Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 24, 2009

Well, Now They Know

The Washington Post reports:

A Muslim member of President Obama’s faith council says she was misled about the nature of a British TV talk show on which she was recently interviewed. It was hosted by a representative of Hizb ut-Tahrir, which the State Department has condemned for an anti-Semitic, anti-Western ideology that officials said might indirectly generate support for terrorism. . . .

Dalia Mogahed, senior analyst for the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, did a phone interview on the Oct. 8 show. It was hosted by a member of the group, Ibtihal Bsis Ismail, and featured as another guest the group’s women’s media representative, Nazreen Nawaz.

Mogahed said Friday that she did not know about the affiliation of Nawaz until Nawaz was introduced on air, and only learned later about Ismail’s association with Hizb ut-Tahrir (Party of Emancipation).

She said that she would not have agreed to the interview had she known of their affiliation beforehand and that she believed that Ismail “misled us” to score propaganda points for an ideological movement.

Okay, does no one inside the Beltway have Google? This is the lame sort of excuse that multiple congressional offices have confided in me over the last few weeks in discussing their lawmakers’ participation in the J Street conference. “We didn’t know they opposed sanctions!” “We had no idea a 9-11 truther would be there!” “Hmm, maybe we were put on the list in error.” These are the sort of explanations I received.

At first I was incredulous. C’mon, this is a U.S. senator (or congressman) —  staff can look into this stuff , right? But the more I heard it the more I came to believe that they simply took it on faith that J Street’s “pro-Israel” self-identification meant it was “safe” or a positive thing to host the conference. Naturally, the lawmakers would be happy to lend their names to a  “pro-Israel’ event because they reject a moral equivalence between Israel and its foes, want sanctions and other options to be on the table if needed to defang Iran, and believe the Goldstone report is a vile slur, that should be roundly condemned, on the Jewish state. And they’d never in a million years show up at an event in which 9-11 truthers or Israel-bashing poets appear. In short, they were snookered into thinking J Street fully shared their views and wouldn’t be inviting Israel haters to any conference.

Many lawmakers now are streaming for the exit and others continue to fret. (Will backing out only call attention to the fact they didn’t do their homework up front?)

While Magahed should have had the presence of mind to hang up on the hate-fest interview, she , if we take her at her word, didn’t know in advance what she was getting into. That excuse no longer holds for National Security Advisor James Jones and the “hosts” who still have not taken themselves off the J Street list. They therefore should be held accountable for giving the good housekeeping seal of approval to a confab hosting people whose views are indistinguishable from Israel’s vilest enemies. This is not some hippy-dippy confab of well-meaning but misguided lefties who’d like everyone in the Middle East to just get along. J Street has, by its own admission, courted controversy and chosen to affiliate with those who spout vile propaganda and want an emaciated and hand-cuffed Israel. Now the group and its hosts should be held fully accountable for what transpires.

The Washington Post reports:

A Muslim member of President Obama’s faith council says she was misled about the nature of a British TV talk show on which she was recently interviewed. It was hosted by a representative of Hizb ut-Tahrir, which the State Department has condemned for an anti-Semitic, anti-Western ideology that officials said might indirectly generate support for terrorism. . . .

Dalia Mogahed, senior analyst for the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, did a phone interview on the Oct. 8 show. It was hosted by a member of the group, Ibtihal Bsis Ismail, and featured as another guest the group’s women’s media representative, Nazreen Nawaz.

Mogahed said Friday that she did not know about the affiliation of Nawaz until Nawaz was introduced on air, and only learned later about Ismail’s association with Hizb ut-Tahrir (Party of Emancipation).

She said that she would not have agreed to the interview had she known of their affiliation beforehand and that she believed that Ismail “misled us” to score propaganda points for an ideological movement.

Okay, does no one inside the Beltway have Google? This is the lame sort of excuse that multiple congressional offices have confided in me over the last few weeks in discussing their lawmakers’ participation in the J Street conference. “We didn’t know they opposed sanctions!” “We had no idea a 9-11 truther would be there!” “Hmm, maybe we were put on the list in error.” These are the sort of explanations I received.

At first I was incredulous. C’mon, this is a U.S. senator (or congressman) —  staff can look into this stuff , right? But the more I heard it the more I came to believe that they simply took it on faith that J Street’s “pro-Israel” self-identification meant it was “safe” or a positive thing to host the conference. Naturally, the lawmakers would be happy to lend their names to a  “pro-Israel’ event because they reject a moral equivalence between Israel and its foes, want sanctions and other options to be on the table if needed to defang Iran, and believe the Goldstone report is a vile slur, that should be roundly condemned, on the Jewish state. And they’d never in a million years show up at an event in which 9-11 truthers or Israel-bashing poets appear. In short, they were snookered into thinking J Street fully shared their views and wouldn’t be inviting Israel haters to any conference.

Many lawmakers now are streaming for the exit and others continue to fret. (Will backing out only call attention to the fact they didn’t do their homework up front?)

