Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 23, 2009

Pops and Pale

I don’t usually link favorably to the New York Times, but all COMMENTARY readers should hie to Michiko Kakutani’s review of our chief culture critic Terry Teachout’s newly published biography of Louis Armstrong. Pops has been received ecstatically, and nowhere more than in Kakutani’s review today:

With “Pops,” his eloquent and important new biography of Armstrong, the critic and cultural historian Terry Teachout restores this jazzman to his deserved place in the pantheon of American artists…[he] writes with a deep appreciation of Armstrong’s artistic achievements, while situating his work and his life in a larger historical context. He draws on Armstrong’s wonderfully vivid writings and hours of tapes in which the musician recorded his thoughts and conversations with friends, and in doing so, creates an emotionally detailed portrait of Satchmo as a quick, funny, generous, observant and sometimes surprisingly acerbic man.

She’s right.

Also of note is the inclusion of “Beyond the Pale,” a stunning story by COMMENTARY’s longtime contributor Joseph Epstein, in the latest edition of The Best American Short Stories. “Beyond the Pale” was originally published in COMMENTARY’s March 2008 issue.

I don’t usually link favorably to the New York Times, but all COMMENTARY readers should hie to Michiko Kakutani’s review of our chief culture critic Terry Teachout’s newly published biography of Louis Armstrong. Pops has been received ecstatically, and nowhere more than in Kakutani’s review today:

With “Pops,” his eloquent and important new biography of Armstrong, the critic and cultural historian Terry Teachout restores this jazzman to his deserved place in the pantheon of American artists…[he] writes with a deep appreciation of Armstrong’s artistic achievements, while situating his work and his life in a larger historical context. He draws on Armstrong’s wonderfully vivid writings and hours of tapes in which the musician recorded his thoughts and conversations with friends, and in doing so, creates an emotionally detailed portrait of Satchmo as a quick, funny, generous, observant and sometimes surprisingly acerbic man.

She’s right.

Also of note is the inclusion of “Beyond the Pale,” a stunning story by COMMENTARY’s longtime contributor Joseph Epstein, in the latest edition of The Best American Short Stories. “Beyond the Pale” was originally published in COMMENTARY’s March 2008 issue.

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What About the Occupation of the Western Wall?

I’m having a hard time understanding the thinking behind the Obama administration’s decision to criticize construction in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo. The administration seems to have decided that Gilo is a settlement, and the international press is of course helping the cause by falsely reporting that Gilo is in (Arab) East Jerusalem. As Maurice Ostroff points out in a must-read Jerusalem Post piece:

The reality is that Gilo is very different than the outposts in the West Bank. It is not in east Jerusalem as widely reported. It is a Jerusalem neighborhood with a population of around 40,000. The ground was bought by Jews before WWII and settled in 1971 in south west Jerusalem opposite Mount Gilo within the municipal borders. There is no inference whatsoever that it rests on Arab land.

Gilo is one of several neighborhoods that sit on land occupied by Jordan from 1948-1967, after the withdrawal of the British Mandate. This border is called the Green Line, and it

refers only to the 1949 Armistice lines established after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. … Nor is it fixed, as explained by Justice Stephen M. Schwebel, who spent 19 years as a judge of the International Court of Justice at The Hague, including three years as President. He wrote “…modifications of the 1949 armistice lines among those States within former Palestinian territory are lawful (if not necessarily desirable), whether those modifications are, in Secretary Rogers’s words, “insubstantial alterations required for mutual security” or more substantial alterations — such as recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the whole of Jerusalem.” …

The Palestinians never had sovereignty over the West Bank nor east Jerusalem and Justice Schwebel concluded that since Jordan, the prior holder of these territories had seized that territory unlawfully in 1948, Israel which subsequently took that territory in the lawful exercise of self-defense in 1967, has better title to it. Jordan’s illegal annexation of the West Bank and east Jerusalem in 1948 was recognized only by Britain and Pakistan and Jordan now makes no claim to it.

In terms of international law, between 1948 and 1967 this territory was terra nullius, or “land belonging to no one” over which sovereignty may be acquired through occupation. The concept of terra nullius is well recognized in international law.

Getting back to the Obama administration: what is the principle behind the critique of construction in Gilo? There are many parts of Jerusalem that share its standing. Those places include the Jewish Quarter of the Old City and the Western Wall, both of which, like Gilo, were controlled by Jordan during the twenty years between the founding of the state and the Six Day War.

Is the Jewish Quarter a settlement? Is the Western Wall occupied? Is Israeli construction in them inimical to the peace process? Someone should ask these questions of Robert Gibbs at the next press conference. By the administration’s Gilo logic, the answer to all three would have to be yes.

I’m having a hard time understanding the thinking behind the Obama administration’s decision to criticize construction in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo. The administration seems to have decided that Gilo is a settlement, and the international press is of course helping the cause by falsely reporting that Gilo is in (Arab) East Jerusalem. As Maurice Ostroff points out in a must-read Jerusalem Post piece:

The reality is that Gilo is very different than the outposts in the West Bank. It is not in east Jerusalem as widely reported. It is a Jerusalem neighborhood with a population of around 40,000. The ground was bought by Jews before WWII and settled in 1971 in south west Jerusalem opposite Mount Gilo within the municipal borders. There is no inference whatsoever that it rests on Arab land.

Gilo is one of several neighborhoods that sit on land occupied by Jordan from 1948-1967, after the withdrawal of the British Mandate. This border is called the Green Line, and it

refers only to the 1949 Armistice lines established after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. … Nor is it fixed, as explained by Justice Stephen M. Schwebel, who spent 19 years as a judge of the International Court of Justice at The Hague, including three years as President. He wrote “…modifications of the 1949 armistice lines among those States within former Palestinian territory are lawful (if not necessarily desirable), whether those modifications are, in Secretary Rogers’s words, “insubstantial alterations required for mutual security” or more substantial alterations — such as recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the whole of Jerusalem.” …

The Palestinians never had sovereignty over the West Bank nor east Jerusalem and Justice Schwebel concluded that since Jordan, the prior holder of these territories had seized that territory unlawfully in 1948, Israel which subsequently took that territory in the lawful exercise of self-defense in 1967, has better title to it. Jordan’s illegal annexation of the West Bank and east Jerusalem in 1948 was recognized only by Britain and Pakistan and Jordan now makes no claim to it.

In terms of international law, between 1948 and 1967 this territory was terra nullius, or “land belonging to no one” over which sovereignty may be acquired through occupation. The concept of terra nullius is well recognized in international law.

Getting back to the Obama administration: what is the principle behind the critique of construction in Gilo? There are many parts of Jerusalem that share its standing. Those places include the Jewish Quarter of the Old City and the Western Wall, both of which, like Gilo, were controlled by Jordan during the twenty years between the founding of the state and the Six Day War.

Is the Jewish Quarter a settlement? Is the Western Wall occupied? Is Israeli construction in them inimical to the peace process? Someone should ask these questions of Robert Gibbs at the next press conference. By the administration’s Gilo logic, the answer to all three would have to be yes.

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Getting Ready to Make a Fuss

Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.); Debra Burlingame, co-founder of 9/11 Families for a Safe and Strong America; and Andrew C. McCarthy, former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and prosecutor in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing trial, among others, will be holding a press conference tomorrow to release details of their December 5 rally. They explain:

The Coalition formed to fight the decision of President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to try the 9/11 co-conspirators in New York City’s federal court, effectively giving war criminals the same rights as American citizens while endangering the safety of all New Yorkers. Two weeks ago, we sent a letter signed by 300 family members of 9/11 victims to the President, Attorney General and Defense Secretary Robert Gates asking them to reverse course. The letter has now been signed by over 120,000 Americans and is posted at http://www.keepamericasafe.com.

Like the Tea Parties, this seems to have the potential to motivate ordinarily nonpolitical Americans to protest a decision that remains simply incomprehensible. The administration somehow imagined that by releasing news of its decision on a Friday when the president was out of the country, a cheesy PR move unbefitting a decision of this gravity, that it might avoid unleashing a firestorm. It seems they have misjudged, as they have so many other things, the American people.

Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.); Debra Burlingame, co-founder of 9/11 Families for a Safe and Strong America; and Andrew C. McCarthy, former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and prosecutor in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing trial, among others, will be holding a press conference tomorrow to release details of their December 5 rally. They explain:

The Coalition formed to fight the decision of President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to try the 9/11 co-conspirators in New York City’s federal court, effectively giving war criminals the same rights as American citizens while endangering the safety of all New Yorkers. Two weeks ago, we sent a letter signed by 300 family members of 9/11 victims to the President, Attorney General and Defense Secretary Robert Gates asking them to reverse course. The letter has now been signed by over 120,000 Americans and is posted at http://www.keepamericasafe.com.

