Commentary Magazine


Posts For: December 4, 2009

What the Peace-Partner Palestinians Really Want

In Haaretz yesterday, Ari Shavit detailed the results of Netanyahu’s serial efforts to commence negotiations with the Palestinians:

He accepts the principle of two states, and receives no response. He suspends construction in the settlements, and is rejected. He courts Mahmoud Abbas, and is disparaged. The son of Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s personal secretary wants a historic reconciliation with the Palestinians, and the Palestinians are slamming the door. He is offering the Palestinian national movement negotiations over the establishment of a Palestinian nation-state, and has found that there’s no one to talk to and nothing to talk about. Zilch. A brick wall.

Sometimes you get the impression that the Palestinian Arabs do not really want a Palestinian state. They could have had one in 1919 (the Weizmann-Feisel Agreement), 1937 (the Peel Commission), 1947 (UN Resolution 181), 2000 (the Camp David proposal), 2001 (the Clinton Parameters), or 2008 (the Annapolis Process offer). Six formal offers — each accepted by the Jews and rejected by the Arabs.

The peace-partner Palestinians do not really have a negotiating position — only a set of demands to reverse history. They demand that Israel withdraw to the 1967 lines to reverse the Six-Day War (a war the Arabs caused). They demand a “right of return” to reverse the 1948 war (a war the Arabs started). They demand all of East Jerusalem — not simply the Arab neighborhoods and Muslim religious sites — to control the historic portion of the city; they concede no Jewish connection to the Temple Mount or the Western Wall.

Evelyn argued persuasively today that the goal of Hamas in its negotiations for the release of nearly a thousand Palestinian prisoners — in exchange for one Israeli soldier — is not really the release of the prisoners. A similar insight explains the absence of a Palestinian state despite 90 years of two-state offers, increasing Israeli concessions throughout the Oslo and Annapolis “peace processes,” and Netanyahu’s unsuccessful efforts to commence negotiations once again. A second state is not really what the Palestinians want — not if the cost is recognition of a Jewish one in defensible borders. What they really want is something else.

In Haaretz yesterday, Ari Shavit detailed the results of Netanyahu’s serial efforts to commence negotiations with the Palestinians:

He accepts the principle of two states, and receives no response. He suspends construction in the settlements, and is rejected. He courts Mahmoud Abbas, and is disparaged. The son of Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s personal secretary wants a historic reconciliation with the Palestinians, and the Palestinians are slamming the door. He is offering the Palestinian national movement negotiations over the establishment of a Palestinian nation-state, and has found that there’s no one to talk to and nothing to talk about. Zilch. A brick wall.

Sometimes you get the impression that the Palestinian Arabs do not really want a Palestinian state. They could have had one in 1919 (the Weizmann-Feisel Agreement), 1937 (the Peel Commission), 1947 (UN Resolution 181), 2000 (the Camp David proposal), 2001 (the Clinton Parameters), or 2008 (the Annapolis Process offer). Six formal offers — each accepted by the Jews and rejected by the Arabs.

The peace-partner Palestinians do not really have a negotiating position — only a set of demands to reverse history. They demand that Israel withdraw to the 1967 lines to reverse the Six-Day War (a war the Arabs caused). They demand a “right of return” to reverse the 1948 war (a war the Arabs started). They demand all of East Jerusalem — not simply the Arab neighborhoods and Muslim religious sites — to control the historic portion of the city; they concede no Jewish connection to the Temple Mount or the Western Wall.

Evelyn argued persuasively today that the goal of Hamas in its negotiations for the release of nearly a thousand Palestinian prisoners — in exchange for one Israeli soldier — is not really the release of the prisoners. A similar insight explains the absence of a Palestinian state despite 90 years of two-state offers, increasing Israeli concessions throughout the Oslo and Annapolis “peace processes,” and Netanyahu’s unsuccessful efforts to commence negotiations once again. A second state is not really what the Palestinians want — not if the cost is recognition of a Jewish one in defensible borders. What they really want is something else.

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Global-Warming Cognitive Dissonance at the Nation

The evidence-suppressing academics at East Anglia University aren’t the only global-warming true believers who seem to be in a bit of a fog these days. Over at the Nation, two separate pieces both seem to acknowledge that the public is increasingly resistant to the deluge of environmental alarmism they’ve been peddling.

