base. But they do call for lots of taxes and government regulation. It’s a threat tailor-made for Obama.

President Obama declared: “The security and stability of each nation and all peoples—our prosperity, our health, and our safety—are in jeopardy. . . . And the time we have to reverse this tide is running out.” Wow—a new commitment to defang Iran? Maybe a reiteration of our determination to rid Afghanistan of the Taliban threat and deal al-Qaeda a death blow? Hardly. This of course is the hyped and hysterical rhetoric he employs on the real threat as he sees it—global warming.

It is telling that only when talking about the incremental threat of small increases in global temperature caused in part (some think) by human activity that Obama gets really revved up about a threat to America. The acquisition within just a few years by Iran of nuclear weapons that could kill millions of people barely gets a rise out of him. But global warming is serious stuff.

Still, even on an issue that commands Obama’s attention, there are tell-tale signs of Obama’s feckless international modus operandi. First, everything takes a backseat to health-care reform:

During his address, the President pointed to the efforts the United States is taking to grapple with the challenges of global warming. He highlighted a bill that the House of Representatives passed in June that would put limits on greenhouse gas emissions as particularly important. The Senate—busy dealing with the health care reform debate—has only had the bill considered by one committee so far.

Carol Browner, the President’s assistant on energy and climate change, said in a briefing, “The health care has obviously taken up more time than was originally anticipated.

So that danger to the security and stability of the planet has to get in line behind ObamaCare—along with the Afghanistan-war strategy.

And when it finally comes down to doing something about the security and stability of the planet, there is far less action than one would expect, given the magnitude of the threat the president outlines. It seems that what we need to do is make sure everyone tries real hard to do what they can. As this report put it:

Several world leaders on Tuesday gave the most decisive indication in months that they will work to revive floundering negotiations aimed at securing a new international climate pact. But the vision that President Obama and others outlined at the United Nations climate summit—in which countries offered a series of individual commitments—suggests that a potential deal may look much different from what its backers originally envisioned.

The gap between rhetoric and policy isn’t unique to Obama’s approach to climate change, but it is stark. And it’s equally noteworthy that the only dangers that get Obama’s juices flowing require no military expenditure and demand no confrontation with his liberal base. But they do call for lots of taxes and government regulation. It’s a threat tailor-made for Obama.

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Re: Re: Re: What Price Photo Op?

Barack Obama got his Clintonesque photo op, used it to lecture both sides with his familiar “now is the moment” rhetoric, delivered the lecture in the dyspeptic tone of someone losing patience with non-receding oceans, and held a meeting in which no agreement was reached.

George Mitchell’s press conference, held after the meeting, made it clear that the parties are not even close on procedure, much less on substance. Asked to explain where things stood, Mitchell responded as follows:

MR. MITCHELL: . . . There remain differences between the parties — how best to proceed. They have different points of view. And there will be further discussion necessary for us to try to get agreement between them on how best to proceed, how to enter negotiations in a manner that creates the most likely prospect for them to succeed.

QUESTION: Is there a renewal or not —

MR. MITCHELL: What’s that?

QUESTION: Is there a renewal of negotiations or not?

MR. MITCHELL: We are not announcing today the re-launch of negotiations at a specific date certain. We will continue our discussions in an intensive and focused way in the next few days in an effort to obtain agreement on the basis on which those negotiations will resume so that there is a reasonable prospect for success once they start.

So there is no “agreement on the basis on which those negotiations will resume”—with “further discussion” necessary to “try to get agreement.” Asked to discuss some of the differences that continue to exist, Mitchell responded:

MR. MITCHELL: . . . They relate to terms of reference — where do you begin negotiations in relation to past efforts, what subjects are going to be covered, how are they to be identified, in what order do you begin, what sequence will therefore follow, a whole — almost any imaginable issue that you could think of that affects both the process and the substance of negotiations.

With differences covering “almost any imaginable issue you could think of”—affecting both “process” and “substance”—the Obama Process, now in its eighth month, has proved only that if the president calls for a photo op, people have to attend.

But in the course of spending month after month seeking to compel Israel to agree to a Palestinian precondition that had not applied to either the Oslo Process or the Annapolis Process—a total settlement freeze that violated longstanding understandings between Israel and the United States—Obama lost the confidence of the Israeli public, strengthened the position of Netanyahu and his coalition, and helped Netanyahu create an Israeli consensus on two requirements for any two-state solution: the Palestinians must recognize one of the two states as Jewish; and any Palestinian state must be demilitarized, with arrangements that ensure Israeli security.