Like the Tea Parties, this seems to have the potential to motivate ordinarily nonpolitical Americans to protest a decision that remains simply incomprehensible. The administration somehow imagined that by releasing news of its decision on a Friday when the president was out of the country, a cheesy PR move unbefitting a decision of this gravity, that it might avoid unleashing a firestorm. It seems they have misjudged, as they have so many other things, the American people.

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Now He Can Be Funny

This week’s Saturday Night Live skit has gotten quite a bit of attention. Republicans are delighted that even in the bastion of liberal comedy, there is some recognition, indeed mocking, of Obama’s notions of “cost savings.” In the skit, the faux Chinese president observes: “I am noticing that each of your plans to save money involves spending even more money. This does not inspire confidence.” No, it doesn’t.

But like many things that have changed over the course of the year since Obama’s election, it seems the fact that Obama can be funny — or the source of humor, at any rate. Granted, the comedy driven by the events of this week or the unfulfilled to-do list, which was the topic of another skit, does not match the ferocity of the jibes thrown at George W. Bush and other politicians, but it is something. Moreover, humor of this type depends on a set of shared perspectives (so that everyone “gets the joke”), one of which is that Obama is presiding over a fiscal train wreck. Another, also from the SNL skit, is that the stimulus is a bust (“How many jobs has it created?” “Uh, so far, none”) and that it’s impossible to explain how extending health-insurance coverage to 30 million more Americans will save money (“I … don’t know”).

Does this signify something beyond the necessity to find good material for political humor? Well, it suggests that Obama no longer enjoys deity-like status and that even among liberal comics there is a shared understanding that he’s peddling snake oil. It’s not everything, but it’s a lot — and it happened less than a year after Obama took office.

This week’s Saturday Night Live skit has gotten quite a bit of attention. Republicans are delighted that even in the bastion of liberal comedy, there is some recognition, indeed mocking, of Obama’s notions of “cost savings.” In the skit, the faux Chinese president observes: “I am noticing that each of your plans to save money involves spending even more money. This does not inspire confidence.” No, it doesn’t.

But like many things that have changed over the course of the year since Obama’s election, it seems the fact that Obama can be funny — or the source of humor, at any rate. Granted, the comedy driven by the events of this week or the unfulfilled to-do list, which was the topic of another skit, does not match the ferocity of the jibes thrown at George W. Bush and other politicians, but it is something. Moreover, humor of this type depends on a set of shared perspectives (so that everyone “gets the joke”), one of which is that Obama is presiding over a fiscal train wreck. Another, also from the SNL skit, is that the stimulus is a bust (“How many jobs has it created?” “Uh, so far, none”) and that it’s impossible to explain how extending health-insurance coverage to 30 million more Americans will save money (“I … don’t know”).

Does this signify something beyond the necessity to find good material for political humor? Well, it suggests that Obama no longer enjoys deity-like status and that even among liberal comics there is a shared understanding that he’s peddling snake oil. It’s not everything, but it’s a lot — and it happened less than a year after Obama took office.

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Re: The Value of an International Guarantee

Let me add a note to Evelyn Gordon’s important posts yesterday and today regarding Mahmoud Abbas’s weekend assertion that the UN should endorse a two-state solution “based on the June 4, 1967 borders” – a solution he contends is reflected in the relevant UN Security Council resolution and the Roadmap.

As Evelyn’s first post demonstrated, Resolution 242 (1967) refers to a withdrawal from an unspecified portion of “territories” (not “the” or “all the” territories) and to “secure and recognized boundaries.” Former UN Ambassador Arthur J. Goldberg wrote that “the notable omissions in language used to refer to withdrawal are the words the, all, and the June 5, 1967 lines.” The resolution was intended to ensure that Israel would not have to withdraw to the indefensible borders that provoked the Six-Day War.

The Roadmap calls for final-status negotiations in Phase III “based on UNSCR 242.” It does not mention the June 4, 1967, lines, much less endorse them as “borders.” The U.S. has at least three times formally assured Israel of “defensible borders” as the outcome of the peace process: (1) in the January 16, 1997, letter from Secretary of State Warren Christopher to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; (2) in the April 14, 2004, letter from President George W. Bush to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon; and (3) in the January 16, 2009, Memorandum of Agreement between the U.S. and Israel. Only such borders meet the Resolution 242 requirement that Israel’s borders be not only recognized but also secure.

Evelyn’s second post demonstrates that it would be a breach of a longstanding international guarantee to Israel for the UN to endorse the June 4, 1967, lines as the basis of a Palestinian state. It would also violate repeated assurances made to Israel by the United States.

Let me add a note to Evelyn Gordon’s important posts yesterday and today regarding Mahmoud Abbas’s weekend assertion that the UN should endorse a two-state solution “based on the June 4, 1967 borders” – a solution he contends is reflected in the relevant UN Security Council resolution and the Roadmap.

As Evelyn’s first post demonstrated, Resolution 242 (1967) refers to a withdrawal from an unspecified portion of “territories” (not “the” or “all the” territories) and to “secure and recognized boundaries.” Former UN Ambassador Arthur J. Goldberg wrote that “the notable omissions in language used to refer to withdrawal are the words the, all, and the June 5, 1967 lines.” The resolution was intended to ensure that Israel would not have to withdraw to the indefensible borders that provoked the Six-Day War.

The Roadmap calls for final-status negotiations in Phase III “based on UNSCR 242.” It does not mention the June 4, 1967, lines, much less endorse them as “borders.” The U.S. has at least three times formally assured Israel of “defensible borders” as the outcome of the peace process: (1) in the January 16, 1997, letter from Secretary of State Warren Christopher to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; (2) in the April 14, 2004, letter from President George W. Bush to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon; and (3) in the January 16, 2009, Memorandum of Agreement between the U.S. and Israel. Only such borders meet the Resolution 242 requirement that Israel’s borders be not only recognized but also secure.

Evelyn’s second post demonstrates that it would be a breach of a longstanding international guarantee to Israel for the UN to endorse the June 4, 1967, lines as the basis of a Palestinian state. It would also violate repeated assurances made to Israel by the United States.

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Iran and Its Friends

While the mullahs, apparently, have many friends in American universities and plenty of mileage to be gained out of NIAC, they also have the benefit of eager spinners who seem to be intent on creating a sort of Journo-list for the pro-Iranian-regime position. A series of e-mails has come my way that makes clear just how politically active some think-tank members are as they plot to “educate” American opinion makers: Read More

While the mullahs, apparently, have many friends in American universities and plenty of mileage to be gained out of NIAC, they also have the benefit of eager spinners who seem to be intent on creating a sort of Journo-list for the pro-Iranian-regime position. A series of e-mails has come my way that makes clear just how politically active some think-tank members are as they plot to “educate” American opinion makers:

—–Original Message—–
From: Trita Parsi

Sent: Thursday, December 01, 2005 3:45 PM
To: ‘Siamak Namazi’; ‘Hadi Semati’; ‘Karim Sadjadpour’;
Subject: RE: Our Group Meeting
Sounds good to me

—–Original Message—–
From: Siamak Namazi
Sent: Thursday, December 01, 2005 3:38 PM
To: Hadi Semati; tparsi XXXX; Karim Sadjadpour; molaviXXX;
sanamvakilXXX; rtakyeh XXX
Subject: Our Group Meeting
Lady and Gents,

If you all agree, let’s gear up for the second discussion session.
Hopefully this time Sanam and Afshin will also be able to attend. (Sanam
jan, my apologies on behalf of all of us for forgetting to ask you to
attend the first session.)

Trita is out to Mexico and Afshin is back in a few days. Perhaps we can
mark our calendars now for the second week in Dec.  How about Wed 14
December, 2:00-4:00 pm?  Venue: whatever works best for the group. I can
try to reserve a room at NED, if you like.

Topics for discussion in our signature informal, chaotic way:

1- Iran-US: what did Burns try to say with this speech?  After so much
anticipation, why was there nothing new?

2- Nukes: this is going to be staple diet for discussion for a while to
come, I suppose.

3- Latest on the domestic side: Maybe we can think about the politics of
selecting the oil minister and what it all means.

Of course, all the above is a suggestion.

