Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 15, 2009

Re: A Stampede!

Sen. Thad Cochran has been in touch with J Street and has asked that his name be removed as well. Sen. Cochran has a strong pro-Israel record and we are informed that he had accepted an invitation from a group representing itself as “pro-Israel.” Upon reviewing the group’s positions and the event, he has decided against any participation.

Sen. Thad Cochran has been in touch with J Street and has asked that his name be removed as well. Sen. Cochran has a strong pro-Israel record and we are informed that he had accepted an invitation from a group representing itself as “pro-Israel.” Upon reviewing the group’s positions and the event, he has decided against any participation.

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Obamaism in Virginia

A story from Bloomberg News on the problems Democrats face in Virginia includes these two sentences:

National headwinds on health care and voter anxiety over new spending programs are playing a role in Virginia, said Senator Mark Warner, a former Democratic governor of the state. The climate in Washington is “making it harder in places like Virginia,” Warner said. “The challenge is also that the presidential-year electorate often looks different than the gubernatorial-year electorate.”

This echoes a statement made a few weeks ago by Creigh Deeds, who said, “Frankly, a lot of what’s going on in Washington has made it very tough. We had a very tough August because people were just uncomfortable with the spending; they were uncomfortable with a lot of what was going on, a lot of the noise that was coming out of Washington, D.C.” But this critique holds greater weight when uttered by Senator Warner. It’s more evidence — as if any was needed — that Obamaism is hurting Democrats and helping Republicans around the nation, even in bellwether states like Virginia.

A story from Bloomberg News on the problems Democrats face in Virginia includes these two sentences:

National headwinds on health care and voter anxiety over new spending programs are playing a role in Virginia, said Senator Mark Warner, a former Democratic governor of the state. The climate in Washington is “making it harder in places like Virginia,” Warner said. “The challenge is also that the presidential-year electorate often looks different than the gubernatorial-year electorate.”

This echoes a statement made a few weeks ago by Creigh Deeds, who said, “Frankly, a lot of what’s going on in Washington has made it very tough. We had a very tough August because people were just uncomfortable with the spending; they were uncomfortable with a lot of what was going on, a lot of the noise that was coming out of Washington, D.C.” But this critique holds greater weight when uttered by Senator Warner. It’s more evidence — as if any was needed — that Obamaism is hurting Democrats and helping Republicans around the nation, even in bellwether states like Virginia.

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Over the Spell?

Another revealing poll is out suggesting that Obama hasn’t yet turned the corner on health care or revived his own political popularity. The Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll shows Obama’s approval at 49 percent, down a point from last month. Independents disapprove by a 46 to 41 percent margin. By a 50 to 42 percent margin, voters disapprove of his handling of health care. Independents disapprove on this issue by a 53 to 36 percent margin.

Congress gets only a 24 percent approval, down 3 points from the last poll. That’s better than the UN, which gets a 35 percent approval. By a 42 to 38 percent margin, Americans say they’d rather vote for Republicans for Congress to check Obama than for Democrats to push his agenda through.

Most shocking, perhaps, is that if the 2012 election were held today, 43 percent would vote for Obama, and 48 percent for someone else. Sixty-four percent of the voters think we are more divided than we were last year. Forty percent think the federal government should be working on creating jobs, but only 13 percent think it should be involved in health care. Sixty-five percent think Obama didn’t deserve the Nobel Peace Prize.

All in all, there isn’t much good news for the president. It seems as though Americans are largely over his spell and are starting to evaluate him on what he is doing. So far, they aren’t all that impressed.

Another revealing poll is out suggesting that Obama hasn’t yet turned the corner on health care or revived his own political popularity. The Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll shows Obama’s approval at 49 percent, down a point from last month. Independents disapprove by a 46 to 41 percent margin. By a 50 to 42 percent margin, voters disapprove of his handling of health care. Independents disapprove on this issue by a 53 to 36 percent margin.

Congress gets only a 24 percent approval, down 3 points from the last poll. That’s better than the UN, which gets a 35 percent approval. By a 42 to 38 percent margin, Americans say they’d rather vote for Republicans for Congress to check Obama than for Democrats to push his agenda through.

Most shocking, perhaps, is that if the 2012 election were held today, 43 percent would vote for Obama, and 48 percent for someone else. Sixty-four percent of the voters think we are more divided than we were last year. Forty percent think the federal government should be working on creating jobs, but only 13 percent think it should be involved in health care. Sixty-five percent think Obama didn’t deserve the Nobel Peace Prize.

All in all, there isn’t much good news for the president. It seems as though Americans are largely over his spell and are starting to evaluate him on what he is doing. So far, they aren’t all that impressed.

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I Know You Are but What Am I?

A must-watch video on the risible hypocrisy of MSNBC’s Chris Matthews. It comes to us courtesy of Mary Katharine Ham at the Weekly Standard.

A must-watch video on the risible hypocrisy of MSNBC’s Chris Matthews. It comes to us courtesy of Mary Katharine Ham at the Weekly Standard.

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Critics of ObamaCare Didn’t Invent Nazi Analogies

Over at New York magazine’s Daily Intel blog, Peter Keating is wondering why the full force of organized American Jewry hasn’t been deployed to demonize critics of the Obama administration.

Keating lists a few instances in which right-wing critics of Obama and especially of his plans to change America’s health-care system compared the president to Hitler and his programs to Nazism. Such comparisons are, of course, not merely over-the-top insults but also vile. Say what you will about the faults of ObamaCare as well as the absurd cult of personality that has grown around the president, but neither he nor his party can or should be compared to the Nazis. Obama is a preening puffed-up poseur who is in love with himself and is pioneering some very bad ideas, but he is no totalitarian. Nor is he a mass-murderer like Hitler. Any comparison between the two or between liberal Democrats and Nazis in general says everything about the people who make such comparisons and nothing about Obama. The simple rule for rational politics is that anyone who invokes Hitler loses the debate as well the respect of right-thinking citizens.

The promiscuous use of the word Holocaust to describe anything bad has gotten out of hand. (I knew we were in trouble several years ago when an episode of the X-Files had one of the heroes saying that a mysterious happening in a lake that killed amphibians was a “frog holocaust.”) Indeed, Keating notes that a Democratic member of Congress recently decried our current system of health care as a “Holocaust in America.”

But what liberal polemicists like Keating and other members of the Obama cheerleading squad want from Jewish groups aren’t merely news releases or the usual attempts at education and outreach in response to such offenses. What they desire is a full-court press of the entire organized Jewish world, whose aim should be to take down Obama’s critics and effectively tar all such dissenters from our Nobel-laureate leader’s plans with the brush of extremism, if not anti-Semitism. The goal is to intimidate all those who take the name of Obama in vain, not just people who foolishly circulate goofy e-mails about his place of birth or religion.

But if Jewish groups — which are, contrary to the myths propagated by the anti-Israel Left, mostly populated by mainstream liberals and not conservatives — are reluctant to do so, they have good reason.

The most obvious reason is that, although liberals say with outrage that criticism against the president entailing the use of Nazi analogies is something new, it isn’t. In fact, for the entire eight years of the administration of George W. Bush, such invective was commonplace. There is virtually nothing nasty put about by the nuts on the Right about Obama that wasn’t already spewed by the Left about Bush and Cheney. Liberals pretend there is something particularly dangerous about right-wingers getting up at town-hall meetings and ranting about the expanding powers of the federal government. But what exactly is the difference between such persons and many antiwar protesters who often used intemperate and insulting rhetoric against Bush all the while displaying contempt for the right of others to free speech?