While Magahed should have had the presence of mind to hang up on the hate-fest interview, she , if we take her at her word, didn’t know in advance what she was getting into. That excuse no longer holds for National Security Advisor James Jones and the “hosts” who still have not taken themselves off the J Street list. They therefore should be held accountable for giving the good housekeeping seal of approval to a confab hosting people whose views are indistinguishable from Israel’s vilest enemies. This is not some hippy-dippy confab of well-meaning but misguided lefties who’d like everyone in the Middle East to just get along. J Street has, by its own admission, courted controversy and chosen to affiliate with those who spout vile propaganda and want an emaciated and hand-cuffed Israel. Now the group and its hosts should be held fully accountable for what transpires.

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Some Things Better Left Unsaid

In a masterful bit of public diplomacy and restraint, Bibi Netanyahu spoke to the Washington Post on a variety of topics. The entire interview should be read in full but this sequence is particularly noteworthy:

Reportedly, Israel might be preparing for a strike against Iran.

I’m not responsible for rumors. Our belief is that this is a global problem. Since it’s the problem of the international community, the international effort led by the United States is the way to stop this danger.

What do you think should happen with the Palestinians?

We just wasted six months because of the Palestinian effort to place preconditions on the negotiations — preconditions that weren’t there for the last 16 years.

Is that freezing the settlements?

It’s freezing the settlements, it’s committing in advance to the results of the negotiations.

It’s committing to the outcome basically?

Yes, it’s the old technique. Let’s agree on what the results of the negotiations will be before the negotiations begin.

Didn’t the U.S. get the Palestinians’ hopes up by saying there should be a settlement freeze?
I think the Palestinians have to recognize [that] Washington says there should be negotiations without preconditions.

An interview is not a deposition and Bibi wasn’t obligated to answer precisely what was asked. And what he didn’t say was nearly as interesting as what he did.

As for the “rumors,” one can assume that in the guise of deterrence the Israelis are assisting whenever possible the dribbling out of news on military exercises, inside thinking, and other information that would bolster the government’s public statements that Israel can not tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran. But the object here is plainly to have a unfied military response from the West, should it come to that — which would yield the greatest chance of success and would properly reflect the fact that Iran is a threat to all its neighbors and the West, not simply to Israel.

On the issue of the settlements, Bibi need not rub the Obami’s nose in their error or brag that he stared down George Mitchell over a nonsensical, non-starter on a total settlement freeze. He “won” and now he can take the high ground, reiterating Israel’s oft-stated commitment to a two-state solution. Later in the interview he reiterates what the real barrier to peace is: “The gist of the problem is that for 62 years the Palestinians have refused to recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.” (It’s fair to say the Obama administration does not agree.)

Consider Bibi’s explanation of the nub of the problem:

The popular explanation is that this conflict is about the territories captured in the 1967 war. So why did the conflict rage [when] there were no settlements? The Arabs fought wars and terror campaigns in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s against any Jewish state, and then they rejected the partition. Our presence in the territories is not the cause of the conflict but one of its results. . . . I’m not talking about Hamas. I’m talking about the moderates. . . . We will end the conflict by establishing a state. That simple truth requires a lot of courage from the Palestinian leadership.

Imagine if at the height of his popularity Obama had delivered that message in Cairo. Would it have made any difference or given the Palestinians a nudge to drop the victim-act that has perpetuated their serial rejections of peace offers? We don’t know because, as Bibi put it, we have wasted months encouraging the Palestinians’ worst predilections.

This interview serves to illustrate that Bibi has learned a thing or two about public diplomacy since his last time in office. With the Palestinians cotinuing their propaganda wars, a hostile Obama team in place, and enablers for Israel’s enemies in the UN and in places like J Street, he will need all the skill and tact he can muster.

In a masterful bit of public diplomacy and restraint, Bibi Netanyahu spoke to the Washington Post on a variety of topics. The entire interview should be read in full but this sequence is particularly noteworthy:

Reportedly, Israel might be preparing for a strike against Iran.

I’m not responsible for rumors. Our belief is that this is a global problem. Since it’s the problem of the international community, the international effort led by the United States is the way to stop this danger.

What do you think should happen with the Palestinians?

We just wasted six months because of the Palestinian effort to place preconditions on the negotiations — preconditions that weren’t there for the last 16 years.

Is that freezing the settlements?

It’s freezing the settlements, it’s committing in advance to the results of the negotiations.

It’s committing to the outcome basically?

Yes, it’s the old technique. Let’s agree on what the results of the negotiations will be before the negotiations begin.

Didn’t the U.S. get the Palestinians’ hopes up by saying there should be a settlement freeze?
I think the Palestinians have to recognize [that] Washington says there should be negotiations without preconditions.

An interview is not a deposition and Bibi wasn’t obligated to answer precisely what was asked. And what he didn’t say was nearly as interesting as what he did.