Best,
Sia

—–Original Message—–
From: Siamak Namazi
Sent: Tuesday, November 15, 2005 3:27 PM
To: Hadi Semati; tparsi XXX; ksadj XXX
Subject: tomorrow

Gentlemen,

So, here’s the plan for tomorrow.  We meet at 1:30 sharp (even for you Karim).  Regarding the venue, Trita and Karim to decide whether they prefer NED or Wilson Center, since Hadi and I would obviously prefer to stay put.  In general, Hadi’s office is bigger and the Wilson Center has nice couches where we can also sit and talk, if you prefer.  But, NED is closer to you two…

Format:  I suggest we discuss two issues tomorrow, each for roughly 30 minutes: (1) The nuclear file; (2) the domestic struggle for power – Is the system really worried about A-N?

After this discussion/update, we move to think through, collectively, what we think the US/EU should do in response to these issues?  Again, we might have disagreements, which is fine. But, if we can develop a list of 3 main points that we all believe in, it would be great; we can all make sure to make these points at various venues.

Hopefully, if this small study group continues, we could meet once a month to update one another on news of Iran and fine tune our policy recs.  The first meeting is a bit tricky since there are so many topics. In the future, perhaps we can come up with one single issue, and one person can assume the responsibility of giving a 10 min brief on it, then others enter the discussion by taking time.

Over all, I would think that these meetings have 3 main purposes:

1-       To get this group to bring to the table their various pieces of the puzzle so that we all see a clearer picture of what is happening in/about Iran;
2-       To develop a common list of policy recommendation to enhance our ability to influence decision-makers;
3-       To help “train” people like Haghighatjoo
who will get a lot of attention but don’t nec have a good understanding of how things work in the USA

With due respect to seniority, I hope Hadi accepts to Chair the session tomorrow and basically kick-start the discussions.

If you like, we can take 10 mins in the beginning to discuss the best format too.

So, Trita, Karim – please confirm the preferred venue.

Hadi – please see if Haghighatjoo is interested in joining in.

Cheers,
sia

Siamak Namazi
Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow

So here we have “experts” Karim Sadjadpour (of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace) and Afshin Molavi (of the New America Foundation), who are treated as independent gurus by the likes of NPR and CNN, spending their time consulting and plotting with NIAC to spin American public opinion in the direction of the mullahs’ party line. Nor is the effort to hush up or “train” Fatemeh Haghighatjoo (a prominent reformist who resigned from the Iranian parliament in protest and who has spoken of the need for U.S. assistance to the democracy movement) anything new. But what is new, perhaps, is an increased appreciation for how much coordination is going on to project the spin of the Iranian regime.

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Wilkins Micawber for Treasury Secretary?

If you would like a graphic example of the fiscal disconnect  characterizing the liberal establishment currently running the country, the front page of today’s New York Times provides it.

The lead story has a two-column head, “Federal Government Faces Balloon in Debt Payments.” The subhead alludes to the very real possibility that interest on the debt in ten years might exceed $700 billion, up from $202 billion this year. The article, well worth reading, makes no bones about the size of the problem we face.

The potential for rapidly escalating interest payouts is just one of the wrenching challenges facing the United States after decades of living beyond its means.

Right beneath the article, however, is a “reefer,” pointing readers to an article elsewhere in the paper, headlined, “Democrats Courting Health Care Votes.” Votes are courted on Capitol Hill by increased spending. Senator Mary Landrieu voted to take up the health-care bill for debate only after Harry Reid inserted an extra $100 million in Medicaid payments for her state, an action promptly dubbed “the Louisiana Purchase.”

Although carefully crafted accounting mendacity allows Obamacare to be characterized “budget neutral,” I doubt there’s a single person on Capitol Hill — or in the Times newsroom — who actually believes that the label fits. It would, after all, be the first new federal entitlement in history not to cost more than predicted (except for the drug benefit enacted a few years ago, which utilizes the power of the free market to bring down prices — not exactly a characteristic of Obamacare).

This is like a couple worrying about their ever-rising credit-card and mortgage payments while heading downtown to a showroom to buy a new car — on credit.

Perhaps if Timothy Geithner leaves as Treasury Secretary, Obama can persuade Wilkins Micawber to come on board. He was never daunted by such contradictions, at least judging by the words that Charles Dickens put in his mouth: “Welcome poverty! . . . Welcome misery, welcome houselessness, welcome hunger, rags, tempest, and beggary! Mutual confidence will sustain us to the end!”

If you would like a graphic example of the fiscal disconnect  characterizing the liberal establishment currently running the country, the front page of today’s New York Times provides it.

The lead story has a two-column head, “Federal Government Faces Balloon in Debt Payments.” The subhead alludes to the very real possibility that interest on the debt in ten years might exceed $700 billion, up from $202 billion this year. The article, well worth reading, makes no bones about the size of the problem we face.

The potential for rapidly escalating interest payouts is just one of the wrenching challenges facing the United States after decades of living beyond its means.

Right beneath the article, however, is a “reefer,” pointing readers to an article elsewhere in the paper, headlined, “Democrats Courting Health Care Votes.” Votes are courted on Capitol Hill by increased spending. Senator Mary Landrieu voted to take up the health-care bill for debate only after Harry Reid inserted an extra $100 million in Medicaid payments for her state, an action promptly dubbed “the Louisiana Purchase.”

Although carefully crafted accounting mendacity allows Obamacare to be characterized “budget neutral,” I doubt there’s a single person on Capitol Hill — or in the Times newsroom — who actually believes that the label fits. It would, after all, be the first new federal entitlement in history not to cost more than predicted (except for the drug benefit enacted a few years ago, which utilizes the power of the free market to bring down prices — not exactly a characteristic of Obamacare).

This is like a couple worrying about their ever-rising credit-card and mortgage payments while heading downtown to a showroom to buy a new car — on credit.

Perhaps if Timothy Geithner leaves as Treasury Secretary, Obama can persuade Wilkins Micawber to come on board. He was never daunted by such contradictions, at least judging by the words that Charles Dickens put in his mouth: “Welcome poverty! . . . Welcome misery, welcome houselessness, welcome hunger, rags, tempest, and beggary! Mutual confidence will sustain us to the end!”

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What Will It Be in January?

It seems that as health-care reform moves along and more coverage is given, the public likes it less and less. Rasmussen tells us:

Just 38% of voters now favor the health care plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats. That’s the lowest level of support measured for the plan in nearly two dozen tracking polls conducted since June. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 56% now oppose the plan. Half the survey was conducted before the Senate voted late Saturday to begin debate on its version of the legislation. Support for the plan was slightly lower in the half of the survey conducted after the Senate vote.

And Obama’s overall approval rating is also heading downward as his signature piece of legislation gets closer to passage. So Congress is going to pass on a party-line vote a hugely expensive bill that less than 40 percent of the public likes. And by the time they finish debating it, public approval could drop to less than a third. No wonder Democrats wanted this passed in August.

It seems that as health-care reform moves along and more coverage is given, the public likes it less and less. Rasmussen tells us:

Just 38% of voters now favor the health care plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats. That’s the lowest level of support measured for the plan in nearly two dozen tracking polls conducted since June. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 56% now oppose the plan. Half the survey was conducted before the Senate voted late Saturday to begin debate on its version of the legislation. Support for the plan was slightly lower in the half of the survey conducted after the Senate vote.

And Obama’s overall approval rating is also heading downward as his signature piece of legislation gets closer to passage. So Congress is going to pass on a party-line vote a hugely expensive bill that less than 40 percent of the public likes. And by the time they finish debating it, public approval could drop to less than a third. No wonder Democrats wanted this passed in August.

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The Value of an International Guarantee

Yesterday, I noted that a UN Security Council endorsement of “a two-state solution based on the June 4, 1967 borders,” such as Mahmoud Abbas is seeking, would radically alter the existing international position, prejudice the outcome of negotiations, and probably spark an escalating war of unilateral moves and countermoves. But it would also have another deleterious effect: it would provide further proof that international guarantees to Israel are worthless. And because reliable international guarantees will be a necessary part of any Israeli-Palestinian agreement, this would make a deal significantly less likely.

After all, Resolution 242 was the strongest international guarantee anyone could hope for: a binding Security Council resolution that, as explained yesterday, explicitly assured Israel that it would not have to withdraw to the 1967 lines. And all subsequent Israeli governments relied on this assurance: while Labor and Likud governments disagreed over where Israel’s final border should run, each built settlements in those areas they thought Israel would retain under any peace deal.