In a feature in their Dec. 21 print issue that is currently available on their website, Christopher Hayes bemoans the fact that global-warming hysteria isn’t selling as well as it used to. Hayes cites a Washington Post/ABC poll that shows a marked decline in support for the basic premise of global warming and an even more precipitate drop in the total of those who accept the theory that a rise in temperatures is the result of human activity.

How does Hayes explain this refusal of so many Americans to accept the dogma that is repeated endlessly in the media and throughout the culture almost without challenge? Of course, he ignores recent scandals such as the East Anglia affair, as well as the fact that, contrary to predictions, the planet hasn’t gotten any warmer in the past decade, something even the New York Times has acknowledged.

Instead, Hayes mostly blames it on the economic crisis and partisan hatred for Barack Obama. But that’s not all. He also blames the global-warming activists themselves for not being sufficiently scary. That’s right. Despite all the apocalyptic threats that have been put forward on behalf of this thesis based on theoretical models, Hayes believes that we haven’t had enough environmental hysteria. He believes the warming alarmists must stop talking about “green jobs” and the economic opportunities they claim will spring from the disastrous cap-and-trade policies they advocate. Instead, he wants them to just scream “the planet is melting.” I guess that’s supposed to reinforce the Left’s self-image as the advocates of reason and science.

But elsewhere on the Nation website, you can get a slightly different take on the same issue. In a video interview with Nation editorial-board member Tony Kushner, the famous playwright has his own riff on the question. Kushner modestly brushes off the praise of the magazine staffer plying the questions by saying that the mention of “the impact of human lives on the environment” in his 1991 play Angels in America in which “character Hannah Pitt fretted about the hole in the ozone layer” didn’t make him a prophet. He was just writing about what was “in the news” then as now, he claims. Though he puts down all skepticism about the theory to “greed” on the part of evil industrialists, he goes on to say that he thinks that the lack of progress toward passing economy-crippling measures aimed to stop global warming is due to the fact that people are aware of the impending catastrophe but are too numbed by its enormity to act. Kushner even thinks that, contrary to the evidence leaking out from East Anglia, the global-warming crowd has understated the danger so as not to create mass panic.

For those who want a small taste of Kushner’s idea of environmental reform, consider the passage where he fondly remembers the halt in commercial-airline flights after the 9/11 attacks, which he claims created a “staggering decrease in the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere!”

So what’s the answer here? Are we too scared by the specter of being cooked like a hot dog at Nathan’s in less than a decade, as Kushner thinks, or, as Hayes theorizes, have we not been frightened enough? Either way, it’s clear that the real fear on the Left is that more of the public isn’t buying their scare stories anymore.

The evidence-suppressing academics at East Anglia University aren’t the only global-warming true believers who seem to be in a bit of a fog these days. Over at the Nation, two separate pieces both seem to acknowledge that the public is increasingly resistant to the deluge of environmental alarmism they’ve been peddling.

In a feature in their Dec. 21 print issue that is currently available on their website, Christopher Hayes bemoans the fact that global-warming hysteria isn’t selling as well as it used to. Hayes cites a Washington Post/ABC poll that shows a marked decline in support for the basic premise of global warming and an even more precipitate drop in the total of those who accept the theory that a rise in temperatures is the result of human activity.

How does Hayes explain this refusal of so many Americans to accept the dogma that is repeated endlessly in the media and throughout the culture almost without challenge? Of course, he ignores recent scandals such as the East Anglia affair, as well as the fact that, contrary to predictions, the planet hasn’t gotten any warmer in the past decade, something even the New York Times has acknowledged.

Instead, Hayes mostly blames it on the economic crisis and partisan hatred for Barack Obama. But that’s not all. He also blames the global-warming activists themselves for not being sufficiently scary. That’s right. Despite all the apocalyptic threats that have been put forward on behalf of this thesis based on theoretical models, Hayes believes that we haven’t had enough environmental hysteria. He believes the warming alarmists must stop talking about “green jobs” and the economic opportunities they claim will spring from the disastrous cap-and-trade policies they advocate. Instead, he wants them to just scream “the planet is melting.” I guess that’s supposed to reinforce the Left’s self-image as the advocates of reason and science.