As for the “rumors,” one can assume that in the guise of deterrence the Israelis are assisting whenever possible the dribbling out of news on military exercises, inside thinking, and other information that would bolster the government’s public statements that Israel can not tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran. But the object here is plainly to have a unfied military response from the West, should it come to that — which would yield the greatest chance of success and would properly reflect the fact that Iran is a threat to all its neighbors and the West, not simply to Israel.

On the issue of the settlements, Bibi need not rub the Obami’s nose in their error or brag that he stared down George Mitchell over a nonsensical, non-starter on a total settlement freeze. He “won” and now he can take the high ground, reiterating Israel’s oft-stated commitment to a two-state solution. Later in the interview he reiterates what the real barrier to peace is: “The gist of the problem is that for 62 years the Palestinians have refused to recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.” (It’s fair to say the Obama administration does not agree.)

Consider Bibi’s explanation of the nub of the problem:

The popular explanation is that this conflict is about the territories captured in the 1967 war. So why did the conflict rage [when] there were no settlements? The Arabs fought wars and terror campaigns in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s against any Jewish state, and then they rejected the partition. Our presence in the territories is not the cause of the conflict but one of its results. . . . I’m not talking about Hamas. I’m talking about the moderates. . . . We will end the conflict by establishing a state. That simple truth requires a lot of courage from the Palestinian leadership.

Imagine if at the height of his popularity Obama had delivered that message in Cairo. Would it have made any difference or given the Palestinians a nudge to drop the victim-act that has perpetuated their serial rejections of peace offers? We don’t know because, as Bibi put it, we have wasted months encouraging the Palestinians’ worst predilections.

This interview serves to illustrate that Bibi has learned a thing or two about public diplomacy since his last time in office. With the Palestinians cotinuing their propaganda wars, a hostile Obama team in place, and enablers for Israel’s enemies in the UN and in places like J Street, he will need all the skill and tact he can muster.

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One Man, One Vote, One Time

That is the oft-repeated formulation that describes the problem with the participation of Islamist and terrorist groups in elections. They pretend to be committed to democratic politics so long as democratic politics provide a vehicle for them to take power. But the moment elections no longer favor them, they no longer favor elections.

Many have been wondering where Hamas would come down on this question since the group’s rise to power was given democratic legitimacy in the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections. It appears that we have an answer. Mahmoud Abbas, president of the PA and the leader of Fatah, has announced that he will schedule presidential and legislative elections for January 24th, 2010. Hamas’s reaction?

Salah Bardawil, a senior Hamas official in Gaza, said Abbas’ “declaration will blow away in the wind.”

Hamas’s Syrian leadership added:

“Mahmoud Abbas cannot hold elections only in the West Bank,” said Moussa Abu Marzouk, Hamas’ Syrian-based deputy political leader. “Everything he says on this subject is to put pressure on Hamas.”

So Hamas will not participate in elections, and will in fact attempt to undermine and delegitimize them. This is unsurprising to most observers of Islamist politics. But then, there are legions of westerners who counsel Israel and the United States to “engage” Hamas. To take one of many examples, here is Daniel Levy, a leading spokesman for this view:

One can’t marginalize Gaza — it’s part of the two-state solution. And we’re most certainly going to have to bring Hamas inside the tent to make this work. I think that’s doable and the first imperative for the U.S. is to leave the Palestinians to do their own internal politics, and to reconstitute their own reformed national movement.

The obvious question is: If Hamas will neither participate in elections nor temper its ambitions, how do we bring it “inside the tent”? The engagers are being either lazy or dishonest when they take as their unspoken premise that Hamas itself desires to come into the tent. What if Hamas cares more about maintaining its ideological purity and guarding its Gaza fiefdom than it does about earning good PR from the West? Indeed, isn’t it perfectly rational that Hamas should seek to protect its hard-earned sovereignty in Gaza by rejecting participation in a process whose goal is ending that sovereignty?

It is precisely the fear of becoming entangled in a system that it cannot dominate — i.e., elections or a national-unity government — that provokes Hamas’s rejectionism. As David Makovsky notes,

Surveys conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, led by Khalil Shikaki, found that current Palestinian support for Hamas stands at 28 percent, compared to 44 percent for Fatah. In fact, Hamas has not polled better than Fatah since June 2006.

The lesson here is obvious, but alas too simple for sophisticates like Levy: Hamas will not participate in elections. It will not compromise on any of its positions in order to join a national-unity government with Fatah. It will not participate in a peace process or agree to any previous Palestinian agreements. Why would it do any of these things — why would it come into “the tent” — when doing so would require the group to surrender its one great accomplishment: its control over Gaza?

That is the oft-repeated formulation that describes the problem with the participation of Islamist and terrorist groups in elections. They pretend to be committed to democratic politics so long as democratic politics provide a vehicle for them to take power. But the moment elections no longer favor them, they no longer favor elections.