Thus if the Security Council were to change its mind now and retroactively invalidate the guarantee it gave Israel in 242, it could clearly change its mind on anything — meaning that Israel could not rely on any international guarantee it might receive as part of a final-status deal.

In truth, the Security Council has already made this pretty clear, via its treatment of Resolution 1310, which certified Israel’s unilateral pullout from Lebanon in 2000 as complete to the last inch. Almost immediately after that resolution passed, Hezbollah began insisting that the pullout was not complete because Israel still occupied the “Lebanese territory” of Shaba Farms. Yet UN experts had previously determined that Shaba was Syrian, not Lebanese, and that determination served as the basis for both Israel’s pullout and the subsequent Security Council endorsement.

But instead of sticking by this endorsement, the international community quickly backtracked: in 2006, the Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1701, which ordered the UN to delineate “the international borders of Lebanon, especially in those areas where the border is disputed or uncertain, including by dealing with the Shebaa farms area.” The UN subsequently set up a new mapping commission to do so. And while the commission has yet to submit its final conclusions, the Israeli press reported two years ago already that it intends to declare Shaba Lebanese

This sends a pretty clear message: there’s no such thing as a “final” border for Israel; anytime an Arab state demands additional territory, the UN will happily scrap its own previous determination of the “final” border and favorably consider the new Arab request.

Nevertheless, many Israelis still view this as an aberration rather than a precedent. If the Security Council decides to scrap 242 as well, that illusion will be even harder to maintain.

Hence before considering Abbas’s proposal, the council ought to ask itself how many promises to Israel it can violate before even the most optimistic Israelis conclude that no such promise can be trusted — and whether that really serves the cause of peace.

Yesterday, I noted that a UN Security Council endorsement of “a two-state solution based on the June 4, 1967 borders,” such as Mahmoud Abbas is seeking, would radically alter the existing international position, prejudice the outcome of negotiations, and probably spark an escalating war of unilateral moves and countermoves. But it would also have another deleterious effect: it would provide further proof that international guarantees to Israel are worthless. And because reliable international guarantees will be a necessary part of any Israeli-Palestinian agreement, this would make a deal significantly less likely.

After all, Resolution 242 was the strongest international guarantee anyone could hope for: a binding Security Council resolution that, as explained yesterday, explicitly assured Israel that it would not have to withdraw to the 1967 lines. And all subsequent Israeli governments relied on this assurance: while Labor and Likud governments disagreed over where Israel’s final border should run, each built settlements in those areas they thought Israel would retain under any peace deal.

Thus if the Security Council were to change its mind now and retroactively invalidate the guarantee it gave Israel in 242, it could clearly change its mind on anything — meaning that Israel could not rely on any international guarantee it might receive as part of a final-status deal.

In truth, the Security Council has already made this pretty clear, via its treatment of Resolution 1310, which certified Israel’s unilateral pullout from Lebanon in 2000 as complete to the last inch. Almost immediately after that resolution passed, Hezbollah began insisting that the pullout was not complete because Israel still occupied the “Lebanese territory” of Shaba Farms. Yet UN experts had previously determined that Shaba was Syrian, not Lebanese, and that determination served as the basis for both Israel’s pullout and the subsequent Security Council endorsement.

But instead of sticking by this endorsement, the international community quickly backtracked: in 2006, the Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1701, which ordered the UN to delineate “the international borders of Lebanon, especially in those areas where the border is disputed or uncertain, including by dealing with the Shebaa farms area.” The UN subsequently set up a new mapping commission to do so. And while the commission has yet to submit its final conclusions, the Israeli press reported two years ago already that it intends to declare Shaba Lebanese

This sends a pretty clear message: there’s no such thing as a “final” border for Israel; anytime an Arab state demands additional territory, the UN will happily scrap its own previous determination of the “final” border and favorably consider the new Arab request.

Nevertheless, many Israelis still view this as an aberration rather than a precedent. If the Security Council decides to scrap 242 as well, that illusion will be even harder to maintain.

Hence before considering Abbas’s proposal, the council ought to ask itself how many promises to Israel it can violate before even the most optimistic Israelis conclude that no such promise can be trusted — and whether that really serves the cause of peace.

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What Are They Getting for It?

Gordon Chang notes that observers and analysts across the political spectrum are dismayed by Obama’s human-rights approach regarding China — a crouch more than an approach, actually. He writes:

What Obama and Clinton fail to comprehend is that America derives its security because of its values.  Peoples around the world support our policies precisely because they share our beliefs.  And with the Chinese there is another dimension:  Beijing’s ruthlessly pragmatic leaders see our failure to press human rights as a sign that we think we are weak.  And if they think we are weak, they see little reason to cooperate.  So promoting human rights is protecting American security.

And like so many other ill-conceived Obama foreign-policy gambits (e.g., the Middle East, Honduras, Iran), the end result is to set back American interests and embolden our adversaries. As Chang writes, the Chinese were delighted when Clinton declared earlier in the year that we can’t let human rights “interfere” with other matters. The predictable result is that China’s human-rights behavior gets worse and we weaken our own bargaining position on other matters:

Since [Clinton's remarks in February], they have been noticeably less cooperative on the great issues of the day. And in March, just one month after her statement, they felt bold enough to order their vessels to harass two of our unarmed ships in international waters in the South China and Yellow Seas. The Chinese even attempted to sever a towed sonar array from one of the Navy vessels. That hostile act constituted an attack on the United States.

It is unclear why, in the face of such uniform criticism and such dismal results, the Obama team shows no sign of reversing course. They believe what they believe, it seems, and no amount of real-world evidence is going to get in the way of their desire to throw human rights under the bus for the sake of ingratiating themselves with the world’s despots.

Gordon Chang notes that observers and analysts across the political spectrum are dismayed by Obama’s human-rights approach regarding China — a crouch more than an approach, actually. He writes:

What Obama and Clinton fail to comprehend is that America derives its security because of its values.  Peoples around the world support our policies precisely because they share our beliefs.  And with the Chinese there is another dimension:  Beijing’s ruthlessly pragmatic leaders see our failure to press human rights as a sign that we think we are weak.  And if they think we are weak, they see little reason to cooperate.  So promoting human rights is protecting American security.

And like so many other ill-conceived Obama foreign-policy gambits (e.g., the Middle East, Honduras, Iran), the end result is to set back American interests and embolden our adversaries. As Chang writes, the Chinese were delighted when Clinton declared earlier in the year that we can’t let human rights “interfere” with other matters. The predictable result is that China’s human-rights behavior gets worse and we weaken our own bargaining position on other matters:

Since [Clinton's remarks in February], they have been noticeably less cooperative on the great issues of the day. And in March, just one month after her statement, they felt bold enough to order their vessels to harass two of our unarmed ships in international waters in the South China and Yellow Seas. The Chinese even attempted to sever a towed sonar array from one of the Navy vessels. That hostile act constituted an attack on the United States.

It is unclear why, in the face of such uniform criticism and such dismal results, the Obama team shows no sign of reversing course. They believe what they believe, it seems, and no amount of real-world evidence is going to get in the way of their desire to throw human rights under the bus for the sake of ingratiating themselves with the world’s despots.

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America Is Not What’s Wrong with the World

Brit Hume yesterday on Fox News Sunday had a dead-on critique of American foreign policy under President Obama.

America is not what’s wrong with the world. And a strong America, assertive in foreign policy, showing its strength, is good for the world, and it has a lot better effect on allies and enemies alike than what we’re seeing now, this policy of almost determined weakness on the part of President Obama. Now, look. That decision you mentioned with the missile defense in Europe is militarily defensible. But it looked to all the world, and must have looked in the Kremlin, as if this was a capitulation. And these kinds of things add up over time.

Even Chris Matthews, who used to get shivers up his leg at the mere mention of Obama’s name, has asked if his foreign policy is “Carteresque.” That is not a compliment, even on MSNBC.

Elections seldom turn on foreign policy, and with high unemployment, soaring deficits, and a threatening vast enlargement of the power and responsibility of the federal government on voters’ minds, the 2010 election is not likely to be one that does either. But I would advise every Republican office holder and office seeker to work Brit Hume’s words — “America is not what’s wrong with the world” — into every discussion of foreign policy. Hume’s pithy phrase both captures exactly what is wrong with Obama’s foreign policy and avoids even a hint of jingoism. Outside the liberal bubble, this is a deeply patriotic country. The phrase will resonate with the overwhelming majority of Americans.