Liberals chose not to notice the excesses of Code Pink provocateurs or the nonsense spouted by the Moveon.org crowd when the latter was portraying Bush and Cheney as totalitarians extinguishing the flame of American liberty. But when right-wingers behave badly, it isn’t merely a case of protesters losing perspective but the thin edge of a new wave of racism and anti-Semitism. (The irony that the demonization of the state of Israel is primarily a left-wing phenomenon is lost on those who make such accusations.)

Keating is right when he says that “injecting Hitler analogies into subjects like Medicare reimbursement rates renders the Holocaust mundane, as though Nazis simply supported big government, rather than genocide.” But that was just as true when liberals were trying to compare Bush’s successful counterterrorism tactics against al-Qaeda and other Islamists to those of Hitler’s Gestapo. Both sides of the political divide are guilty at times of hypocritically judging their opponents more harshly than their allies. While Jewish groups have an obligation to hold those who employ Holocaust analogies accountable, they would do well to stay out of the sort of partisan crossfire into which Obama’s foot soldiers would like to fling them.

Over at New York magazine’s Daily Intel blog, Peter Keating is wondering why the full force of organized American Jewry hasn’t been deployed to demonize critics of the Obama administration.

Keating lists a few instances in which right-wing critics of Obama and especially of his plans to change America’s health-care system compared the president to Hitler and his programs to Nazism. Such comparisons are, of course, not merely over-the-top insults but also vile. Say what you will about the faults of ObamaCare as well as the absurd cult of personality that has grown around the president, but neither he nor his party can or should be compared to the Nazis. Obama is a preening puffed-up poseur who is in love with himself and is pioneering some very bad ideas, but he is no totalitarian. Nor is he a mass-murderer like Hitler. Any comparison between the two or between liberal Democrats and Nazis in general says everything about the people who make such comparisons and nothing about Obama. The simple rule for rational politics is that anyone who invokes Hitler loses the debate as well the respect of right-thinking citizens.

The promiscuous use of the word Holocaust to describe anything bad has gotten out of hand. (I knew we were in trouble several years ago when an episode of the X-Files had one of the heroes saying that a mysterious happening in a lake that killed amphibians was a “frog holocaust.”) Indeed, Keating notes that a Democratic member of Congress recently decried our current system of health care as a “Holocaust in America.”

But what liberal polemicists like Keating and other members of the Obama cheerleading squad want from Jewish groups aren’t merely news releases or the usual attempts at education and outreach in response to such offenses. What they desire is a full-court press of the entire organized Jewish world, whose aim should be to take down Obama’s critics and effectively tar all such dissenters from our Nobel-laureate leader’s plans with the brush of extremism, if not anti-Semitism. The goal is to intimidate all those who take the name of Obama in vain, not just people who foolishly circulate goofy e-mails about his place of birth or religion.

But if Jewish groups — which are, contrary to the myths propagated by the anti-Israel Left, mostly populated by mainstream liberals and not conservatives — are reluctant to do so, they have good reason.

The most obvious reason is that, although liberals say with outrage that criticism against the president entailing the use of Nazi analogies is something new, it isn’t. In fact, for the entire eight years of the administration of George W. Bush, such invective was commonplace. There is virtually nothing nasty put about by the nuts on the Right about Obama that wasn’t already spewed by the Left about Bush and Cheney. Liberals pretend there is something particularly dangerous about right-wingers getting up at town-hall meetings and ranting about the expanding powers of the federal government. But what exactly is the difference between such persons and many antiwar protesters who often used intemperate and insulting rhetoric against Bush all the while displaying contempt for the right of others to free speech?

Liberals chose not to notice the excesses of Code Pink provocateurs or the nonsense spouted by the Moveon.org crowd when the latter was portraying Bush and Cheney as totalitarians extinguishing the flame of American liberty. But when right-wingers behave badly, it isn’t merely a case of protesters losing perspective but the thin edge of a new wave of racism and anti-Semitism. (The irony that the demonization of the state of Israel is primarily a left-wing phenomenon is lost on those who make such accusations.)

Keating is right when he says that “injecting Hitler analogies into subjects like Medicare reimbursement rates renders the Holocaust mundane, as though Nazis simply supported big government, rather than genocide.” But that was just as true when liberals were trying to compare Bush’s successful counterterrorism tactics against al-Qaeda and other Islamists to those of Hitler’s Gestapo. Both sides of the political divide are guilty at times of hypocritically judging their opponents more harshly than their allies. While Jewish groups have an obligation to hold those who employ Holocaust analogies accountable, they would do well to stay out of the sort of partisan crossfire into which Obama’s foot soldiers would like to fling them.

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Obama’s Diplomacy Dilemma

Earlier today Jen highlighted a Washington Post story, which reports this:

After nine months of shuttle diplomacy by U.S. special envoy George J. Mitchell, the gap between Israeli and Palestinian leaders appears to have grown, and it now includes not only a dispute over Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank, but also renewed tension over Jerusalem, disagreement over the framework for the talks and controversy over a UN report on alleged war crimes during Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip last winter.

This report about events on the ground merits comparison to Joe Klein’s column in Time, in which he lays out his thoughts on how President Obama could earn his Nobel Peace Prize. (Even Klein admits he didn’t deserve it yet on the merits.) While acknowledging that Mitchell’s efforts seem to be “slouching toward catatonia,” Klein writes:

An opportunity for a grand gesture may be developing in the most unlikely of locales: the Middle East. . . . The moment may be at hand for a dramatic U.S. initiative, even from a no-drama President. “The two sides seem unable to make peace on their own,” says Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser. “I think it would make a lot of sense for the President to announce what he thinks a Middle East peace plan should look like.” The elements of such a plan are widely known. Bill Clinton announced a version of it in December 2000, as he was leaving office. Brzezinski cites four major components: a return to 1967 borders, with land swaps enabling Israel to keep many of its existing settlements; no right of return for Palestinians who left, or were forced off, their lands when Israel became a state; Jerusalem as the capital of both Israel and Palestine; and an international peacekeeping force replacing the Israelis currently patrolling the Jordan River Valley.

I have gone on at length before about Klein’s geopolitical and national-security record and the quality of his analysis. Let’s just say he was once a fine reporter on urban issues. (Bill Clinton did announce his version of a Middle East peace in December 2000. The Israelis met almost every conceivable Palestinian demand — and in response the Palestinians declared a second intifada against Israel.)

But what of Zbigniew Brzezinski, one of the architects of the many and sundry Carter calamities? I could go on at length about those, too, but perhaps it’s sufficient to draw attention to a memorandum from Brzezinski to President Carter on the topic of “Islamic Fundamentalism.” Here (found on page 564/Appendix II of Brzezinski’s paperback volume Power and Principle) is what he wrote on February 2, 1979:

The conclusion from several studies done in the intelligence community is that we should be careful not to overgeneralize from the Iranian case [the overthrow of the Shah and the ascent to power of Ayatollah Khomeini]. Islamic revivalist movements are not sweeping the Middle East and are not likely to be the wave of the future. The foreign policy consequences of this strengthening of Islamic sentiment are mixed. It is more difficult to resolve the Arab-Israeli disputes; moreover, conservative Muslims are often xenophobic. If we emphasize moral as well as material values, our support for diversity, and a commitment to social justice, our dialogue with the Muslim world will be helped.

The Iranian revolution, of course, ranks with the French Revolution in terms of its reach and influence, one of the few revolutions that actually deserves the name. And the consequences of that revolution have been harmful for America, for the Muslim world, and for civilization itself.