Many have been wondering where Hamas would come down on this question since the group’s rise to power was given democratic legitimacy in the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections. It appears that we have an answer. Mahmoud Abbas, president of the PA and the leader of Fatah, has announced that he will schedule presidential and legislative elections for January 24th, 2010. Hamas’s reaction?

Salah Bardawil, a senior Hamas official in Gaza, said Abbas’ “declaration will blow away in the wind.”

Hamas’s Syrian leadership added:

“Mahmoud Abbas cannot hold elections only in the West Bank,” said Moussa Abu Marzouk, Hamas’ Syrian-based deputy political leader. “Everything he says on this subject is to put pressure on Hamas.”

So Hamas will not participate in elections, and will in fact attempt to undermine and delegitimize them. This is unsurprising to most observers of Islamist politics. But then, there are legions of westerners who counsel Israel and the United States to “engage” Hamas. To take one of many examples, here is Daniel Levy, a leading spokesman for this view:

One can’t marginalize Gaza — it’s part of the two-state solution. And we’re most certainly going to have to bring Hamas inside the tent to make this work. I think that’s doable and the first imperative for the U.S. is to leave the Palestinians to do their own internal politics, and to reconstitute their own reformed national movement.

The obvious question is: If Hamas will neither participate in elections nor temper its ambitions, how do we bring it “inside the tent”? The engagers are being either lazy or dishonest when they take as their unspoken premise that Hamas itself desires to come into the tent. What if Hamas cares more about maintaining its ideological purity and guarding its Gaza fiefdom than it does about earning good PR from the West? Indeed, isn’t it perfectly rational that Hamas should seek to protect its hard-earned sovereignty in Gaza by rejecting participation in a process whose goal is ending that sovereignty?

It is precisely the fear of becoming entangled in a system that it cannot dominate — i.e., elections or a national-unity government — that provokes Hamas’s rejectionism. As David Makovsky notes,

Surveys conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, led by Khalil Shikaki, found that current Palestinian support for Hamas stands at 28 percent, compared to 44 percent for Fatah. In fact, Hamas has not polled better than Fatah since June 2006.

The lesson here is obvious, but alas too simple for sophisticates like Levy: Hamas will not participate in elections. It will not compromise on any of its positions in order to join a national-unity government with Fatah. It will not participate in a peace process or agree to any previous Palestinian agreements. Why would it do any of these things — why would it come into “the tent” — when doing so would require the group to surrender its one great accomplishment: its control over Gaza?

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They Don’t Get to Give out the Seats

The Obama team’s vilification campaign against a growing list of “enemies” is not only unbecoming and unprecedented in the post-Nixon era; it suggests that the Obami — just as surely as Nixon and his henchmen did — lack an appreciation of the nature of limited government and of the normal, healthy, and Constitutional separation between government and civil institutions.

The government doesn’t get to choose the media that covers it or to ban those it disagrees with. The media (well, other than MSNBC) operates separate and apart from those in power, with the only check being libel laws (not much of a check for public figures) and the free market, in which viewers and readers may select what outlets to patronize.

There is no basis for the White House to declare one or another outlet to be outside the realm of “news media.” Not the White House’s job. Its task is to run the executive branch within Constitutional restrictions, not to act as the Politburo of the Media. No, I’m not saying they are a bunch of Communists. What I am saying is that the Obama team’s presumption that they can control their own coverage reflects an insufficient appreciation for their own role in the grand scheme of American political life.

We see it beyond Fox News. The Chamber of Commerce’s Tom Donohue, pushing back against the White House’s vilification campaign, explains:

Somebody said, “Well, the White House says that you’ve become Dr. No and you are going to lose your seat at the table.” And I said, ‘The White House doesn’t give out the seats at the table. The seats at the table go to the people who have a rational policy, who have strong people to advance that policy, that have a strong grass-roots system, that have the assets to support their program, and that are willing to play in the political process.

He is right, of course. Once again, the Constitutional rights to associate freely and to lobby government are antithetical to the notion that the government gets to pick the “real” lobbyists. Only those convinced that they can control private organizations and political activity would presume, as Donohue artfully put it, to give out the seats.

In our system, the current White House occupants don’t get to bestow First Amendment protections on the rest of us. That comes from the Constitution. Their obligation is to respect, within normal bounds of civility, those who challenge, investigate, lobby, oppose, and criticize them. That they find it difficult to do so suggests that the Obama administration’s conception of itself is seriously distorted. And most worrisome, it leaves one wondering what other influence they would, if allowed, exert upon a free society.

The Obama team’s vilification campaign against a growing list of “enemies” is not only unbecoming and unprecedented in the post-Nixon era; it suggests that the Obami — just as surely as Nixon and his henchmen did — lack an appreciation of the nature of limited government and of the normal, healthy, and Constitutional separation between government and civil institutions.

The government doesn’t get to choose the media that covers it or to ban those it disagrees with. The media (well, other than MSNBC) operates separate and apart from those in power, with the only check being libel laws (not much of a check for public figures) and the free market, in which viewers and readers may select what outlets to patronize.