But elsewhere on the Nation website, you can get a slightly different take on the same issue. In a video interview with Nation editorial-board member Tony Kushner, the famous playwright has his own riff on the question. Kushner modestly brushes off the praise of the magazine staffer plying the questions by saying that the mention of “the impact of human lives on the environment” in his 1991 play Angels in America in which “character Hannah Pitt fretted about the hole in the ozone layer” didn’t make him a prophet. He was just writing about what was “in the news” then as now, he claims. Though he puts down all skepticism about the theory to “greed” on the part of evil industrialists, he goes on to say that he thinks that the lack of progress toward passing economy-crippling measures aimed to stop global warming is due to the fact that people are aware of the impending catastrophe but are too numbed by its enormity to act. Kushner even thinks that, contrary to the evidence leaking out from East Anglia, the global-warming crowd has understated the danger so as not to create mass panic.

For those who want a small taste of Kushner’s idea of environmental reform, consider the passage where he fondly remembers the halt in commercial-airline flights after the 9/11 attacks, which he claims created a “staggering decrease in the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere!”

So what’s the answer here? Are we too scared by the specter of being cooked like a hot dog at Nathan’s in less than a decade, as Kushner thinks, or, as Hayes theorizes, have we not been frightened enough? Either way, it’s clear that the real fear on the Left is that more of the public isn’t buying their scare stories anymore.

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Obama Gives No Due Credit to Bush

In the Wall Street Journal today, we read that

The Obama administration, faced with mounting Congressional criticism, is trying to build support for its new Afghan strategy by explicitly linking the planned escalation to the Bush administration’s 2007 Iraq surge.

I have a couple of thoughts on this, the first being that it would be appropriate for President Obama to admit (as his secretary of defense has) that his Afghan strategy is based in large part on the Bush strategy in Iraq. But that acknowledgment apparently will not pass his lips.

Second, it’s worth recalling that Obama himself was a fierce critic of the surge/counterinsurgency strategy he now embraces. On January 10, 2007, the night the surge was announced, Obama declared, “I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq are going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse.” A few days later he insisted the surge strategy would “not prove to be one that changes the dynamics significantly.” And responding to President Bush’s January 23 State of the Union address, Obama said

I don’t think the president’s strategy is going to work. We went through two weeks of hearings on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; experts from across the spectrum — military and civilian, conservative and liberal — expressed great skepticism about it. My suggestion to the president has been that the only way we’re going to change the dynamic in Iraq and start seeing political accommodation is actually if we create a system of phased redeployment. And, frankly, the president, I think, has not been willing to consider that option, not because it’s not militarily sound but because he continues to cling to the belief that somehow military solutions are going to lead to victory in Iraq.

As late as July 2008, when asked by ABC’s Terry Moran whether, “knowing what you know now, would you support the surge?” Obama answered, “No.” This was one of the most misinformed and foolish comments of the entire campaign.

I’m of course delighted that President Obama has changed his mind, that he’s seen the errors of his ways, and that he’s now embraced the wisdom of his predecessor when it comes to COIN strategy. But he appears far too arrogant to either admit his past mistakes or to give credit where it is due. Both would be impressive things to do — and with Obama, both are impossible things to expect.

I fully expected Barack Obama would be arrogant as president; what genuinely surprises me is how graceless he has turned out. This is but one way — and not the only way — in which Barack Obama resembles Jimmy Carter.

In the Wall Street Journal today, we read that

The Obama administration, faced with mounting Congressional criticism, is trying to build support for its new Afghan strategy by explicitly linking the planned escalation to the Bush administration’s 2007 Iraq surge.

I have a couple of thoughts on this, the first being that it would be appropriate for President Obama to admit (as his secretary of defense has) that his Afghan strategy is based in large part on the Bush strategy in Iraq. But that acknowledgment apparently will not pass his lips.

Second, it’s worth recalling that Obama himself was a fierce critic of the surge/counterinsurgency strategy he now embraces. On January 10, 2007, the night the surge was announced, Obama declared, “I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq are going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse.” A few days later he insisted the surge strategy would “not prove to be one that changes the dynamics significantly.” And responding to President Bush’s January 23 State of the Union address, Obama said

I don’t think the president’s strategy is going to work. We went through two weeks of hearings on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; experts from across the spectrum — military and civilian, conservative and liberal — expressed great skepticism about it. My suggestion to the president has been that the only way we’re going to change the dynamic in Iraq and start seeing political accommodation is actually if we create a system of phased redeployment. And, frankly, the president, I think, has not been willing to consider that option, not because it’s not militarily sound but because he continues to cling to the belief that somehow military solutions are going to lead to victory in Iraq.