Brit Hume yesterday on Fox News Sunday had a dead-on critique of American foreign policy under President Obama.

America is not what’s wrong with the world. And a strong America, assertive in foreign policy, showing its strength, is good for the world, and it has a lot better effect on allies and enemies alike than what we’re seeing now, this policy of almost determined weakness on the part of President Obama. Now, look. That decision you mentioned with the missile defense in Europe is militarily defensible. But it looked to all the world, and must have looked in the Kremlin, as if this was a capitulation. And these kinds of things add up over time.

Even Chris Matthews, who used to get shivers up his leg at the mere mention of Obama’s name, has asked if his foreign policy is “Carteresque.” That is not a compliment, even on MSNBC.

Elections seldom turn on foreign policy, and with high unemployment, soaring deficits, and a threatening vast enlargement of the power and responsibility of the federal government on voters’ minds, the 2010 election is not likely to be one that does either. But I would advise every Republican office holder and office seeker to work Brit Hume’s words — “America is not what’s wrong with the world” — into every discussion of foreign policy. Hume’s pithy phrase both captures exactly what is wrong with Obama’s foreign policy and avoids even a hint of jingoism. Outside the liberal bubble, this is a deeply patriotic country. The phrase will resonate with the overwhelming majority of Americans.

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Bought and Paid

While the media was fixated on a health-care vote with a preordained outcome, the New York Post broke a blockbuster story over the weekend:

Anti-Israel, pro-Iran university professors are being funded by a shadowy multimillion-dollar Islamic charity based in Manhattan that the feds charge is an illegal front for the repressive Iranian regime.

The deep-pocketed Alavi Foundation has aggressively given away hundreds of thousands of dollars to Columbia University and Rutgers University for Middle Eastern and Persian studies programs that employ professors sympathetic to the Iranian dictatorship.

“We found evidence that the government of Iran really controlled everything about the foundation,” said Adam Kaufmann, investigations chief at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

And remember the much criticized visit of Holocaust denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? It seems it was a good deal for Columbia University: “In one of the biggest handouts, the controversial charity donated $100,000 to Columbia University after the Ivy League school agreed to host Iranian leader and Holocaust denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, according to the foundation’s 2007 tax filings obtained by The Post.”

The Iranian regime has gotten its money’s worth. Gary Sick of Columbia chimes in that we can disregard all that “wipe Israel off the map” stuff from Ahmadinejad. The Sick translation of Ahmadinejad’s genocide talk: “What he means is that there should be a free referendum among the peoples of the Palestine that existed to [sic] the partition in 1948 to vote about the kind of a government they should have. He is confident that, in a free vote, Israel and Israelis would lose that vote and it would turn out to be something else: a unitary state, probably run by the Palestinians.” Got that?

Other professors from Columbia and Rutgers (which also received funds) are equally forthcoming with propaganda nonsense, enough to make the mullahs proud. This is a scandal of the first order — a financial conflict of interest and an ethical betrayal of the universities’ supposed role as bastions of academic independence and free inquiry. They have instead among their ranks a number of shills for the mullahs, whose leftist claptrap is subsidized by those with an interest in seeing the mullahs’ party line recirculated through American universities. It seems worth taking a look, especially when these institutions receive taxpayer money and their students earn degrees on taxpayer-supported scholarships.

While the media was fixated on a health-care vote with a preordained outcome, the New York Post broke a blockbuster story over the weekend:

Anti-Israel, pro-Iran university professors are being funded by a shadowy multimillion-dollar Islamic charity based in Manhattan that the feds charge is an illegal front for the repressive Iranian regime.

The deep-pocketed Alavi Foundation has aggressively given away hundreds of thousands of dollars to Columbia University and Rutgers University for Middle Eastern and Persian studies programs that employ professors sympathetic to the Iranian dictatorship.

“We found evidence that the government of Iran really controlled everything about the foundation,” said Adam Kaufmann, investigations chief at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

And remember the much criticized visit of Holocaust denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? It seems it was a good deal for Columbia University: “In one of the biggest handouts, the controversial charity donated $100,000 to Columbia University after the Ivy League school agreed to host Iranian leader and Holocaust denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, according to the foundation’s 2007 tax filings obtained by The Post.”

The Iranian regime has gotten its money’s worth. Gary Sick of Columbia chimes in that we can disregard all that “wipe Israel off the map” stuff from Ahmadinejad. The Sick translation of Ahmadinejad’s genocide talk: “What he means is that there should be a free referendum among the peoples of the Palestine that existed to [sic] the partition in 1948 to vote about the kind of a government they should have. He is confident that, in a free vote, Israel and Israelis would lose that vote and it would turn out to be something else: a unitary state, probably run by the Palestinians.” Got that?

Other professors from Columbia and Rutgers (which also received funds) are equally forthcoming with propaganda nonsense, enough to make the mullahs proud. This is a scandal of the first order — a financial conflict of interest and an ethical betrayal of the universities’ supposed role as bastions of academic independence and free inquiry. They have instead among their ranks a number of shills for the mullahs, whose leftist claptrap is subsidized by those with an interest in seeing the mullahs’ party line recirculated through American universities. It seems worth taking a look, especially when these institutions receive taxpayer money and their students earn degrees on taxpayer-supported scholarships.

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Who Will Be Left?

Rich Lowry has it right in this observation of the Democrats’ “victory” in moving health care to the Senate for debate:

They’ve talked themselves into the ludicrously self-delusional notion that what ails them and the president is that they haven’t yet passed the hundreds of billions of dollars of tax hikes and Medicare cuts that finance (albeit incompletely) ObamaCare. …

If they pass it, they have tax hikes and Medicare cuts around their necks, as well as the increased insurance premiums the bill is sure to cause. If they fail, they’ve demonstrated their own ineffectual ideological fervor, while still putting themselves on record in favor of tax increases and Medicare cuts.

Like many of us, Lowry wonders why the Democrats don’t abandon the “maximalist” big-government power grab and take up instead a health-care bill that might be popular and obtain bipartisan support. The answer it seems is that the leadership of the Democratic party — Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and the president — is ideologically committed to doing this, to reworking health care “permanently” (or so the president imagines). The leadership doesn’t care if it has to sacrifice dozens of House members and some Red State senators along the way. It has grown indifferent to criticism (besides, it’s all the doing of Fox News, talk radio, and insurance companies, right?) and contemptuous of ordinary voters whom it imagines will learn to live with whatever is served up. And frankly, the Democrats haven’t done anything else of note (cap-and-trade, financial reform, and card check are all stalled), so this is it — their claim to fame. As for Obama, he has three years to restore his standing and find other reasons (a revived economy, perhaps) to gain voters’ support.

Well that explains why the Democratic leadership is in thrall to a monstrous health-care bill, but why are the moderates and conservatives in their party following them? Some of the explanation rests in payoffs. (“Landrieu bragged about her swag, calculating that the ‘Lousiana Purchase’ was really worth $300 million.”) Part of it rests in the pressure members always feel from their own leaders and the true believers in their own base. And part of the explanation certainly is arrogance: they think they can get away with it. They imagine that they are so popular or clever that they — unlike the lawmakers sitting next to them — can evade the wrath of the voters.

Lawmakers will now head home and hear from their constituents. Many will be unmoved by what they hear. But some may begin to wonder why it is they are doing something so monstrously irresponsible from a fiscal standpoint and so suicidal from a political one. And then the fun will start — the mad scramble of lawmakers wise enough to know they need to get off the ObamaCare train.

The fate of ObamaCare will boil down to whether there are enough Democrats left on board willing to sacrifice their own careers to gratify the leftist aspirations and egos of their leaders. It’ll be a close call.

Rich Lowry has it right in this observation of the Democrats’ “victory” in moving health care to the Senate for debate:

They’ve talked themselves into the ludicrously self-delusional notion that what ails them and the president is that they haven’t yet passed the hundreds of billions of dollars of tax hikes and Medicare cuts that finance (albeit incompletely) ObamaCare. …

If they pass it, they have tax hikes and Medicare cuts around their necks, as well as the increased insurance premiums the bill is sure to cause. If they fail, they’ve demonstrated their own ineffectual ideological fervor, while still putting themselves on record in favor of tax increases and Medicare cuts.