There is no basis for the White House to declare one or another outlet to be outside the realm of “news media.” Not the White House’s job. Its task is to run the executive branch within Constitutional restrictions, not to act as the Politburo of the Media. No, I’m not saying they are a bunch of Communists. What I am saying is that the Obama team’s presumption that they can control their own coverage reflects an insufficient appreciation for their own role in the grand scheme of American political life.

We see it beyond Fox News. The Chamber of Commerce’s Tom Donohue, pushing back against the White House’s vilification campaign, explains:

Somebody said, “Well, the White House says that you’ve become Dr. No and you are going to lose your seat at the table.” And I said, ‘The White House doesn’t give out the seats at the table. The seats at the table go to the people who have a rational policy, who have strong people to advance that policy, that have a strong grass-roots system, that have the assets to support their program, and that are willing to play in the political process.

He is right, of course. Once again, the Constitutional rights to associate freely and to lobby government are antithetical to the notion that the government gets to pick the “real” lobbyists. Only those convinced that they can control private organizations and political activity would presume, as Donohue artfully put it, to give out the seats.

In our system, the current White House occupants don’t get to bestow First Amendment protections on the rest of us. That comes from the Constitution. Their obligation is to respect, within normal bounds of civility, those who challenge, investigate, lobby, oppose, and criticize them. That they find it difficult to do so suggests that the Obama administration’s conception of itself is seriously distorted. And most worrisome, it leaves one wondering what other influence they would, if allowed, exert upon a free society.

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The Afghanistan War Lies

Stephen Hayes has the Obami nailed regarding two scurrilous charges they had hurled at George W. Bush:

First, that the Bush administration had no real Afghanistan policy and failed for eight years to ask the important questions about the war there. And second, that the Bush administration ignored requests from commanders on the ground to increase troops in Afghanistan.

Turns out that neither is true and the first is particularly galling given that the Obama team received the extensive review (conducted by the Bush administration’s General Doug Lute) and asked that it not be released publicly:

[Obama National Security Advisor James] Jones asked [Bush NSA Stephen] Hadley not to release the results of the Lute review so that his boss would have more flexibility when it came time to provide direction for the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. Bush officials reasoned that Obama was more likely to heed their advice if he could simply adopt their recommendations without having to acknowledge that they came from the Bush White House. So Hadley agreed.

Yes, shocking as it may be, the Obami are making stuff up. And what’s more, it turns out that in conducting its own review earlier this year, the Obama team essentially cribbed from the Bush team’s work. (“Obama’s ‘new’ strategy bore an uncanny resemblance to that prescribed by the Lute review”).

And as for refusing the troop request, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates calls foul. And he should be in a position to know, of course.

What to make of this? Well, it seems as though the most “transparent” administration in history operates, at least in its “public” diplomacy, by deceit. The administration released the enhanced-interrogation memos but held back documentation substantiating that the techniques had worked. The president announces that he will look forward, not backward, with regard to CIA operatives but has unleashed Attorney General Eric Holder to gin up a special prosecutor to re-investigate CIA employees. The administration knew of the Qom facility yet remained silent and clung to the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, which declared that Iran had shut down its weapons program. And now the administration, lacking the will or the management skill to announce a new Afghanistan war policy, has concocted blatant lies about the preceding administration.

This administration’s thin skin is not its only point of similarity with the Nixon White House. It seems as though they also share an aversion to truth-telling.

Stephen Hayes has the Obami nailed regarding two scurrilous charges they had hurled at George W. Bush:

First, that the Bush administration had no real Afghanistan policy and failed for eight years to ask the important questions about the war there. And second, that the Bush administration ignored requests from commanders on the ground to increase troops in Afghanistan.

Turns out that neither is true and the first is particularly galling given that the Obama team received the extensive review (conducted by the Bush administration’s General Doug Lute) and asked that it not be released publicly:

[Obama National Security Advisor James] Jones asked [Bush NSA Stephen] Hadley not to release the results of the Lute review so that his boss would have more flexibility when it came time to provide direction for the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. Bush officials reasoned that Obama was more likely to heed their advice if he could simply adopt their recommendations without having to acknowledge that they came from the Bush White House. So Hadley agreed.

Yes, shocking as it may be, the Obami are making stuff up. And what’s more, it turns out that in conducting its own review earlier this year, the Obama team essentially cribbed from the Bush team’s work. (“Obama’s ‘new’ strategy bore an uncanny resemblance to that prescribed by the Lute review”).

And as for refusing the troop request, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates calls foul. And he should be in a position to know, of course.

What to make of this? Well, it seems as though the most “transparent” administration in history operates, at least in its “public” diplomacy, by deceit. The administration released the enhanced-interrogation memos but held back documentation substantiating that the techniques had worked. The president announces that he will look forward, not backward, with regard to CIA operatives but has unleashed Attorney General Eric Holder to gin up a special prosecutor to re-investigate CIA employees. The administration knew of the Qom facility yet remained silent and clung to the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, which declared that Iran had shut down its weapons program. And now the administration, lacking the will or the management skill to announce a new Afghanistan war policy, has concocted blatant lies about the preceding administration.