As late as July 2008, when asked by ABC’s Terry Moran whether, “knowing what you know now, would you support the surge?” Obama answered, “No.” This was one of the most misinformed and foolish comments of the entire campaign.

I’m of course delighted that President Obama has changed his mind, that he’s seen the errors of his ways, and that he’s now embraced the wisdom of his predecessor when it comes to COIN strategy. But he appears far too arrogant to either admit his past mistakes or to give credit where it is due. Both would be impressive things to do — and with Obama, both are impossible things to expect.

I fully expected Barack Obama would be arrogant as president; what genuinely surprises me is how graceless he has turned out. This is but one way — and not the only way — in which Barack Obama resembles Jimmy Carter.

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The Alien Among Us

Jennifer Rubin astutely notes that Obama the candidate “let everyone form their own impression of who he is and what he stands for.” (In this respect, he is like one of those alien species from Star Trek with the ability to assume the appearance of whatever life-form it finds itself among.) And Rubin correctly reads Tina Brown as saying that Obama does not believe in the mission in Afghanistan and — at least implicitly — that the Daily Beast editor is calling the president a liar when he claims that his health-care plan will be “deficit neutral.”

Brown’s comments call to mind Christopher Buckley’s odd endorsement, in October 2008, of Obama’s presidential bid, in which Buckley — like a feckless member of the Starship Enterprise crew — failed to see the alien standing in front of him as alien, even to the point of turning over control of the ship to him. In his endorsement, Buckley identified himself as “a small-government conservative who clings tenaciously and old-fashionedly to the idea that one ought to have balanced budgets” and correctly characterized Obama as a “lefty,” raising the obvious question: “So, Chris, why are you endorsing him?” Part of Buckley’s answer concerned his dissatisfaction with John McCain. But beyond that, Buckley opined that Obama had “a first-class temperament and a first-class intellect” and that, therefore, he would “surely understand that traditional left-politics aren’t going to get us out of this pit we’ve dug for ourselves.” In other words, Buckley supported Obama because he thought Obama was too smart to do the things he was promising to do; which is to say, he supported him because he didn’t believe him.

Now that President Obama has resorted precisely to the “traditional left-politics” that Buckley was so sure he would eschew, and has deepened the “pit” by several orders of magnitude — with the worst yet to come — we are left to conclude (1) that Obama’s intelligence and temperament fall far short of what so many of his supporters — and some of his adversaries — attributed to him, and/or (2) that Obama was telling the truth about his policy intentions all along and that what is in doubt is the capacity of some of his supporters to recognize an alien when they see one.

Jennifer Rubin astutely notes that Obama the candidate “let everyone form their own impression of who he is and what he stands for.” (In this respect, he is like one of those alien species from Star Trek with the ability to assume the appearance of whatever life-form it finds itself among.) And Rubin correctly reads Tina Brown as saying that Obama does not believe in the mission in Afghanistan and — at least implicitly — that the Daily Beast editor is calling the president a liar when he claims that his health-care plan will be “deficit neutral.”

Brown’s comments call to mind Christopher Buckley’s odd endorsement, in October 2008, of Obama’s presidential bid, in which Buckley — like a feckless member of the Starship Enterprise crew — failed to see the alien standing in front of him as alien, even to the point of turning over control of the ship to him. In his endorsement, Buckley identified himself as “a small-government conservative who clings tenaciously and old-fashionedly to the idea that one ought to have balanced budgets” and correctly characterized Obama as a “lefty,” raising the obvious question: “So, Chris, why are you endorsing him?” Part of Buckley’s answer concerned his dissatisfaction with John McCain. But beyond that, Buckley opined that Obama had “a first-class temperament and a first-class intellect” and that, therefore, he would “surely understand that traditional left-politics aren’t going to get us out of this pit we’ve dug for ourselves.” In other words, Buckley supported Obama because he thought Obama was too smart to do the things he was promising to do; which is to say, he supported him because he didn’t believe him.