Like many of us, Lowry wonders why the Democrats don’t abandon the “maximalist” big-government power grab and take up instead a health-care bill that might be popular and obtain bipartisan support. The answer it seems is that the leadership of the Democratic party — Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and the president — is ideologically committed to doing this, to reworking health care “permanently” (or so the president imagines). The leadership doesn’t care if it has to sacrifice dozens of House members and some Red State senators along the way. It has grown indifferent to criticism (besides, it’s all the doing of Fox News, talk radio, and insurance companies, right?) and contemptuous of ordinary voters whom it imagines will learn to live with whatever is served up. And frankly, the Democrats haven’t done anything else of note (cap-and-trade, financial reform, and card check are all stalled), so this is it — their claim to fame. As for Obama, he has three years to restore his standing and find other reasons (a revived economy, perhaps) to gain voters’ support.

Well that explains why the Democratic leadership is in thrall to a monstrous health-care bill, but why are the moderates and conservatives in their party following them? Some of the explanation rests in payoffs. (“Landrieu bragged about her swag, calculating that the ‘Lousiana Purchase’ was really worth $300 million.”) Part of it rests in the pressure members always feel from their own leaders and the true believers in their own base. And part of the explanation certainly is arrogance: they think they can get away with it. They imagine that they are so popular or clever that they — unlike the lawmakers sitting next to them — can evade the wrath of the voters.

Lawmakers will now head home and hear from their constituents. Many will be unmoved by what they hear. But some may begin to wonder why it is they are doing something so monstrously irresponsible from a fiscal standpoint and so suicidal from a political one. And then the fun will start — the mad scramble of lawmakers wise enough to know they need to get off the ObamaCare train.

The fate of ObamaCare will boil down to whether there are enough Democrats left on board willing to sacrifice their own careers to gratify the leftist aspirations and egos of their leaders. It’ll be a close call.

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Inspired?

Howard Fineman would have us believe that Obama is looking to Ronald Reagan for inspiration. They were both “celebrities” (except one was a governor and wrote and spoke about foreign policy for decades) and loved the written word (except one wrote about the world and the other about himself). Fineman does (sort of ) point out a key difference that was instrumental to Reagan’s success: “It requires an obstinate clarity of message that the current president has not always achieved, and an outsider’s agitating stance that does not fit Obama’s equable insider mentality.” Translation: Reagan had a firm vision of where he wanted to take the country, and it defied conventional, Beltway wisdom. And then there is the foreign-policy part: “Reagan was a hawk”; Obama is anything but. And by the way, Reagan was an amiable figure who seemed to look up to his fellow citizens and regard the White House as more than a new campaign headquarters. Obama? Not so much.

OK, Obama really has nothing much at all in common with Reagan, doesn’t believe in the same things, doesn’t behave like him, has a completely different personality and a personal history not at all like Reagan’s. So why would Obama look to Reagan for inspiration? I frankly doubt he would. Obama = Reagan was campaign spin meant to sooth nervous Republicans; it seems to have been put through the spin cycle again at the new Newsweek, where nothing much is new.

What Obama no doubt would like to be is respected (and feared by our adversaries) on the world stage, the maker of bipartisan domestic deals and a comfortable presence who wears well over time.  That would be nice and Reaganesque. It would, however, require that Obama drastically remake himself and his agenda. But a “sort of God” would never do that.

Howard Fineman would have us believe that Obama is looking to Ronald Reagan for inspiration. They were both “celebrities” (except one was a governor and wrote and spoke about foreign policy for decades) and loved the written word (except one wrote about the world and the other about himself). Fineman does (sort of ) point out a key difference that was instrumental to Reagan’s success: “It requires an obstinate clarity of message that the current president has not always achieved, and an outsider’s agitating stance that does not fit Obama’s equable insider mentality.” Translation: Reagan had a firm vision of where he wanted to take the country, and it defied conventional, Beltway wisdom. And then there is the foreign-policy part: “Reagan was a hawk”; Obama is anything but. And by the way, Reagan was an amiable figure who seemed to look up to his fellow citizens and regard the White House as more than a new campaign headquarters. Obama? Not so much.

OK, Obama really has nothing much at all in common with Reagan, doesn’t believe in the same things, doesn’t behave like him, has a completely different personality and a personal history not at all like Reagan’s. So why would Obama look to Reagan for inspiration? I frankly doubt he would. Obama = Reagan was campaign spin meant to sooth nervous Republicans; it seems to have been put through the spin cycle again at the new Newsweek, where nothing much is new.

What Obama no doubt would like to be is respected (and feared by our adversaries) on the world stage, the maker of bipartisan domestic deals and a comfortable presence who wears well over time.  That would be nice and Reaganesque. It would, however, require that Obama drastically remake himself and his agenda. But a “sort of God” would never do that.

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Will Obama Confront Critics on the Left?

The Foreign Policy Initiative has put out a handy fact sheet listing and debunking the common arguments against a fully staffed counterinsurgency operation (COIN) in Afghanistan. As FPI explains:

The arguments, when closely considered, expose a default resistance to completing the mission, not a thoughtful dismantling of the pro “surge” case. Below you’ll find a list of the most popular critiques of General Stanley McChrystal’s COIN strategy and resource request, each followed by clear refutations from relevant experts.

The anti-COIN arguments that the fact sheet lays out reminds one, eerily so, of the arguments employed by the Left against the surge in Iraq (the national government is unworthy or inept, the country is too “backward” to sustain a U.S.-led effort, the U.S. Army is stretched too thin, a light footprint will work as well). FPI’s responses to each should be read in full, but the conclusion one comes away with is that the arguments in opposition to COIN are even less compelling this time, in part because we have the experience of Iraq to provide guidance. One of the least effective arguments in opposition to COIN is a circular one: the public isn’t behind this. COMMENTARY contributor Abe Greenwald explains:

Barack Obama has yet to talk about America or its ideals as being worth the fight. It’s no wonder public support for our commitment in Afghanistan is lower today than at any point during the Bush administration. … Since taking office, President Obama has continuously spoken of the United States as a country that “all too often … starts by dictating,” a place that “has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive” toward allies, where “our government made decisions based on fear rather than foresight, [and] all too often our government trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions.” America, in Mr. Obama’s words, “is still working through some of our own darker periods in our history.” What kind of dupe would rally behind that place? To make matters worse, while the situation deteriorated in Afghanistan and loose speculation abounded the president went silent on matters of war.

In other words, if the president wants to rally public opinion and debunk the critics of COIN, he can do so, with some effort and determination. But does he? We’ll find out, hopefully soon.

The Foreign Policy Initiative has put out a handy fact sheet listing and debunking the common arguments against a fully staffed counterinsurgency operation (COIN) in Afghanistan. As FPI explains:

The arguments, when closely considered, expose a default resistance to completing the mission, not a thoughtful dismantling of the pro “surge” case. Below you’ll find a list of the most popular critiques of General Stanley McChrystal’s COIN strategy and resource request, each followed by clear refutations from relevant experts.

The anti-COIN arguments that the fact sheet lays out reminds one, eerily so, of the arguments employed by the Left against the surge in Iraq (the national government is unworthy or inept, the country is too “backward” to sustain a U.S.-led effort, the U.S. Army is stretched too thin, a light footprint will work as well). FPI’s responses to each should be read in full, but the conclusion one comes away with is that the arguments in opposition to COIN are even less compelling this time, in part because we have the experience of Iraq to provide guidance. One of the least effective arguments in opposition to COIN is a circular one: the public isn’t behind this. COMMENTARY contributor Abe Greenwald explains:

Barack Obama has yet to talk about America or its ideals as being worth the fight. It’s no wonder public support for our commitment in Afghanistan is lower today than at any point during the Bush administration. … Since taking office, President Obama has continuously spoken of the United States as a country that “all too often … starts by dictating,” a place that “has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive” toward allies, where “our government made decisions based on fear rather than foresight, [and] all too often our government trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions.” America, in Mr. Obama’s words, “is still working through some of our own darker periods in our history.” What kind of dupe would rally behind that place? To make matters worse, while the situation deteriorated in Afghanistan and loose speculation abounded the president went silent on matters of war.

In other words, if the president wants to rally public opinion and debunk the critics of COIN, he can do so, with some effort and determination. But does he? We’ll find out, hopefully soon.

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Blanche Snowe

Sen. Blanche Lincoln is furiously trying to explain how difficult her decisive 60th vote was and what she really doesn’t like so very much about the health-care bill. Uh huh. Lincoln has good reason to be out spinning — she’s up for a tough re-election fight in less than a year, and Arkansas voters hate ObamaCare. All this spells bad news for Lincoln:

In a telephone survey of 501 likely voters in Arkansas, conducted on November 16-17, 2009, voters reported opposing the healthcare changes with only 29% saying they backed it while 64% said they were opposed. Fifty percent of likely voters indicated strong opposition to the plan while only 17% indicated strong support.