This administration’s thin skin is not its only point of similarity with the Nixon White House. It seems as though they also share an aversion to truth-telling.

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Re: Re: Iran Haggles

As Abe and I have argued, the Iranians’ performance in the Geneva haggling marathon shouldn’t shock anyone who’s been watching the regime’s behavior for decades. The Wall Street Journal’s editors wryly observe:

One sign that an adversary isn’t serious about negotiating is when it rejects even your concessions. That seemed to be the case yesterday when Iran gave signs it may turn down an offer from Russia, Europe and the U.S. to let Tehran enrich its uranium under foreign supervision outside the country. The mullahs so far won’t take yes for an answer.

Let’s count up the bad things going on here. First, the Iranians are flouting another deadline. They were supposed to say yes by Friday. They haven’t. They are proving in small and large ways that they can defy the West. Second, “no one knows for sure how much uranium Iran possesses.” So it doesn’t “solve” the problem — we don’t even know how big the problem is. Third, the Iranians aren’t supposed to be enriching any uranium under UN Security resolutions. The editors explain:

Aside from rewarding Iran for past misbehavior by letting it use illegally enriched uranium, this deal fails to solve the problem it is intended to solve. That’s because as long as the Natanz facility continues to enrich uranium at its current rate of about 132 pounds a month, Iran will produce enough low-enriched uranium within the year for a bomb. Make Natanz more efficient and the time could be cut in half.

Fourth, the enriched uranium might be extracted, after all, for military uses. France and Russia would therefore potentially be providing a wonderful service to the mullahs — “decontaminating the uranium for Iran.”

Fifth, there will be virtually no chance now to get those “crippling sanctions.” We are already into the weeds and extracting ourselves from the talks will be impossible, especially if the obsequious Nicholas Burns keeps throwing himself at the Iranian negotiators, pleading for one-on-one get-togethers like a love-sick school boy.

In short, this is a counterproductive and embarrassing display of the Obami’s lack of seriousness about preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power. Along the way, we will convince not only the Iranians but the plethora of other adversaries that the U.S. can be “played.” The results  — unless a course correction is undertaken (which would require quite a bit of self-reflection by an administration entirely unwilling to take any criticism seriously) — will be a world with a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state, a budding Middle East arms-race, and many more emboldened adversaries around the globe. Perhaps the Nobelists should have waited a year or so before handing out their prize. I sense we’ll have less peace than they hoped.

As Abe and I have argued, the Iranians’ performance in the Geneva haggling marathon shouldn’t shock anyone who’s been watching the regime’s behavior for decades. The Wall Street Journal’s editors wryly observe:

One sign that an adversary isn’t serious about negotiating is when it rejects even your concessions. That seemed to be the case yesterday when Iran gave signs it may turn down an offer from Russia, Europe and the U.S. to let Tehran enrich its uranium under foreign supervision outside the country. The mullahs so far won’t take yes for an answer.

Let’s count up the bad things going on here. First, the Iranians are flouting another deadline. They were supposed to say yes by Friday. They haven’t. They are proving in small and large ways that they can defy the West. Second, “no one knows for sure how much uranium Iran possesses.” So it doesn’t “solve” the problem — we don’t even know how big the problem is. Third, the Iranians aren’t supposed to be enriching any uranium under UN Security resolutions. The editors explain:

Aside from rewarding Iran for past misbehavior by letting it use illegally enriched uranium, this deal fails to solve the problem it is intended to solve. That’s because as long as the Natanz facility continues to enrich uranium at its current rate of about 132 pounds a month, Iran will produce enough low-enriched uranium within the year for a bomb. Make Natanz more efficient and the time could be cut in half.

Fourth, the enriched uranium might be extracted, after all, for military uses. France and Russia would therefore potentially be providing a wonderful service to the mullahs — “decontaminating the uranium for Iran.”

Fifth, there will be virtually no chance now to get those “crippling sanctions.” We are already into the weeds and extracting ourselves from the talks will be impossible, especially if the obsequious Nicholas Burns keeps throwing himself at the Iranian negotiators, pleading for one-on-one get-togethers like a love-sick school boy.

In short, this is a counterproductive and embarrassing display of the Obami’s lack of seriousness about preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power. Along the way, we will convince not only the Iranians but the plethora of other adversaries that the U.S. can be “played.” The results  — unless a course correction is undertaken (which would require quite a bit of self-reflection by an administration entirely unwilling to take any criticism seriously) — will be a world with a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state, a budding Middle East arms-race, and many more emboldened adversaries around the globe. Perhaps the Nobelists should have waited a year or so before handing out their prize. I sense we’ll have less peace than they hoped.

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Why the Dithering, Then?