Instead of a peace process featuring endless Israeli concessions in the hope of producing peace, Netanyahu has now established the markers by which the process will be judged.

Barack Obama got his Clintonesque photo op, used it to lecture both sides with his familiar “now is the moment” rhetoric, delivered the lecture in the dyspeptic tone of someone losing patience with non-receding oceans, and held a meeting in which no agreement was reached.

George Mitchell’s press conference, held after the meeting, made it clear that the parties are not even close on procedure, much less on substance. Asked to explain where things stood, Mitchell responded as follows:

MR. MITCHELL: . . . There remain differences between the parties — how best to proceed. They have different points of view. And there will be further discussion necessary for us to try to get agreement between them on how best to proceed, how to enter negotiations in a manner that creates the most likely prospect for them to succeed.

QUESTION: Is there a renewal or not —

MR. MITCHELL: What’s that?

QUESTION: Is there a renewal of negotiations or not?

MR. MITCHELL: We are not announcing today the re-launch of negotiations at a specific date certain. We will continue our discussions in an intensive and focused way in the next few days in an effort to obtain agreement on the basis on which those negotiations will resume so that there is a reasonable prospect for success once they start.

So there is no “agreement on the basis on which those negotiations will resume”—with “further discussion” necessary to “try to get agreement.” Asked to discuss some of the differences that continue to exist, Mitchell responded:

MR. MITCHELL: . . . They relate to terms of reference — where do you begin negotiations in relation to past efforts, what subjects are going to be covered, how are they to be identified, in what order do you begin, what sequence will therefore follow, a whole — almost any imaginable issue that you could think of that affects both the process and the substance of negotiations.

With differences covering “almost any imaginable issue you could think of”—affecting both “process” and “substance”—the Obama Process, now in its eighth month, has proved only that if the president calls for a photo op, people have to attend.

But in the course of spending month after month seeking to compel Israel to agree to a Palestinian precondition that had not applied to either the Oslo Process or the Annapolis Process—a total settlement freeze that violated longstanding understandings between Israel and the United States—Obama lost the confidence of the Israeli public, strengthened the position of Netanyahu and his coalition, and helped Netanyahu create an Israeli consensus on two requirements for any two-state solution: the Palestinians must recognize one of the two states as Jewish; and any Palestinian state must be demilitarized, with arrangements that ensure Israeli security.

Instead of a peace process featuring endless Israeli concessions in the hope of producing peace, Netanyahu has now established the markers by which the process will be judged.

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What a Liberal Foreign Policy Looks Like

Aside from a dramatic transformation in the United States’ approach to Israel, there has been no greater departure by the Obama team than in the complete “reset” in human-rights policy. We used to have one; not so much anymore.

Michael Gerson recalls the “before” picture with regard to China:

Two Octobers ago, the Dalai Lama received the Congressional Gold Medal, one of America’s highest civilian honors, in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. Speaker Nancy Pelosi talked of a “special relationship between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the United States.” Said Sen. Mitch McConnell: “We have reached out in solidarity to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people, and the Chinese government needs to know that we will continue to do so.” President George W. Bush urged Chinese leaders “to welcome the Dalai Lama to China. They will find this good man to be a man of peace and reconciliation.”

Now Obama is giving the Dalai Lama the cold shoulder, at least until he can meet with the Chinese president. It is emblematic, Gerson argues, of a disturbing trend:

In great-power politics, morality often gets its hair mussed. Every president needs room for diplomatic maneuvering. But rebuffing the Dalai Lama is part of a pattern. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has argued that pressing China on human rights “can’t interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crisis” — a statement that left Amnesty International “shocked and extremely disappointed.” Support for Iranian democrats has been hesitant. Overtures to repressive governments in Iran, Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela, Syria and Egypt have generally ignored the struggles of dissidents and prisoners in those nations. So far, the Obama era is hardly a high point of human rights solidarity.