In an initial match-up of Lincoln and possible Republican candidate State Senator Gilbert Baker, the incumbent, Lincoln, holds a narrow 41-39 lead. Against another possible GOP contender, State Senator Kim Hendren, Lincoln holds a more substantial 45-29 lead.

And that was before she cast that 60th vote, which raises the issue as to why she drew the short straw as the “deciding vote.” Really, every Democrat’s vote was the deciding one, but apparently they figured out the political ramifications of being tagged as the 60th before she did.

So now Lincoln will have to imitate Olympia Snowe, who is besieged with media attention lauding her willingness to vote to move ObamaCare forward. Lincoln will tell us how hard a decision it was, how committed to “improving the bill” she is, and how she won’t vote for a “bad bill” in the end. Well, maybe that’ll fly in Arkansas — but she could have killed ObamaCare and didn’t. Good luck explaining that to the 64 percent of her constituents who don’t want government-run health care.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln is furiously trying to explain how difficult her decisive 60th vote was and what she really doesn’t like so very much about the health-care bill. Uh huh. Lincoln has good reason to be out spinning — she’s up for a tough re-election fight in less than a year, and Arkansas voters hate ObamaCare. All this spells bad news for Lincoln:

In a telephone survey of 501 likely voters in Arkansas, conducted on November 16-17, 2009, voters reported opposing the healthcare changes with only 29% saying they backed it while 64% said they were opposed. Fifty percent of likely voters indicated strong opposition to the plan while only 17% indicated strong support.

In an initial match-up of Lincoln and possible Republican candidate State Senator Gilbert Baker, the incumbent, Lincoln, holds a narrow 41-39 lead. Against another possible GOP contender, State Senator Kim Hendren, Lincoln holds a more substantial 45-29 lead.

And that was before she cast that 60th vote, which raises the issue as to why she drew the short straw as the “deciding vote.” Really, every Democrat’s vote was the deciding one, but apparently they figured out the political ramifications of being tagged as the 60th before she did.

So now Lincoln will have to imitate Olympia Snowe, who is besieged with media attention lauding her willingness to vote to move ObamaCare forward. Lincoln will tell us how hard a decision it was, how committed to “improving the bill” she is, and how she won’t vote for a “bad bill” in the end. Well, maybe that’ll fly in Arkansas — but she could have killed ObamaCare and didn’t. Good luck explaining that to the 64 percent of her constituents who don’t want government-run health care.

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Avoiding Reality, Excusing Our Enemies

Reuel Marc Gerecht in a must-read column explains:

A concern for not giving offense to Muslims would never prevent the French internal-security service, the Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (DST), which deploys a large number of Muslim officers, from aggressively trying to pre-empt terrorism. As Maj. Hasan’s case shows, this is not true in the United States. The American military and especially the Federal Bureau of Investigation were in great part inattentive because they were too sensitive.

Moreover, President Barack Obama’s determined effort not to mention Islam in terrorist discussions—which means that we must not suggest that Maj. Hasan’s murderous actions flowed from his faith—will weaken American counterterrorism. Worse, the president’s position is an enormous wasted opportunity to advance an all-critical Muslim debate about the nature and legitimacy of jihad.

The disinclination to recognize the role that jihadism plays in the motives and actions of terrorists like Hasan leads us to avoid looking in the right places for signs of danger. Surveillance in a mosque? CAIR will (and has) raised a stink. Fire or discipline a Muslim for running a slide show on jihadism? Good luck finding a supervisor willing to take that one on. We avert our eyes, look for alternative explanations, and do little to change the way we assess threats and what constitutes a red flag (a  chummy e-mail relationship with a radical imam, for example).

Gerecht is right that part of the reluctance to identify Hasan as a Muslim terrorist stems from the Obama team’s damage-control mentality. (“The Obama administration obviously doesn’t want to get tagged with an Islamist terrorist strike in the U.S.—the first since 9/11. The Muslim-sensitive 9/11 Commission Report, which unambiguously named the enemy as ‘Islamist terrorism,’ now seems distinctly passé.”) But it is also at odds with Obama’s international initiative to ingratiate himself with the “Muslim World” and suggest that much of the world’s ills stem from American insensitivity and missteps.

Imagine, Gerecht posits, if Obama were to challenge his listeners with some hard questions rather than merely feed Muslims lines so they can continue “blaming non-Muslims for their crippling problems”:

He could ask, as some Muslims have, why is it that Islam has produced so many jihadists? Why is it that Maj. Hasan’s rampage has produced so little questioning among Muslim clerics about why a man, one in a long line of Muslim militants, so easily takes God’s name to slaughter his fellow citizens?

Well we can dream, can’t we? The 11/5 terror attack should be a wake-up call. That it hasn’t been (so far) suggests just how deeply the Obami are invested in denying the essence of the threat we face.

Reuel Marc Gerecht in a must-read column explains:

A concern for not giving offense to Muslims would never prevent the French internal-security service, the Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (DST), which deploys a large number of Muslim officers, from aggressively trying to pre-empt terrorism. As Maj. Hasan’s case shows, this is not true in the United States. The American military and especially the Federal Bureau of Investigation were in great part inattentive because they were too sensitive.

Moreover, President Barack Obama’s determined effort not to mention Islam in terrorist discussions—which means that we must not suggest that Maj. Hasan’s murderous actions flowed from his faith—will weaken American counterterrorism. Worse, the president’s position is an enormous wasted opportunity to advance an all-critical Muslim debate about the nature and legitimacy of jihad.

The disinclination to recognize the role that jihadism plays in the motives and actions of terrorists like Hasan leads us to avoid looking in the right places for signs of danger. Surveillance in a mosque? CAIR will (and has) raised a stink. Fire or discipline a Muslim for running a slide show on jihadism? Good luck finding a supervisor willing to take that one on. We avert our eyes, look for alternative explanations, and do little to change the way we assess threats and what constitutes a red flag (a  chummy e-mail relationship with a radical imam, for example).

Gerecht is right that part of the reluctance to identify Hasan as a Muslim terrorist stems from the Obama team’s damage-control mentality. (“The Obama administration obviously doesn’t want to get tagged with an Islamist terrorist strike in the U.S.—the first since 9/11. The Muslim-sensitive 9/11 Commission Report, which unambiguously named the enemy as ‘Islamist terrorism,’ now seems distinctly passé.”) But it is also at odds with Obama’s international initiative to ingratiate himself with the “Muslim World” and suggest that much of the world’s ills stem from American insensitivity and missteps.

Imagine, Gerecht posits, if Obama were to challenge his listeners with some hard questions rather than merely feed Muslims lines so they can continue “blaming non-Muslims for their crippling problems”:

He could ask, as some Muslims have, why is it that Islam has produced so many jihadists? Why is it that Maj. Hasan’s rampage has produced so little questioning among Muslim clerics about why a man, one in a long line of Muslim militants, so easily takes God’s name to slaughter his fellow citizens?

Well we can dream, can’t we? The 11/5 terror attack should be a wake-up call. That it hasn’t been (so far) suggests just how deeply the Obami are invested in denying the essence of the threat we face.

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The Price of a Historic Vote

Glenn Reynolds writes:

I think Obama’s “charisma” was based on voter narcissism — people excited not just about electing a black President, but about themselves, voting for a black President. Now that’s over, and they’re stuck just with him, and emptied of their own narcissism there’s not much there to fill out the suit.

That’s fairly strong stuff. Plainly, Obama played to many voters’ needs — for whites to vote for a historic candidate, for urban intellectuals to vote for one of their own, and for younger voters to vote for a new generation of leadership. Obama quite purposefully did not fill in many of the blanks, leaving to everyone’s imagination what he might do once in the White House. Indeed, he had made a career and an art out of being just beyond definition so that everyone could form a pleasing portrait of the candidate they were voting for.

Now there is an emptiness at the center of the presidency, an odd passivity. Decisiveness and specific policy proposals are missing, creating a sense that Obama is fulfilling the role of head of state but not that of head of government. Part of this is accentuated by his own aversion to projecting American strength and power on the world stage. So whom is he representing (a new multilateral world order?), and what are his aims? Getting along with competitors and shrinking from conflict seem to be high on his list.