Apparently Dr. Brzezinski’s strategic insights and foresight were as good then as they are now.

Earlier today Jen highlighted a Washington Post story, which reports this:

After nine months of shuttle diplomacy by U.S. special envoy George J. Mitchell, the gap between Israeli and Palestinian leaders appears to have grown, and it now includes not only a dispute over Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank, but also renewed tension over Jerusalem, disagreement over the framework for the talks and controversy over a UN report on alleged war crimes during Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip last winter.

This report about events on the ground merits comparison to Joe Klein’s column in Time, in which he lays out his thoughts on how President Obama could earn his Nobel Peace Prize. (Even Klein admits he didn’t deserve it yet on the merits.) While acknowledging that Mitchell’s efforts seem to be “slouching toward catatonia,” Klein writes:

An opportunity for a grand gesture may be developing in the most unlikely of locales: the Middle East. . . . The moment may be at hand for a dramatic U.S. initiative, even from a no-drama President. “The two sides seem unable to make peace on their own,” says Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser. “I think it would make a lot of sense for the President to announce what he thinks a Middle East peace plan should look like.” The elements of such a plan are widely known. Bill Clinton announced a version of it in December 2000, as he was leaving office. Brzezinski cites four major components: a return to 1967 borders, with land swaps enabling Israel to keep many of its existing settlements; no right of return for Palestinians who left, or were forced off, their lands when Israel became a state; Jerusalem as the capital of both Israel and Palestine; and an international peacekeeping force replacing the Israelis currently patrolling the Jordan River Valley.

I have gone on at length before about Klein’s geopolitical and national-security record and the quality of his analysis. Let’s just say he was once a fine reporter on urban issues. (Bill Clinton did announce his version of a Middle East peace in December 2000. The Israelis met almost every conceivable Palestinian demand — and in response the Palestinians declared a second intifada against Israel.)

But what of Zbigniew Brzezinski, one of the architects of the many and sundry Carter calamities? I could go on at length about those, too, but perhaps it’s sufficient to draw attention to a memorandum from Brzezinski to President Carter on the topic of “Islamic Fundamentalism.” Here (found on page 564/Appendix II of Brzezinski’s paperback volume Power and Principle) is what he wrote on February 2, 1979:

The conclusion from several studies done in the intelligence community is that we should be careful not to overgeneralize from the Iranian case [the overthrow of the Shah and the ascent to power of Ayatollah Khomeini]. Islamic revivalist movements are not sweeping the Middle East and are not likely to be the wave of the future. The foreign policy consequences of this strengthening of Islamic sentiment are mixed. It is more difficult to resolve the Arab-Israeli disputes; moreover, conservative Muslims are often xenophobic. If we emphasize moral as well as material values, our support for diversity, and a commitment to social justice, our dialogue with the Muslim world will be helped.

The Iranian revolution, of course, ranks with the French Revolution in terms of its reach and influence, one of the few revolutions that actually deserves the name. And the consequences of that revolution have been harmful for America, for the Muslim world, and for civilization itself.

Apparently Dr. Brzezinski’s strategic insights and foresight were as good then as they are now.

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A Stampede!

Rep. Mike Castle is not the only lawmaker to run from the J Street conference. Ben Smith reports that New York Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer are also bugging out. But not Rep. Robert Wexler — the new head of Center for Middle East Peace & Economic Cooperation. (Wexler was one of the prime vouchers for Obama’s pro-Israel credentials, so he will be continuing his apologist duties there.)

What about the other sponsors and headliners? Does, for example, Sen. Dianne Feinstein want to be associated with the group that couldn’t bring itself to support the mildest bill for sanctions on Iran? If New York’s two senators have fled, I imagine others will be certain to follow.

Rep. Mike Castle is not the only lawmaker to run from the J Street conference. Ben Smith reports that New York Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer are also bugging out. But not Rep. Robert Wexler — the new head of Center for Middle East Peace & Economic Cooperation. (Wexler was one of the prime vouchers for Obama’s pro-Israel credentials, so he will be continuing his apologist duties there.)

What about the other sponsors and headliners? Does, for example, Sen. Dianne Feinstein want to be associated with the group that couldn’t bring itself to support the mildest bill for sanctions on Iran? If New York’s two senators have fled, I imagine others will be certain to follow.

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Libeling Limbaugh

Tony Harnden has an excellent column that appears in the Telegraph on the effort to smear Rush Limbaugh. Even for the Left, this is quite extraordinary. It’s not simply a matter of taking quotes out of context; it’s a matter of making up quotes out of whole cloth to cast Limbaugh as a racist — and then placing those quotes on Wikipedia, considered the gospel truth, and spreading them on the Internet and various television news outlets.

This behavior needs to be criticized in the strongest possible terms — including, and maybe even especially, by Limbaugh critics. If people want to take on Limbaugh on the merits, that is one thing; but to engage in libel is quite another. For Limbaugh’s critics to have to resort to this calumny is evidence, I think, of how fearful the Left is of Limbaugh and how much they want to destroy him. It is a consuming hatred.

It won’t work, of course. Rush has proved quite able to defend himself over the years and prosper even amid attacks. But the deeper point is that the truth is under assault — and that, in the Internet age, anyone can be a target. That’s why people should speak up now rather than take joy in the slander.

The media figures who spread these false charges owe Limbaugh a clarification and an apology. And the rest of us should take note of the tactics employed. It’s ugly now — and as the Left loses power, it will get uglier still.

Tony Harnden has an excellent column that appears in the Telegraph on the effort to smear Rush Limbaugh. Even for the Left, this is quite extraordinary. It’s not simply a matter of taking quotes out of context; it’s a matter of making up quotes out of whole cloth to cast Limbaugh as a racist — and then placing those quotes on Wikipedia, considered the gospel truth, and spreading them on the Internet and various television news outlets.

This behavior needs to be criticized in the strongest possible terms — including, and maybe even especially, by Limbaugh critics. If people want to take on Limbaugh on the merits, that is one thing; but to engage in libel is quite another. For Limbaugh’s critics to have to resort to this calumny is evidence, I think, of how fearful the Left is of Limbaugh and how much they want to destroy him. It is a consuming hatred.

It won’t work, of course. Rush has proved quite able to defend himself over the years and prosper even amid attacks. But the deeper point is that the truth is under assault — and that, in the Internet age, anyone can be a target. That’s why people should speak up now rather than take joy in the slander.

The media figures who spread these false charges owe Limbaugh a clarification and an apology. And the rest of us should take note of the tactics employed. It’s ugly now — and as the Left loses power, it will get uglier still.

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The Pelosi Democrats

Gary Andres wonders whether Nancy Pelosi will become Newt Gingrich. No, not the Gingrich who generates ideas at a furious rate and has a knack for organizing large numbers of conservatives behind basic principles. Andres has in mind the Gingrich who become a bogeyman for the opposition to shoot at: “In the end, the intensity of feeling against Speaker Gingrich helped raise money and energize the Democratic base enough that it made a difference in some swing districts — particularly in the context of an off-year election where interest and turnout tend to be lower.”

As Andres notes, the National Republican Congressional Committee is trying to goad conservative Democrats into confirming that they will vote to make Pelosi Speaker in the next Congress. But that’s hardly necessary. Pelosi herself has already bound conservatives and moderates to her left-wing agenda. She devised the non-stimulus bill and made them all vote for it. She forced a vote on cap-and-trade and made many moderate and conservative members walk the plank. And she’ll try it again on health care. It is painfully obvious that despite members’ personal views, they are foot soldiers in Pelosi’s ultra-liberal revolution.