He concludes by asking: “What is left of foreign policy liberalism when a belief in liberty is removed?” Well, we are finding out. It is a mixture of avoidance (let’s talk about health care, not Afghanistan), appeasement (Russian sensibilities take precedence over loyal allies), misplaced idealism (rid the world of nukes—everywhere but Tehran), elevation of domestic constituencies over long-term economic and diplomatic interests (Big Labor gets its tire tariff), and brutal indifference to the suppression of human rights.

That’s how we get to the point where a “serious” Democratic foreign-policy guru is advising that we shoot down Israeli planes traveling over Iraqi airspace to knock out Iranian nuclear facilities. That’s how we get to the head-spinning reversal on missile defense—cloaked in mumbo-jumbo, new-and-improved intelligence estimates. It turns out that a liberal foreign policy without the liberty (or the will to defend liberty) is neither principled nor realistic. And without a guiding vision—say, defense of America interests and values—it devolves into a series of haphazard and inconsistent moves.

From Manuel Zelaya to the Iranian regime to Vladimir Putin the notion is taking hold that the harder America’s foes push, the more they can get away with. If events seem to be spinning out of control, they are. And the reason is directly traceable to the absence of a defined and defensible vision of American foreign policy. It turns out that, Hillary Clinton notwithstanding, America needs some ideology after all.

Aside from a dramatic transformation in the United States’ approach to Israel, there has been no greater departure by the Obama team than in the complete “reset” in human-rights policy. We used to have one; not so much anymore.

Michael Gerson recalls the “before” picture with regard to China:

Two Octobers ago, the Dalai Lama received the Congressional Gold Medal, one of America’s highest civilian honors, in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. Speaker Nancy Pelosi talked of a “special relationship between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the United States.” Said Sen. Mitch McConnell: “We have reached out in solidarity to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people, and the Chinese government needs to know that we will continue to do so.” President George W. Bush urged Chinese leaders “to welcome the Dalai Lama to China. They will find this good man to be a man of peace and reconciliation.”

Now Obama is giving the Dalai Lama the cold shoulder, at least until he can meet with the Chinese president. It is emblematic, Gerson argues, of a disturbing trend:

In great-power politics, morality often gets its hair mussed. Every president needs room for diplomatic maneuvering. But rebuffing the Dalai Lama is part of a pattern. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has argued that pressing China on human rights “can’t interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crisis” — a statement that left Amnesty International “shocked and extremely disappointed.” Support for Iranian democrats has been hesitant. Overtures to repressive governments in Iran, Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela, Syria and Egypt have generally ignored the struggles of dissidents and prisoners in those nations. So far, the Obama era is hardly a high point of human rights solidarity.

He concludes by asking: “What is left of foreign policy liberalism when a belief in liberty is removed?” Well, we are finding out. It is a mixture of avoidance (let’s talk about health care, not Afghanistan), appeasement (Russian sensibilities take precedence over loyal allies), misplaced idealism (rid the world of nukes—everywhere but Tehran), elevation of domestic constituencies over long-term economic and diplomatic interests (Big Labor gets its tire tariff), and brutal indifference to the suppression of human rights.

That’s how we get to the point where a “serious” Democratic foreign-policy guru is advising that we shoot down Israeli planes traveling over Iraqi airspace to knock out Iranian nuclear facilities. That’s how we get to the head-spinning reversal on missile defense—cloaked in mumbo-jumbo, new-and-improved intelligence estimates. It turns out that a liberal foreign policy without the liberty (or the will to defend liberty) is neither principled nor realistic. And without a guiding vision—say, defense of America interests and values—it devolves into a series of haphazard and inconsistent moves.

From Manuel Zelaya to the Iranian regime to Vladimir Putin the notion is taking hold that the harder America’s foes push, the more they can get away with. If events seem to be spinning out of control, they are. And the reason is directly traceable to the absence of a defined and defensible vision of American foreign policy. It turns out that, Hillary Clinton notwithstanding, America needs some ideology after all.

Read Less

What Comes from Meddling

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors explain the Honduras fiasco. After the legislature, supreme court, and military moved to block Manuel Zelaya’s unconstitutional power grab, the Obama team went to work:

Every major Honduran institution supported the move [to oust Zelaya], even members in Congress of his own political party, the Catholic Church and the country’s human rights ombudsman. To avoid violence the Honduran military escorted Mr. Zelaya out of the country. In other words, his removal from office was legal and constitutional, though his ejection from the country gave the false appearance of an old-fashioned Latin American coup.