This report suggests that the president is choosing the advice of his real general over that of Joe Biden:

The emerging strategy would largely rebuff proposals to maintain current troop levels and rely on unmanned drone attacks and elite special-operations troops to hunt individual militants, an idea championed by Mr. Biden. It is opposed by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Kabul, and other military officials.

The report goes on to say that Obama has already largely rejected Biden “strict-counter terror” approach — in early October. And this nugget should provide fodder to those who consider Biden the purveyor of schlocky advice and harebrained schemes: “One official said Pentagon strategists were asked to draft brief written arguments making the best case for each strategy, but the strategists had difficulties writing out a credible case for the counter-terror approach — prompting members of Mr. Biden’s staff to step in and write the document themselves.” It remains unclear then why we have not had an announcement.

Obama might simply be peeved that Gen. McChrystal and other military figures went public, and now is stubbornly delaying the process so as to avoid the appearance of being pressured into the decision. Such a consideration would be entirely small-minded and irresponsible. But it fits with the administration’s current state of peevishness toward Obama’s critics.

Another possibility is that the Obami are still trying to do this on the cheap. The report explains:

One scenario under consideration, according to an official familiar with the deliberations, calls for deploying 10,000 to 20,000 U.S. reinforcements primarily to ramp up the training of the Afghan security forces. But Gen. McChrystal’s request for 40,000 troops also remains on the table. . . The outstanding question is how large an increase, and how those forces will be used.

The excuse for chiseling on troops, as Rahm Emanuel recently raced to the cameras to explain, may be pinned on the problematic Afghan elections and concerns about the government’s fraud and corruption. But how that translates into a decision to give, say, 20,000 troops instead of 40,000, remains murky. If there is just a little fraud, do they split the difference at 30,000? It is more than a little incoherent if that is the consideration.

And finally, it might just be that Obama isn’t very good at decision-making and is waylaid by dumb suggestions from unqualified advisers, paralyzed by domestic political concerns and queasy about crossing his netroot fans. If so, that would be troubling indeed and represent further evidence that a law professor and legislator doesn’t necessarily possess the skills — let alone the judgment — to operate successfully as commander in chief.

This report suggests that the president is choosing the advice of his real general over that of Joe Biden:

The emerging strategy would largely rebuff proposals to maintain current troop levels and rely on unmanned drone attacks and elite special-operations troops to hunt individual militants, an idea championed by Mr. Biden. It is opposed by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Kabul, and other military officials.

The report goes on to say that Obama has already largely rejected Biden “strict-counter terror” approach — in early October. And this nugget should provide fodder to those who consider Biden the purveyor of schlocky advice and harebrained schemes: “One official said Pentagon strategists were asked to draft brief written arguments making the best case for each strategy, but the strategists had difficulties writing out a credible case for the counter-terror approach — prompting members of Mr. Biden’s staff to step in and write the document themselves.” It remains unclear then why we have not had an announcement.

Obama might simply be peeved that Gen. McChrystal and other military figures went public, and now is stubbornly delaying the process so as to avoid the appearance of being pressured into the decision. Such a consideration would be entirely small-minded and irresponsible. But it fits with the administration’s current state of peevishness toward Obama’s critics.

Another possibility is that the Obami are still trying to do this on the cheap. The report explains:

One scenario under consideration, according to an official familiar with the deliberations, calls for deploying 10,000 to 20,000 U.S. reinforcements primarily to ramp up the training of the Afghan security forces. But Gen. McChrystal’s request for 40,000 troops also remains on the table. . . The outstanding question is how large an increase, and how those forces will be used.

The excuse for chiseling on troops, as Rahm Emanuel recently raced to the cameras to explain, may be pinned on the problematic Afghan elections and concerns about the government’s fraud and corruption. But how that translates into a decision to give, say, 20,000 troops instead of 40,000, remains murky. If there is just a little fraud, do they split the difference at 30,000? It is more than a little incoherent if that is the consideration.

And finally, it might just be that Obama isn’t very good at decision-making and is waylaid by dumb suggestions from unqualified advisers, paralyzed by domestic political concerns and queasy about crossing his netroot fans. If so, that would be troubling indeed and represent further evidence that a law professor and legislator doesn’t necessarily possess the skills — let alone the judgment — to operate successfully as commander in chief.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Will J Street support a congressional resolution condemning the Goldstone report? It’s a measure of how bizarre J Street’s definition of “pro-Israel” is, that the group’s view on the matter still isn’t clear.

Jeffrey Goldberg doesn’t understand why J Street’s leader Jeremy Ben-Ami doesn’t condemn the author of a book adopting a classic anti-Semitic canard about secret Jewish influence: “How is it a witch-hunt to argue that Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer blame the organized American Jewish community for starting the Iraq War and even helping cause 9/11? It’s a statement of fact, it’s in their book. I would think that when you have an organization, like you do, one of the ways you define yourself is by saying what you do and don’t stand for. . .” Ben-Ami thinks the book “goes over the line” but isn’t bothered that Walt is delighted by J Street’s mission. Read the whole interview and decide if Ben-Ami is, as Goldberg suggests, blaming Israel for creating terrorists. Sure sounds like it.