If that agenda does not sit well with voters (especially those in districts that favored George W. Bush in 2004 or John McCain in 2008), then many Pelosi Democrats will go down in defeat. We are far from the election, and much can change. But if unemployment is still high, our debt is still piling up, and Pelosi forces her members to vote for more extreme legislation, it’s a good bet that her caucus will shrink substantially. Those who remain might, as Gingrich’s Republicans did, then be looking for a change in leadership.

Gary Andres wonders whether Nancy Pelosi will become Newt Gingrich. No, not the Gingrich who generates ideas at a furious rate and has a knack for organizing large numbers of conservatives behind basic principles. Andres has in mind the Gingrich who become a bogeyman for the opposition to shoot at: “In the end, the intensity of feeling against Speaker Gingrich helped raise money and energize the Democratic base enough that it made a difference in some swing districts — particularly in the context of an off-year election where interest and turnout tend to be lower.”

As Andres notes, the National Republican Congressional Committee is trying to goad conservative Democrats into confirming that they will vote to make Pelosi Speaker in the next Congress. But that’s hardly necessary. Pelosi herself has already bound conservatives and moderates to her left-wing agenda. She devised the non-stimulus bill and made them all vote for it. She forced a vote on cap-and-trade and made many moderate and conservative members walk the plank. And she’ll try it again on health care. It is painfully obvious that despite members’ personal views, they are foot soldiers in Pelosi’s ultra-liberal revolution.

If that agenda does not sit well with voters (especially those in districts that favored George W. Bush in 2004 or John McCain in 2008), then many Pelosi Democrats will go down in defeat. We are far from the election, and much can change. But if unemployment is still high, our debt is still piling up, and Pelosi forces her members to vote for more extreme legislation, it’s a good bet that her caucus will shrink substantially. Those who remain might, as Gingrich’s Republicans did, then be looking for a change in leadership.

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Re: The Seminar Presidency

I wanted to pick up on your post, Jen, regarding the national-security process being used by the Obama White House. The administration seems quite proud of its process, even though the results so far range from uncertain to bad. Now why might that be? Perhaps because there is a certain cast of mind that places more importance on process than on the decision itself. But, of course, the outcome of a decision matters most of all. I should add that I’m all in favor of a careful, thorough process, which can help a leader arrive at a wise decision. But an orderly process can also lead to wrong decisions, and a right decision can sometimes emerge from a less-than-orderly process. The acid test is results.

What often happens is that when a decision is judged to have been wise, people revise history to make the process look different than it was. For example, in her most recent Wall Street Journal column, Peggy Noonan wrote, “Before the surge in Iraq, we had the Petraeus hearings, which were nothing if not informative, and helped form consensus.”

Of course, the Petraeus hearings came in September 2007, after the surge was decided and had commenced — and for months after the Petraeus hearing, Democrats were still insisting the war was lost. As a friend of mine pointed out to me, when things turn out well, commentators often go back and airbrush history so that the process fits the outcome. If the outcome is good — say, Operation Desert Storm or the surge — then, over time, the process is assumed to have been smooth and seamless. And if the outcome is bad — say, the early years after Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) — then the process is made to look chaotic.

Outcomes even play havoc with people’s memories. So, for example, Operation Desert Storm is now thought by many people to have been a war that enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support, while Operation Iraqi Freedom is assumed to have enjoyed only partisan backing. In fact, the reality is almost the opposite. The 1991 Senate vote approving Operation Desert Storm was 52 to 47 and came down to the wire; the 2003 Senate vote approving OIF was 77 to 23, with far more Democrats supporting that war than opposing it.

In the David Ignatius column Jen links to, Ignatius also quotes an Obama adviser as saying: “We don’t get marching orders from the president. He wants a debate. . . . We take the competing views and collapse them toward the middle.”

But this assumes that the “collapse them toward the middle” approach will, almost like the laws of physics, lead to the right outcome. Yet here’s how such an approach often works in practice: Some people (like the commanding general in Afghanistan) might argue we should pursue a counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan that will require 40,000 or more additional troops. Others believe we should withdraw most of our combat troops and pursue a strictly counterterrorism strategy. So the answer must lie at the Golden Mean between these two positions. Or take Iraq: Before the surge, some people argued for it; others argued that we should essentially abandon Iraq, since the war was unwinnable. The “collapse them toward the middle” approach led to the Iraq Study Group (chaired by James Baker and Lee Hamilton). But if the Bush administration had followed the consensus approach, which was embodied in the study group’s report, it would have led to failure in Iraq. And if President Obama chooses the Biden approach instead of the McChrystal approach, it will lead to failure in Afghanistan.

Sometimes — in fact, much of the time — the “third way” is a road to failure. Consensus opinions are often wrong; in Ignatius’s column, for example, he writes that the “collapse them toward the middle” process produced a consensus on Iran and missile defense — which, as I argue here, have been, so far, failures.

In the first volume of his brilliant memoirs, The White House Years, Henry Kissinger writes this:

Before I served as a consultant to [President] Kennedy, I had believed, like most academicians, that the process of decision-making was largely intellectual and that all one had to do was to walk into the President’s office and convince him of the correctness of one’s views. This perspective I soon realized is as dangerously immature as it is widely held. . . . Almost all his callers are supplicants or advocates, and most of their cases are extremely plausible — which is what got them into the Oval Office in the first place. As a result, one of the President’s most difficult tasks is to choose among endless arguments that sound equally convincing. The easy decisions do not come to him; they are taken care of at lower levels.

Earlier, Kissinger writes:

The complexity of modern government makes large bureaucracies essential; but the need for innovation also creates the imperative to define purposes that go beyond administrative norms. Ultimately there is no purely organizational answer; it is above all a problem of leadership. . . . Statesmanship requires above all a sense of nuance and proportion, the ability to perceive the essential among a mass of apparent facts, and an intuition as to which of many equally plausible hypotheses about the future is likely to prove true.

That is a sophisticated, thoughtful account of how decisions ought to be made. And most of the time, taking an assortment of competing views and collapsing them toward the middle is not.

I wanted to pick up on your post, Jen, regarding the national-security process being used by the Obama White House. The administration seems quite proud of its process, even though the results so far range from uncertain to bad. Now why might that be? Perhaps because there is a certain cast of mind that places more importance on process than on the decision itself. But, of course, the outcome of a decision matters most of all. I should add that I’m all in favor of a careful, thorough process, which can help a leader arrive at a wise decision. But an orderly process can also lead to wrong decisions, and a right decision can sometimes emerge from a less-than-orderly process. The acid test is results.

What often happens is that when a decision is judged to have been wise, people revise history to make the process look different than it was. For example, in her most recent Wall Street Journal column, Peggy Noonan wrote, “Before the surge in Iraq, we had the Petraeus hearings, which were nothing if not informative, and helped form consensus.”

Of course, the Petraeus hearings came in September 2007, after the surge was decided and had commenced — and for months after the Petraeus hearing, Democrats were still insisting the war was lost. As a friend of mine pointed out to me, when things turn out well, commentators often go back and airbrush history so that the process fits the outcome. If the outcome is good — say, Operation Desert Storm or the surge — then, over time, the process is assumed to have been smooth and seamless. And if the outcome is bad — say, the early years after Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) — then the process is made to look chaotic.