The U.S. has since come down solidly on the side of—Mr. Zelaya. While it has supported negotiations and called for calm, President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have both insisted that Honduras must ignore Mr. Zelaya’s transgressions and their own legal processes and restore him as president. The U.S. has gone so far as to cut off aid, threaten Honduran assets in the U.S. and pull visas to enter the U.S. from the independent judiciary. The U.S. has even threatened not to recognize presidential elections previously scheduled for November unless Mr. Zelaya is first brought back to power—even though he couldn’t run again.

An emboldened Zelaya of course seized the opportunity presented—which was almost too good to be true—by the American government’s bizarre indifference to the country’s public opinion and constitution. The U.S. exerted a full-court diplomatic press, cut off aid, and insisted that Zelaya return to power. The result is predictable:

This remarkable diplomatic pressure against a small Central American ally has only reinforced Mr. Zelaya’s refusal to compromise short of a return to the presidency, with all of the instability and potential for violence that could involve. It also probably encouraged him to gamble on returning to Honduras on Monday, figuring even that provocation won’t endanger U.S. support. And so far it hasn’t.

Now that he is back, Mr. Zelaya and his allies aren’t calling for calm. His supporters have flocked to Brazil’s embassy with cinder blocks, sticks and Molotov cocktails. “The fatherland, restitution or death,” he shouted to demonstrators outside the embassy. In anticipation of trouble and with concern for public safety, President Roberto Micheletti announced a curfew. But when police tried to enforce the curfew, the zelayistas resisted and there is now a Honduran standoff.

One can only marvel at the series of missteps and the unending display of hubris by the Obama not-very-smart diplomats, who have had ample opportunity to crawl back from the diplomatic limb where they now are perched. Why they have not done so remains a mystery. And given that they have made hash of our relations with a democratic friend, encouraged Zelaya and his patron Hugo Chavez, and pushed the country to the brink of civil war—what now? Maybe they should adopt the administration’s Iran playbook—say as little as possible and don’t interfere.

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors explain the Honduras fiasco. After the legislature, supreme court, and military moved to block Manuel Zelaya’s unconstitutional power grab, the Obama team went to work:

Every major Honduran institution supported the move [to oust Zelaya], even members in Congress of his own political party, the Catholic Church and the country’s human rights ombudsman. To avoid violence the Honduran military escorted Mr. Zelaya out of the country. In other words, his removal from office was legal and constitutional, though his ejection from the country gave the false appearance of an old-fashioned Latin American coup.

The U.S. has since come down solidly on the side of—Mr. Zelaya. While it has supported negotiations and called for calm, President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have both insisted that Honduras must ignore Mr. Zelaya’s transgressions and their own legal processes and restore him as president. The U.S. has gone so far as to cut off aid, threaten Honduran assets in the U.S. and pull visas to enter the U.S. from the independent judiciary. The U.S. has even threatened not to recognize presidential elections previously scheduled for November unless Mr. Zelaya is first brought back to power—even though he couldn’t run again.

An emboldened Zelaya of course seized the opportunity presented—which was almost too good to be true—by the American government’s bizarre indifference to the country’s public opinion and constitution. The U.S. exerted a full-court diplomatic press, cut off aid, and insisted that Zelaya return to power. The result is predictable:

This remarkable diplomatic pressure against a small Central American ally has only reinforced Mr. Zelaya’s refusal to compromise short of a return to the presidency, with all of the instability and potential for violence that could involve. It also probably encouraged him to gamble on returning to Honduras on Monday, figuring even that provocation won’t endanger U.S. support. And so far it hasn’t.

Now that he is back, Mr. Zelaya and his allies aren’t calling for calm. His supporters have flocked to Brazil’s embassy with cinder blocks, sticks and Molotov cocktails. “The fatherland, restitution or death,” he shouted to demonstrators outside the embassy. In anticipation of trouble and with concern for public safety, President Roberto Micheletti announced a curfew. But when police tried to enforce the curfew, the zelayistas resisted and there is now a Honduran standoff.

One can only marvel at the series of missteps and the unending display of hubris by the Obama not-very-smart diplomats, who have had ample opportunity to crawl back from the diplomatic limb where they now are perched. Why they have not done so remains a mystery. And given that they have made hash of our relations with a democratic friend, encouraged Zelaya and his patron Hugo Chavez, and pushed the country to the brink of civil war—what now? Maybe they should adopt the administration’s Iran playbook—say as little as possible and don’t interfere.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

George Mitchell says the Middle East negotiations were never about a settlement freeze. Really? Well, he sure spent a lot of time and credibility on it.