Many conservatives are backing Doug Hoffman in the NY-23. They apparently don’t want to get run over by their own base.

Nancy Pelosi has an emergency meeting to assure her fellow liberals that she does too have enough votes to pass the public option.

Obama’s Honduras policy in action: “Honduras’s ousted president, Manuel Zelaya, appeared to pull the plug Friday on negotiations with the country’s interim government to end Honduras’s four-month political crisis. Mr. Zelaya, who has been holed up in the Brazilian Embassy in the country’s capital of Tegucigalpa since sneaking back into Honduras a month ago, issued an ultimatum Thursday to the interim government pulling out of talks if he wasn’t restored to the presidential palace by midnight.”

Is the corruption conviction of a New Jersey pol who is an ally and beneficiary of Jon Corzine’s largess going to make the decisive difference in the New Jersey gubernatorial race? Yes, it’s true that political outsiders have been predicting for many elections that New Jersey voters would have enough of political corruption. But, it has to happen one year, right?

In Virginia the wheels have come off the Creigh Deeds campaign bus: “Virginia Democratic candidate R. Creigh Deeds said Friday that he was confused and frustrated by statements from senior aides to President Obama that Deeds had rejected their advice in running his campaign for governor as some state party activists denounced what they saw as a betrayal by advisers to a president they helped elect a year ago.”

The House’s version of ObamaCare clocks in at over a trillion dollars.

Shocked, shocked to find out that there is bad-faith dawdling going on in Geneva? “Iran told the International Atomic Energy Agency it will respond by the middle of next week to a proposal to ship its nuclear fuel abroad for reprocessing, pushing back a deadline and raising concerns about Iranian intentions in the negotiations. The United Nations nuclear watchdog had given all parties until Friday to sign off formally on the deal, which was tentatively agreed to by Iranian negotiators on Wednesday in Vienna, after several days of talks with the U.S., France, Russia and IAEA representatives.” No, pretty much what we expected.

Will J Street support a congressional resolution condemning the Goldstone report? It’s a measure of how bizarre J Street’s definition of “pro-Israel” is, that the group’s view on the matter still isn’t clear.

Jeffrey Goldberg doesn’t understand why J Street’s leader Jeremy Ben-Ami doesn’t condemn the author of a book adopting a classic anti-Semitic canard about secret Jewish influence: “How is it a witch-hunt to argue that Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer blame the organized American Jewish community for starting the Iraq War and even helping cause 9/11? It’s a statement of fact, it’s in their book. I would think that when you have an organization, like you do, one of the ways you define yourself is by saying what you do and don’t stand for. . .” Ben-Ami thinks the book “goes over the line” but isn’t bothered that Walt is delighted by J Street’s mission. Read the whole interview and decide if Ben-Ami is, as Goldberg suggests, blaming Israel for creating terrorists. Sure sounds like it.

Many conservatives are backing Doug Hoffman in the NY-23. They apparently don’t want to get run over by their own base.

Nancy Pelosi has an emergency meeting to assure her fellow liberals that she does too have enough votes to pass the public option.

Obama’s Honduras policy in action: “Honduras’s ousted president, Manuel Zelaya, appeared to pull the plug Friday on negotiations with the country’s interim government to end Honduras’s four-month political crisis. Mr. Zelaya, who has been holed up in the Brazilian Embassy in the country’s capital of Tegucigalpa since sneaking back into Honduras a month ago, issued an ultimatum Thursday to the interim government pulling out of talks if he wasn’t restored to the presidential palace by midnight.”

Is the corruption conviction of a New Jersey pol who is an ally and beneficiary of Jon Corzine’s largess going to make the decisive difference in the New Jersey gubernatorial race? Yes, it’s true that political outsiders have been predicting for many elections that New Jersey voters would have enough of political corruption. But, it has to happen one year, right?

In Virginia the wheels have come off the Creigh Deeds campaign bus: “Virginia Democratic candidate R. Creigh Deeds said Friday that he was confused and frustrated by statements from senior aides to President Obama that Deeds had rejected their advice in running his campaign for governor as some state party activists denounced what they saw as a betrayal by advisers to a president they helped elect a year ago.”

The House’s version of ObamaCare clocks in at over a trillion dollars.

Shocked, shocked to find out that there is bad-faith dawdling going on in Geneva? “Iran told the International Atomic Energy Agency it will respond by the middle of next week to a proposal to ship its nuclear fuel abroad for reprocessing, pushing back a deadline and raising concerns about Iranian intentions in the negotiations. The United Nations nuclear watchdog had given all parties until Friday to sign off formally on the deal, which was tentatively agreed to by Iranian negotiators on Wednesday in Vienna, after several days of talks with the U.S., France, Russia and IAEA representatives.” No, pretty much what we expected.

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