Outcomes even play havoc with people’s memories. So, for example, Operation Desert Storm is now thought by many people to have been a war that enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support, while Operation Iraqi Freedom is assumed to have enjoyed only partisan backing. In fact, the reality is almost the opposite. The 1991 Senate vote approving Operation Desert Storm was 52 to 47 and came down to the wire; the 2003 Senate vote approving OIF was 77 to 23, with far more Democrats supporting that war than opposing it.

In the David Ignatius column Jen links to, Ignatius also quotes an Obama adviser as saying: “We don’t get marching orders from the president. He wants a debate. . . . We take the competing views and collapse them toward the middle.”

But this assumes that the “collapse them toward the middle” approach will, almost like the laws of physics, lead to the right outcome. Yet here’s how such an approach often works in practice: Some people (like the commanding general in Afghanistan) might argue we should pursue a counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan that will require 40,000 or more additional troops. Others believe we should withdraw most of our combat troops and pursue a strictly counterterrorism strategy. So the answer must lie at the Golden Mean between these two positions. Or take Iraq: Before the surge, some people argued for it; others argued that we should essentially abandon Iraq, since the war was unwinnable. The “collapse them toward the middle” approach led to the Iraq Study Group (chaired by James Baker and Lee Hamilton). But if the Bush administration had followed the consensus approach, which was embodied in the study group’s report, it would have led to failure in Iraq. And if President Obama chooses the Biden approach instead of the McChrystal approach, it will lead to failure in Afghanistan.

Sometimes — in fact, much of the time — the “third way” is a road to failure. Consensus opinions are often wrong; in Ignatius’s column, for example, he writes that the “collapse them toward the middle” process produced a consensus on Iran and missile defense — which, as I argue here, have been, so far, failures.

In the first volume of his brilliant memoirs, The White House Years, Henry Kissinger writes this:

Before I served as a consultant to [President] Kennedy, I had believed, like most academicians, that the process of decision-making was largely intellectual and that all one had to do was to walk into the President’s office and convince him of the correctness of one’s views. This perspective I soon realized is as dangerously immature as it is widely held. . . . Almost all his callers are supplicants or advocates, and most of their cases are extremely plausible — which is what got them into the Oval Office in the first place. As a result, one of the President’s most difficult tasks is to choose among endless arguments that sound equally convincing. The easy decisions do not come to him; they are taken care of at lower levels.

Earlier, Kissinger writes:

The complexity of modern government makes large bureaucracies essential; but the need for innovation also creates the imperative to define purposes that go beyond administrative norms. Ultimately there is no purely organizational answer; it is above all a problem of leadership. . . . Statesmanship requires above all a sense of nuance and proportion, the ability to perceive the essential among a mass of apparent facts, and an intuition as to which of many equally plausible hypotheses about the future is likely to prove true.

That is a sophisticated, thoughtful account of how decisions ought to be made. And most of the time, taking an assortment of competing views and collapsing them toward the middle is not.

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Havel: Obama’s “Minor Compromises” Can Lead to Danger

New York Times reporter Alison Smale confided to her readers today that the purpose of an interview she conducted with Vaclav Havel was for a piece on the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, in which the famous dissident playwright helped overthrow the puppet government of the Soviets in Prague. But, she writes, before he would speak about that or the current state of affairs in Europe, Havel had a question for her: “Was it true that President Obama had refused to meet the Dalai Lama in Washington?”

The Obama administration has placed concern for human rights on the back burner as it pursues engagement with antidemocratic regimes around the globe. But as a man who spent time in prison for speaking out against tyranny in his own country before becoming the first president of a free post–Cold War Czech Republic, Havel does not see human rights as a minor concern. Indeed, as Smale notes, the Dalai Lama was among the first visitors to Prague Castle (the site of the government) after Havel took office; in fact, he has a picture of the Tibetan exile in his current office.

Smale says that she told Havel, who claims to have been a fan of the American president, that Obama has announced that he would meet the Dalai Lama after a visit to China next month. But Havel was not impressed. “It is only a minor compromise. But exactly with these minor compromises start the big and dangerous ones, the real problems.”

Indeed, Havel said he resented the non-reception of the Tibetan even more than Obama’s betrayal of our Czech and Polish allies by bowing to the Russians’ demands and backing off on installing missile-defense systems there. Perhaps this keen observer of both the human condition and the realities of power politics seems to understand that such actions show that beneath Obama’s pose of moral superiority lies merely a shallow desire for applause, as well as a lack of resolve and principle.

As Havel rightly supposes, there is something profoundly troubling about a leader who is willing to slight moral heroes such as the Dalai Lama as well as staunch allies such as the Czechs and the Israelis while kowtowing to autocrats in Moscow and Beijing. At a moment in time when flattery of Barack Obama’s colossal vanity seems to be the height of fashion in Europe, Vaclav Havel’s contrarian instincts have served him well in pointing out our current idol’s feet of clay.

New York Times reporter Alison Smale confided to her readers today that the purpose of an interview she conducted with Vaclav Havel was for a piece on the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, in which the famous dissident playwright helped overthrow the puppet government of the Soviets in Prague. But, she writes, before he would speak about that or the current state of affairs in Europe, Havel had a question for her: “Was it true that President Obama had refused to meet the Dalai Lama in Washington?”

The Obama administration has placed concern for human rights on the back burner as it pursues engagement with antidemocratic regimes around the globe. But as a man who spent time in prison for speaking out against tyranny in his own country before becoming the first president of a free post–Cold War Czech Republic, Havel does not see human rights as a minor concern. Indeed, as Smale notes, the Dalai Lama was among the first visitors to Prague Castle (the site of the government) after Havel took office; in fact, he has a picture of the Tibetan exile in his current office.

Smale says that she told Havel, who claims to have been a fan of the American president, that Obama has announced that he would meet the Dalai Lama after a visit to China next month. But Havel was not impressed. “It is only a minor compromise. But exactly with these minor compromises start the big and dangerous ones, the real problems.”

Indeed, Havel said he resented the non-reception of the Tibetan even more than Obama’s betrayal of our Czech and Polish allies by bowing to the Russians’ demands and backing off on installing missile-defense systems there. Perhaps this keen observer of both the human condition and the realities of power politics seems to understand that such actions show that beneath Obama’s pose of moral superiority lies merely a shallow desire for applause, as well as a lack of resolve and principle.

As Havel rightly supposes, there is something profoundly troubling about a leader who is willing to slight moral heroes such as the Dalai Lama as well as staunch allies such as the Czechs and the Israelis while kowtowing to autocrats in Moscow and Beijing. At a moment in time when flattery of Barack Obama’s colossal vanity seems to be the height of fashion in Europe, Vaclav Havel’s contrarian instincts have served him well in pointing out our current idol’s feet of clay.

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Can Honduras Survive Obama’s Meddling?

This report suggests that a deal is closer than ever to end the crisis in Honduras. But there is one wrinkle: “The central issue of whether [ousted President Manuel] Zelaya would return to the presidency still seemed unresolved.” Well, that’s sort of the whole fight, isn’t it?

But what is clear is that the U.S. is now desperate to find a way out of the jam it helped create. As the report notes:

To reach a deal, all sides would need to save face. If Mr. Zelaya were to come back to power, analysts say, it would be under very limited circumstances, as most Honduran institutions and the political class believe the army was right to remove Mr. Zelaya. . . . Resolving the crisis would be welcome not only in Central America but in Washington, too. The U.S. has put pressure on the interim government to allow the democratically elected Mr. Zelaya to return, even though the leftist is a fierce critic of Washington and a close ally of Venezuela’s populist Hugo Chávez.