Interesting that Obama is “impatient” on Middle East peace progress. Isn’t he “impatient” with Iran’s stalling on meaningful nuclear talks? With Syria’s refusal to stem the tide of terrorists entering Iraq to kill Americans? He never gives the slightest indication on either, if he is.

Politicizing the Justice Department and now the National Endowment for the Arts: “An August 10, 2009 National Endowment for the Arts conference call in which artists were asked to help support President Obama’s agenda — a call that at least one good government group called ‘inappropriate’ — has prompted the White House to issue new guidelines to prevent such a call from ever happening again.” But the NEA chief spins that the call “was not a means to promote any legislative agenda and any suggestions to that end are simply false. Rather, the call was to inform members of the arts community of an opportunity to become involved in volunteerism.” Well, volunteer to push Obama’s agenda.

Independent voters are abandoning Obama in droves.

Mark Helprin: “The new American diplomacy is nothing more than a sentimental flood of unilateral concessions—not least, after some minor Putinesque sabre rattling, to Russia. Canceling the missile deployment within NATO, which Dmitry Rogozin, the Russian ambassador to that body, characterizes as ‘the Americans . . . simply correcting their own mistake, and we are not duty bound to pay someone for putting their own mistakes right,’ is to grant Russia a veto over sovereign defensive measures—exactly the opposite of American resolve during the Euro Missile Crisis of 1983, the last and definitive battle of the Cold War.”

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer reaches out to Republicans for a bipartisan health-care deal, while Speaker Nancy Pelosi stiffs the Blue Dogs, pushing the bill to the Left. Maybe Hoyer and Pelosi should chat.

Hoyer also wants Gen. Stanley McChrystal to testify, an idea that no doubt gives Pelosi and Obama heartburn. Obama plainly would prefer that the entire subject go away so he can get back to health-care reform.

Chris Christie leads Gov. Jon Corzine by 7 in the latest Rasmussen poll, essentially unchanged from last month’s poll.

George Mitchell says the Middle East negotiations were never about a settlement freeze. Really? Well, he sure spent a lot of time and credibility on it.

Interesting that Obama is “impatient” on Middle East peace progress. Isn’t he “impatient” with Iran’s stalling on meaningful nuclear talks? With Syria’s refusal to stem the tide of terrorists entering Iraq to kill Americans? He never gives the slightest indication on either, if he is.

Politicizing the Justice Department and now the National Endowment for the Arts: “An August 10, 2009 National Endowment for the Arts conference call in which artists were asked to help support President Obama’s agenda — a call that at least one good government group called ‘inappropriate’ — has prompted the White House to issue new guidelines to prevent such a call from ever happening again.” But the NEA chief spins that the call “was not a means to promote any legislative agenda and any suggestions to that end are simply false. Rather, the call was to inform members of the arts community of an opportunity to become involved in volunteerism.” Well, volunteer to push Obama’s agenda.

Independent voters are abandoning Obama in droves.

Mark Helprin: “The new American diplomacy is nothing more than a sentimental flood of unilateral concessions—not least, after some minor Putinesque sabre rattling, to Russia. Canceling the missile deployment within NATO, which Dmitry Rogozin, the Russian ambassador to that body, characterizes as ‘the Americans . . . simply correcting their own mistake, and we are not duty bound to pay someone for putting their own mistakes right,’ is to grant Russia a veto over sovereign defensive measures—exactly the opposite of American resolve during the Euro Missile Crisis of 1983, the last and definitive battle of the Cold War.”

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer reaches out to Republicans for a bipartisan health-care deal, while Speaker Nancy Pelosi stiffs the Blue Dogs, pushing the bill to the Left. Maybe Hoyer and Pelosi should chat.

Hoyer also wants Gen. Stanley McChrystal to testify, an idea that no doubt gives Pelosi and Obama heartburn. Obama plainly would prefer that the entire subject go away so he can get back to health-care reform.

Chris Christie leads Gov. Jon Corzine by 7 in the latest Rasmussen poll, essentially unchanged from last month’s poll.

Read Less




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