Obama clearly wanted to become president, defying many who suggested he hadn’t the experience and would get run over by the Clintons. The latter, at least, proved to be untrue. Now that he is president, he plainly has a domestic-policy vision of America at odds with the views of many who voted for him. Does he have the force of will and the know-how to accomplish that reordering of government — before he loses much of his congressional majority? It’s not clear. And on the international stage, meekness and incompetence have ruled the day, suggesting he’s not in control of events.

Obama, who was omnipresent and larger than life, now seems to be a bystander in his own presidency. And the public is left pondering whether this was the candidate they voted for. Well, yes, but it’s now becoming apparent the price to be paid for voting to make themselves feel enlightened.

Glenn Reynolds writes:

I think Obama’s “charisma” was based on voter narcissism — people excited not just about electing a black President, but about themselves, voting for a black President. Now that’s over, and they’re stuck just with him, and emptied of their own narcissism there’s not much there to fill out the suit.

That’s fairly strong stuff. Plainly, Obama played to many voters’ needs — for whites to vote for a historic candidate, for urban intellectuals to vote for one of their own, and for younger voters to vote for a new generation of leadership. Obama quite purposefully did not fill in many of the blanks, leaving to everyone’s imagination what he might do once in the White House. Indeed, he had made a career and an art out of being just beyond definition so that everyone could form a pleasing portrait of the candidate they were voting for.

Now there is an emptiness at the center of the presidency, an odd passivity. Decisiveness and specific policy proposals are missing, creating a sense that Obama is fulfilling the role of head of state but not that of head of government. Part of this is accentuated by his own aversion to projecting American strength and power on the world stage. So whom is he representing (a new multilateral world order?), and what are his aims? Getting along with competitors and shrinking from conflict seem to be high on his list.

Obama clearly wanted to become president, defying many who suggested he hadn’t the experience and would get run over by the Clintons. The latter, at least, proved to be untrue. Now that he is president, he plainly has a domestic-policy vision of America at odds with the views of many who voted for him. Does he have the force of will and the know-how to accomplish that reordering of government — before he loses much of his congressional majority? It’s not clear. And on the international stage, meekness and incompetence have ruled the day, suggesting he’s not in control of events.

Obama, who was omnipresent and larger than life, now seems to be a bystander in his own presidency. And the public is left pondering whether this was the candidate they voted for. Well, yes, but it’s now becoming apparent the price to be paid for voting to make themselves feel enlightened.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

The debate has begun: “Republican senators went on the offensive against the Democratic healthcare initiative the morning after the bill moved forward on a procedural vote, blasting the bill as a job-killer and mechanism of ‘excessive government control.’ … ‘We don’t often ignore the wishes of the American people,’ [Mitch] McConnell (R-Ky.) said, noting ‘it’s hard to handicap’ the outcome.”

Sen. Ben Nelson has started things rolling: “Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who is uncommitted moving forward, said he has delivered two pages of proposed changes to Majority Leader Harry Reid. … ‘There will be a lot of discussion back and forth about what might get enough votes,’ Nelson said after the vote. ‘There will have to be fairly significant changes for others as well, not just me. Nuance will not be enough.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer says there aren’t any new taxes. Sen. Jon Kyl disagrees: “If you have insurance you get taxed. If you don’t have insurance you get taxed. If you need a lifesaving medical device like a stint or a diabetic pump you get taxed. … The Congressional Budget Office says and the Joint Tax Committee says that these taxes imposed on others will be passed through.”

Republicans are focusing on the controversy over mammography guidelines to make their point about ObamaCare: “GOP lawmakers said the Democratic health care plan, which the Senate allowed to inch forward Saturday night and remains President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority, would set the nation toward massive government control. ‘Do these recommendations make sense from a cost standpoint? Absolutely, from a cost standpoint, they’re right,’ said Rep. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican who is a medical doctor. ‘From a patient standpoint, they’re atrocious. And that’s the problem with a bureaucracy stepping between a physician and their patient.’”

In case you had any doubt about the three-ring circus: “The five men facing trial in the Sept. 11 attacks will plead not guilty so that they can air their criticisms of U.S. foreign policy, the lawyer for one of the defendants said Sunday. Scott Fenstermaker, the lawyer for accused terrorist Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, said the men would not deny their role in the 2001 attacks but ‘would explain what happened and why they did it.’”

Another new low for Obama in the Gallup poll.

John McCain on cap-and-trade: “‘Their start has been horrendous,’ McCain said Thursday. ‘Obviously, they’re going nowhere.’ McCain has emerged as a vocal opponent of the climate bill — a major reversal for the self-proclaimed maverick who once made defying his party on global warming a signature issue of his career.”

Bradley Smith: “Harry Reid actually said this debate is about whether Americans will live ‘free from the fear of illness and death,’ and says these things can be prevented by the Pelosi/Reid/Obama approach to healthcare. This must be a really good plan! Of course, you won’t be able to live free from the fear of being thrown in jail for buying the wrong health insurance coverage, but hey, there are trade-offs in life.”

Another bad news item on hiring: “Employers already are squeezed by tight credit, rising health care costs, wary consumers and a higher minimum wage. Now, the surging jobless rate is imposing another cost. It’s forcing higher state taxes on companies to pay for unemployment insurance claims. Some employers say the extra costs make them less likely to hire. That could be a worrisome sign for the economic recovery, because small businesses create about 60 percent of new jobs. Other employers say they’ll cut or freeze pay.” Which suggests that we should be lowering, not raising, taxes and reducing mandates, not increasing them, on business.

The debate has begun: “Republican senators went on the offensive against the Democratic healthcare initiative the morning after the bill moved forward on a procedural vote, blasting the bill as a job-killer and mechanism of ‘excessive government control.’ … ‘We don’t often ignore the wishes of the American people,’ [Mitch] McConnell (R-Ky.) said, noting ‘it’s hard to handicap’ the outcome.”

Sen. Ben Nelson has started things rolling: “Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who is uncommitted moving forward, said he has delivered two pages of proposed changes to Majority Leader Harry Reid. … ‘There will be a lot of discussion back and forth about what might get enough votes,’ Nelson said after the vote. ‘There will have to be fairly significant changes for others as well, not just me. Nuance will not be enough.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer says there aren’t any new taxes. Sen. Jon Kyl disagrees: “If you have insurance you get taxed. If you don’t have insurance you get taxed. If you need a lifesaving medical device like a stint or a diabetic pump you get taxed. … The Congressional Budget Office says and the Joint Tax Committee says that these taxes imposed on others will be passed through.”

Republicans are focusing on the controversy over mammography guidelines to make their point about ObamaCare: “GOP lawmakers said the Democratic health care plan, which the Senate allowed to inch forward Saturday night and remains President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority, would set the nation toward massive government control. ‘Do these recommendations make sense from a cost standpoint? Absolutely, from a cost standpoint, they’re right,’ said Rep. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican who is a medical doctor. ‘From a patient standpoint, they’re atrocious. And that’s the problem with a bureaucracy stepping between a physician and their patient.’”

In case you had any doubt about the three-ring circus: “The five men facing trial in the Sept. 11 attacks will plead not guilty so that they can air their criticisms of U.S. foreign policy, the lawyer for one of the defendants said Sunday. Scott Fenstermaker, the lawyer for accused terrorist Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, said the men would not deny their role in the 2001 attacks but ‘would explain what happened and why they did it.’”

Another new low for Obama in the Gallup poll.

John McCain on cap-and-trade: “‘Their start has been horrendous,’ McCain said Thursday. ‘Obviously, they’re going nowhere.’ McCain has emerged as a vocal opponent of the climate bill — a major reversal for the self-proclaimed maverick who once made defying his party on global warming a signature issue of his career.”

Bradley Smith: “Harry Reid actually said this debate is about whether Americans will live ‘free from the fear of illness and death,’ and says these things can be prevented by the Pelosi/Reid/Obama approach to healthcare. This must be a really good plan! Of course, you won’t be able to live free from the fear of being thrown in jail for buying the wrong health insurance coverage, but hey, there are trade-offs in life.”

Another bad news item on hiring: “Employers already are squeezed by tight credit, rising health care costs, wary consumers and a higher minimum wage. Now, the surging jobless rate is imposing another cost. It’s forcing higher state taxes on companies to pay for unemployment insurance claims. Some employers say the extra costs make them less likely to hire. That could be a worrisome sign for the economic recovery, because small businesses create about 60 percent of new jobs. Other employers say they’ll cut or freeze pay.” Which suggests that we should be lowering, not raising, taxes and reducing mandates, not increasing them, on business.

Read Less




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