So if “most Honduran institutions and the political class” think the army was right, what’s the U.S. doing on the other side? Odd that we are throwing our muscle around in a democratic country while also meekly accepting the results of Iran’s June 12 election theft. And it’s still odder that we have thrown ourselves in the path of the upcoming Honduran elections, demanding the return of the man whose ouster met with the approval of the majority of Hondurans.

It’s quite similar to the Middle East comedy of errors, which has, if anything, driven the parties further apart. But alas, in the Middle East and in Honduras, no one is laughing. They might instead be praying that the Obama administration will learn something from the disastrous results brought about by its bullying behavior. Really, all this cowboy diplomacy needs to come to an end.

This report suggests that a deal is closer than ever to end the crisis in Honduras. But there is one wrinkle: “The central issue of whether [ousted President Manuel] Zelaya would return to the presidency still seemed unresolved.” Well, that’s sort of the whole fight, isn’t it?

But what is clear is that the U.S. is now desperate to find a way out of the jam it helped create. As the report notes:

To reach a deal, all sides would need to save face. If Mr. Zelaya were to come back to power, analysts say, it would be under very limited circumstances, as most Honduran institutions and the political class believe the army was right to remove Mr. Zelaya. . . . Resolving the crisis would be welcome not only in Central America but in Washington, too. The U.S. has put pressure on the interim government to allow the democratically elected Mr. Zelaya to return, even though the leftist is a fierce critic of Washington and a close ally of Venezuela’s populist Hugo Chávez.

So if “most Honduran institutions and the political class” think the army was right, what’s the U.S. doing on the other side? Odd that we are throwing our muscle around in a democratic country while also meekly accepting the results of Iran’s June 12 election theft. And it’s still odder that we have thrown ourselves in the path of the upcoming Honduran elections, demanding the return of the man whose ouster met with the approval of the majority of Hondurans.

It’s quite similar to the Middle East comedy of errors, which has, if anything, driven the parties further apart. But alas, in the Middle East and in Honduras, no one is laughing. They might instead be praying that the Obama administration will learn something from the disastrous results brought about by its bullying behavior. Really, all this cowboy diplomacy needs to come to an end.

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Khamenei: Dead or Alive?

So is the Supreme Leader dead or not?

Ali Alfoneh weighs in as we wait to learn whether this is fact or fantasy, and reminds us that things could be even worse now:

The passing of Khamenei would represent a seismic shift in the Islamic Republic’s power equations. With no successor-designate, Khamenei’s death would unleash a huge power struggle.

Alfoneh discusses several possibilities and, you’ll be shocked, none preludes to a gentler, kinder Iran.

The death of a leader does occasionally ensure that history changes course — but dictatorships crumble in such circumstances only because their entire power structure is predicated on the charisma of the leader and the loyalty of his lieutenants. Modern authoritarian and totalitarian regimes, by contrast, even in their weirdest manifestations (such as North Korea and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq), have more staying power than the leaders themselves.

Khamenei’s death still needs to be ascertained — though in the long term, it’s in the pocket! It’s much less likely, though, that it alone could be a game changer for the better.

So is the Supreme Leader dead or not?

Ali Alfoneh weighs in as we wait to learn whether this is fact or fantasy, and reminds us that things could be even worse now:

The passing of Khamenei would represent a seismic shift in the Islamic Republic’s power equations. With no successor-designate, Khamenei’s death would unleash a huge power struggle.

Alfoneh discusses several possibilities and, you’ll be shocked, none preludes to a gentler, kinder Iran.

The death of a leader does occasionally ensure that history changes course — but dictatorships crumble in such circumstances only because their entire power structure is predicated on the charisma of the leader and the loyalty of his lieutenants. Modern authoritarian and totalitarian regimes, by contrast, even in their weirdest manifestations (such as North Korea and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq), have more staying power than the leaders themselves.

Khamenei’s death still needs to be ascertained — though in the long term, it’s in the pocket! It’s much less likely, though, that it alone could be a game changer for the better.

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Gates vs. Biden

ABC News has an encouraging report that the president is nearing a decision on Afghanistan. Even more encouraging is confirmation that Secretary of Defense Gates is backing the McChrystal approach:

It would be hard to argue that there is anyone with a more influential voice in this process of deliberating troop increases and strategy than Defense Secretary Bob Gates. President Obama deeply respects him, and as the civilian authority at the Pentagon his opinion resonates not only with civilians but the military. In short, it would be awfully hard for the president to go against the advice of his secretary of defense and his military commanders.  There is no bigger one-two punch than the military and civilian power at the Pentagon.

While Gates has not said flat out that he is supporting McChrystal’s request for additional troops he appears to be leaving a trail of breadcrumbs that lead to that conclusion.

Now if Gates does back McChrystal and Obama accepts that recommendation, what then? Well, as the most visible proponent of  “Not-McChrystal” war strategy, Joe Biden would be, well, humiliated. Arianna Huffington suggests he should resign if that occurs. Oh, gosh. Savor that for a moment. But that’s not happening. (And a good thing indeed for late-night comics and bloggers in search of humorous material.) Still, it would be one more indication that perhaps the worst personnel decision Obama ever made was selecting Biden. Exactly what value has he added? Maybe he’ll make the president (if he rejects Biden’s counsel) look wise — and that’s a critical function for any vice president.

ABC News has an encouraging report that the president is nearing a decision on Afghanistan. Even more encouraging is confirmation that Secretary of Defense Gates is backing the McChrystal approach:

It would be hard to argue that there is anyone with a more influential voice in this process of deliberating troop increases and strategy than Defense Secretary Bob Gates. President Obama deeply respects him, and as the civilian authority at the Pentagon his opinion resonates not only with civilians but the military. In short, it would be awfully hard for the president to go against the advice of his secretary of defense and his military commanders.  There is no bigger one-two punch than the military and civilian power at the Pentagon.

While Gates has not said flat out that he is supporting McChrystal’s request for additional troops he appears to be leaving a trail of breadcrumbs that lead to that conclusion.

Now if Gates does back McChrystal and Obama accepts that recommendation, what then? Well, as the most visible proponent of  “Not-McChrystal” war strategy, Joe Biden would be, well, humiliated. Arianna Huffington suggests he should resign if that occurs. Oh, gosh. Savor that for a moment. But that’s not happening. (And a good thing indeed for late-night comics and bloggers in search of humorous material.) Still, it would be one more indication that perhaps the worst personnel decision Obama ever made was selecting Biden. Exactly what value has he added? Maybe he’ll make the president (if he rejects Biden’s counsel) look wise — and that’s a critical function for any vice president.

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Big Labor Takes It on the Chin

Fresh from backing General McChrystal’s counterinsurgency strategy, California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein is now giving the shove off to Big Labor on card check. While it’s been back-burnered during the health-care debate, card check (or some variation thereon) is not dead yet. And, in fact, one can imagine the push to rack up “accomplishments” in 2010 before the congressional elections (and to endear members of Congress to their organized-labor patrons) may encourage Democratic lawmakers to come up with a compromise plan.

Feinstein, however, doesn’t seem very interested, according to this report:

While President Barack Obama and a majority of Senate Democrats are behind the Employee Free Choice Act, Feinstein isn’t. After she scored a perfect 100 rating from the AFL-CIO last year, many union activists are scratching their heads, wondering why Feinstein has parted ways with them on their signature issue. Without Feinstein’s backing, bill supporters fear they may not be able to get the 60 votes necessary to overcome procedural hurdles in the Senate. Although the state’s senior senator has backed similar legislation in the past, she’s sticking to her guns. She said she didn’t co-sponsor the bill this year because it wouldn’t make sense to pass it during a recession.

Feinstein nevertheless leaves the door open to some compromise measure (“I would hope there is some way to find common ground that would be agreeable to both business and labor”), so there is still more mischief to be done. Big Labor hasn’t really gotten much for their hundreds of billions in campaign donations that helped elect Obama and a Democratic Congress. If they aren’t going to get card check, and if health-care reform becomes a loser for their members (whose Cadillac health-care plans are the ones to be taxed), the most influential liberal special-interest group may turn out to be not so influential after all.

Fresh from backing General McChrystal’s counterinsurgency strategy, California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein is now giving the shove off to Big Labor on card check. While it’s been back-burnered during the health-care debate, card check (or some variation thereon) is not dead yet. And, in fact, one can imagine the push to rack up “accomplishments” in 2010 before the congressional elections (and to endear members of Congress to their organized-labor patrons) may encourage Democratic lawmakers to come up with a compromise plan.

Feinstein, however, doesn’t seem very interested, according to this report:

While President Barack Obama and a majority of Senate Democrats are behind the Employee Free Choice Act, Feinstein isn’t. After she scored a perfect 100 rating from the AFL-CIO last year, many union activists are scratching their heads, wondering why Feinstein has parted ways with them on their signature issue. Without Feinstein’s backing, bill supporters fear they may not be able to get the 60 votes necessary to overcome procedural hurdles in the Senate. Although the state’s senior senator has backed similar legislation in the past, she’s sticking to her guns. She said she didn’t co-sponsor the bill this year because it wouldn’t make sense to pass it during a recession.

Feinstein nevertheless leaves the door open to some compromise measure (“I would hope there is some way to find common ground that would be agreeable to both business and labor”), so there is still more mischief to be done. Big Labor hasn’t really gotten much for their hundreds of billions in campaign donations that helped elect Obama and a Democratic Congress. If they aren’t going to get card check, and if health-care reform becomes a loser for their members (whose Cadillac health-care plans are the ones to be taxed), the most influential liberal special-interest group may turn out to be not so influential after all.

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Tom Wolfe, Call Your Office

An “artist” (apologies, but quote marks don’t come in 72-pt. type) by the name of Ottmar Hörl (yeah, like I named him) has peppered the township of Straubing in Bavaria with gnomes. You know, those plastic humanoid thingees that populate front lawns and J.R.R. Tolkien novels.

Only these are special gnomes. Unlike your typical Home Depot variety, these gnomes deliver the Nazi salute.

What, you never had these in your garden? Philistine . . .

Professor Hörl, of the Nuremberg Academy of Fine Arts, tested the waters this year by displaying a 16in (40cm) golden gnome in similar pose at a local art gallery. The public prosecutor was quick to act after receiving complaints, but Professor Hörl mounted a sterling defence. “In 1942 it would have been the Nazis massacring me because of this piece of art,” he said. “I am presenting the master race as garden gnomes and that falls into any sensible definition of satire.”

(Your laugh here.)

Lucas Cranach Jr. Jr. has been spared jail time. But the Telegraph article does go on to note the alarming trend of treating Hitler and his merry band of genocidal maniacs as objects of kitschy fun. Well, I guess to gnome is to hate ‘em . . .

(Get it? Gnome, as in “know ‘em”? It’s, it’s like a pun . . . oh forget it . . .)

An “artist” (apologies, but quote marks don’t come in 72-pt. type) by the name of Ottmar Hörl (yeah, like I named him) has peppered the township of Straubing in Bavaria with gnomes. You know, those plastic humanoid thingees that populate front lawns and J.R.R. Tolkien novels.

Only these are special gnomes. Unlike your typical Home Depot variety, these gnomes deliver the Nazi salute.

What, you never had these in your garden? Philistine . . .

Professor Hörl, of the Nuremberg Academy of Fine Arts, tested the waters this year by displaying a 16in (40cm) golden gnome in similar pose at a local art gallery. The public prosecutor was quick to act after receiving complaints, but Professor Hörl mounted a sterling defence. “In 1942 it would have been the Nazis massacring me because of this piece of art,” he said. “I am presenting the master race as garden gnomes and that falls into any sensible definition of satire.”

(Your laugh here.)

Lucas Cranach Jr. Jr. has been spared jail time. But the Telegraph article does go on to note the alarming trend of treating Hitler and his merry band of genocidal maniacs as objects of kitschy fun. Well, I guess to gnome is to hate ‘em . . .

(Get it? Gnome, as in “know ‘em”? It’s, it’s like a pun . . . oh forget it . . .)

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The Limits of War from Afar

Eli Lake reports:

A key al Qaeda military planner thought dead by the United States and Pakistan gave an interview this week to a Pakistani reporter, illustrating the uncertainties of a military strategy based on air strikes by unmanned drones. Major U.S. news media reported that Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri was killed Sept. 7 by a predator drone strike, quoting U.S. and Pakistani intelligence officials. But some of those officials are reassessing their judgment after a man identified as Kashmiri gave an interview to the Asia Times.

This, as Lake points out, illustrates one more problem with the sort of remote, high-tech war that General Joe Biden would like to wage — “attacks on al Qaeda leaders can lead to false confidence that targets have been killed.” As the military experts whom Lake interviews attest, “If we can’t measure the success that we are supposedly having with drone strikes, it calls into question strategies that rely almost exclusively on drone strikes in our war against terrorism.” And to boot, al-Qaeda is now using Kashmiri’s survival in its propaganda effort showing how ineffective drone strikes are.

The president is not unaware of the limitations of war by drone. It was he who said during the campaign, “We’ve got to get the job done there and that requires us to have enough troops so that we’re not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous pressure over there.” The military would take issue with that characterization, but back when Afghanistan was the “good war,” Obama seemed to grasp that you couldn’t fight the war from afar.

The limitations of drone warfare, coupled with the very real danger to Pakistan posed by the Taliban, suggest that the light-footprint strategy of surgical strikes on al-Qaeda is not the answer. Well, it might appeal to the White House seminar set, but if we are interested in preventing the collapse of Afghanistan and Pakistan, it’s not going to cut it.

Eli Lake reports:

A key al Qaeda military planner thought dead by the United States and Pakistan gave an interview this week to a Pakistani reporter, illustrating the uncertainties of a military strategy based on air strikes by unmanned drones. Major U.S. news media reported that Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri was killed Sept. 7 by a predator drone strike, quoting U.S. and Pakistani intelligence officials. But some of those officials are reassessing their judgment after a man identified as Kashmiri gave an interview to the Asia Times.

This, as Lake points out, illustrates one more problem with the sort of remote, high-tech war that General Joe Biden would like to wage — “attacks on al Qaeda leaders can lead to false confidence that targets have been killed.” As the military experts whom Lake interviews attest, “If we can’t measure the success that we are supposedly having with drone strikes, it calls into question strategies that rely almost exclusively on drone strikes in our war against terrorism.” And to boot, al-Qaeda is now using Kashmiri’s survival in its propaganda effort showing how ineffective drone strikes are.

The president is not unaware of the limitations of war by drone. It was he who said during the campaign, “We’ve got to get the job done there and that requires us to have enough troops so that we’re not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous pressure over there.” The military would take issue with that characterization, but back when Afghanistan was the “good war,” Obama seemed to grasp that you couldn’t fight the war from afar.

The limitations of drone warfare, coupled with the very real danger to Pakistan posed by the Taliban, suggest that the light-footprint strategy of surgical strikes on al-Qaeda is not the answer. Well, it might appeal to the White House seminar set, but if we are interested in preventing the collapse of Afghanistan and Pakistan, it’s not going to cut it.

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Paging Ned Ludd: Destroy My TV

This is the sort of thing to make you think that the only thing to do with your television set is to pulverize it with a mallet. The CW, the mini-network that brings you such elevated fare as Gossip Girl and The Vampire Diaries, is preparing a new series based on a classic American tale with, as they say, a twist. As Variety tells it:

“The March Sisters” [is] described as “Little Women” meets “Sex and the City,” about working-class siblings who try to make it on Park Avenue.

This is the sort of thing to make you think that the only thing to do with your television set is to pulverize it with a mallet. The CW, the mini-network that brings you such elevated fare as Gossip Girl and The Vampire Diaries, is preparing a new series based on a classic American tale with, as they say, a twist. As Variety tells it:

“The March Sisters” [is] described as “Little Women” meets “Sex and the City,” about working-class siblings who try to make it on Park Avenue.

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Going After Medicare

Now that the Baucus bill has gotten through the Finance Committee, more attention is being paid to what’s in it. (Yes, in an ideal world it would have been the other way around.) And special focus is now centering on the cuts in Medicare Advantage. As the Washington Post explains, the program “has proven popular among younger, active seniors who had managed-care plans as workers, and about a quarter of Medicare’s 45 million beneficiaries are enrolled.” But ObamaCare is going after it. And that could be a problem for seniors who, along with the rest of us, were promised that their coverage wouldn’t change. Oh, but it will if ObamaCare passes and $100B is sucked out of the program over the next decade.

The ramifications aren’t hard to figure out:

In a health-care debate defined by big numbers and confusing details, the prospect of losing benefits such as a free gym membership through the Silver Sneakers program is tangible, and it has spooked some seniors, who are the nation’s most reliable voters and have been most skeptical about reform.

And herein lies the core problem of the Baucus bill. Its revenue neutrality is based on politically noxious provisions. Taxes on middle-class voters. Medicare cuts for politically active seniors. You get the idea. Each time lawmakers attempt to fix these problems by putting back money that Baucus has cut, or by reducing taxes or fines he has levied, the “not a dime to the deficit” promise takes a hit.

Can Congress come up with a palatable bill that isn’t a budget buster? That’s what they’ve been trying to do since January. And we haven’t gotten there yet.

Now that the Baucus bill has gotten through the Finance Committee, more attention is being paid to what’s in it. (Yes, in an ideal world it would have been the other way around.) And special focus is now centering on the cuts in Medicare Advantage. As the Washington Post explains, the program “has proven popular among younger, active seniors who had managed-care plans as workers, and about a quarter of Medicare’s 45 million beneficiaries are enrolled.” But ObamaCare is going after it. And that could be a problem for seniors who, along with the rest of us, were promised that their coverage wouldn’t change. Oh, but it will if ObamaCare passes and $100B is sucked out of the program over the next decade.

The ramifications aren’t hard to figure out:

In a health-care debate defined by big numbers and confusing details, the prospect of losing benefits such as a free gym membership through the Silver Sneakers program is tangible, and it has spooked some seniors, who are the nation’s most reliable voters and have been most skeptical about reform.

And herein lies the core problem of the Baucus bill. Its revenue neutrality is based on politically noxious provisions. Taxes on middle-class voters. Medicare cuts for politically active seniors. You get the idea. Each time lawmakers attempt to fix these problems by putting back money that Baucus has cut, or by reducing taxes or fines he has levied, the “not a dime to the deficit” promise takes a hit.

Can Congress come up with a palatable bill that isn’t a budget buster? That’s what they’ve been trying to do since January. And we haven’t gotten there yet.

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The Least

Rick Klein of ABC’s the Note has an amusing list of the 10 least-powerful people in Washington, D.C. He went through the trouble of finding actual people who are well known but utterly irrelevant, although D.C. voters made the list, too. But plainly, there are other least-powerful people (some of whose identities we don’t know) whose powerlessness is very relevant.

Let’s start with whoever said in the campaign (there had to be someone, right?) that “Joe Biden is going to be much more trouble than he’s worth.” That person didn’t carry the day, and now the administration lives with the endless gaffes and idiotic advice on Afghanistan. If only the Biden alerter had had more clout.

Then there was the White House adviser (again, we imagine there was such a person) who said, “All these TV appearances seem a bit much. Let’s not let the president get overexposed.” Well, that aide too got run over, and now, only nine months into his presidency, Obama’s aura is frayed and the people have tuned him out.

Now no “least powerful” list would be complete without Hillary Clinton. She’s forced to give “I am so” (as in, “I am relevant!”) interviews and smile her way through query after query about what influence she actually has in this administration. And what’s worse, she, as Abe pointed out, is forced to go out to say the most preposterous things in a lame effort to disguise just how hapless this administration’s foreign policy is.

And maybe the most-important “least powerful” person is CIA Director Leon Panetta. He’s been repeatedly run over by the netroot- Eric Holder bus. CIA-interrogation memos were released, his employees were subjected to a special prosecutor’s investigation (to plow through claims already dismissed by career prosecutors), and his agency was stripped of responsibility for interrogating high-value terrorists. The Justice Department and its clutch of Left-leaning lawyers have reigned supreme. The intelligence community has been trounced. And Panetta’s reported threats to resign have proved empty.

So you see, the least-powerful people can have a big impact. And if they play their cards right, they’ll all have lucrative book deals to explain how, if they’d only been listened to, things would have turned out so much better.

Rick Klein of ABC’s the Note has an amusing list of the 10 least-powerful people in Washington, D.C. He went through the trouble of finding actual people who are well known but utterly irrelevant, although D.C. voters made the list, too. But plainly, there are other least-powerful people (some of whose identities we don’t know) whose powerlessness is very relevant.

Let’s start with whoever said in the campaign (there had to be someone, right?) that “Joe Biden is going to be much more trouble than he’s worth.” That person didn’t carry the day, and now the administration lives with the endless gaffes and idiotic advice on Afghanistan. If only the Biden alerter had had more clout.

Then there was the White House adviser (again, we imagine there was such a person) who said, “All these TV appearances seem a bit much. Let’s not let the president get overexposed.” Well, that aide too got run over, and now, only nine months into his presidency, Obama’s aura is frayed and the people have tuned him out.

Now no “least powerful” list would be complete without Hillary Clinton. She’s forced to give “I am so” (as in, “I am relevant!”) interviews and smile her way through query after query about what influence she actually has in this administration. And what’s worse, she, as Abe pointed out, is forced to go out to say the most preposterous things in a lame effort to disguise just how hapless this administration’s foreign policy is.

And maybe the most-important “least powerful” person is CIA Director Leon Panetta. He’s been repeatedly run over by the netroot- Eric Holder bus. CIA-interrogation memos were released, his employees were subjected to a special prosecutor’s investigation (to plow through claims already dismissed by career prosecutors), and his agency was stripped of responsibility for interrogating high-value terrorists. The Justice Department and its clutch of Left-leaning lawyers have reigned supreme. The intelligence community has been trounced. And Panetta’s reported threats to resign have proved empty.

So you see, the least-powerful people can have a big impact. And if they play their cards right, they’ll all have lucrative book deals to explain how, if they’d only been listened to, things would have turned out so much better.

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