Now that President Obama has resorted precisely to the “traditional left-politics” that Buckley was so sure he would eschew, and has deepened the “pit” by several orders of magnitude — with the worst yet to come — we are left to conclude (1) that Obama’s intelligence and temperament fall far short of what so many of his supporters — and some of his adversaries — attributed to him, and/or (2) that Obama was telling the truth about his policy intentions all along and that what is in doubt is the capacity of some of his supporters to recognize an alien when they see one.

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RE: RE: Another Summit

Lest you think that only John Steele Gordon and I are summit-ed out, Jason Zengerle writes:

Indeed, in the age of Obama, the summit has replaced the vaunted bipartisan commission as the ultimate empty gesture. Where a president once kicked a nettlesome political problem down the road by assembling a panel of bipartisan worthies to produce a report on entitlement reform, say, or how we made the mistake of thinking Saddam had WMDs, Obama now holds a confab to jawbone the problem to death. Even better, unlike with a bipartisan commission, with a summit, there’s no final report to have to contend with.

But like Wiley E. Coyote, who only falls into the chasm when he looks down, summitry only stays afloat as long as everyone pretends it’s meaningful. Once even sympathetic supporters start guffawing and rolling their eyes, the summits become counterproductive and symbols of, well, “gasbaggery,” as Zengerle puts it. In Obama’s case, summits have taken the place of legislative proposals, which have been eschewed in favor of “let Nancy and Harry draft something.”

So if Obama seems smaller than before, and his presidency seems more cramped and unproductive, perhaps its because he’s not doing much of anything. And now many more of us are starting to notice.

Lest you think that only John Steele Gordon and I are summit-ed out, Jason Zengerle writes:

Indeed, in the age of Obama, the summit has replaced the vaunted bipartisan commission as the ultimate empty gesture. Where a president once kicked a nettlesome political problem down the road by assembling a panel of bipartisan worthies to produce a report on entitlement reform, say, or how we made the mistake of thinking Saddam had WMDs, Obama now holds a confab to jawbone the problem to death. Even better, unlike with a bipartisan commission, with a summit, there’s no final report to have to contend with.

But like Wiley E. Coyote, who only falls into the chasm when he looks down, summitry only stays afloat as long as everyone pretends it’s meaningful. Once even sympathetic supporters start guffawing and rolling their eyes, the summits become counterproductive and symbols of, well, “gasbaggery,” as Zengerle puts it. In Obama’s case, summits have taken the place of legislative proposals, which have been eschewed in favor of “let Nancy and Harry draft something.”

So if Obama seems smaller than before, and his presidency seems more cramped and unproductive, perhaps its because he’s not doing much of anything. And now many more of us are starting to notice.

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CBC vs. NBC, CBS, and ABC

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) is owned by the Canadian government and is not exactly famous for rocking establishment boats. That makes this no-beating-around-the-bush opinion piece on Climategate even more interesting.

In contrast to government-owned CBC, we have privately owned NBC, CBS, and ABC to keep the American people up to date on the important issues of the day. So here, in its entirety, is what these three networks have had to say on this ever-growing story since it broke two weeks ago:

“                                                                                             ”

That’s right, nothing whatsoever. Sort of makes you proud to be an American.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) is owned by the Canadian government and is not exactly famous for rocking establishment boats. That makes this no-beating-around-the-bush opinion piece on Climategate even more interesting.

In contrast to government-owned CBC, we have privately owned NBC, CBS, and ABC to keep the American people up to date on the important issues of the day. So here, in its entirety, is what these three networks have had to say on this ever-growing story since it broke two weeks ago:

“                                                                                             ”

That’s right, nothing whatsoever. Sort of makes you proud to be an American.

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Obama Color Blind When It Comes to the Recession

Is the Barack Obama of “There is not a black America and a white America . . . but the United States of America” back? On Wednesday, 10 members of the Black Caucus  boycotted a key House committee vote on financial regulations to pressure their fellow members and the White House to focus more attention on targeting assistance to blacks and other minority businesses in the recession. But the president refused to be mau-maued by the caucus. In an interview with USA Today, President Obama said in response to a question about why he is not doing more to help blacks specifically:

The most important thing I can do for the African-American community is the same thing I can do for the American community, period, and that is get the economy going again and get people hiring again.

He may not have much of a clue about how best to do that, but at least he’s not turning the recession into a racial issue. Putting distance between himself and Maxine Waters or Jesse Jackson (whom I recently debated on “The Color of Recession” before a D.C. audience) is not only good politics; it’s also good policy.

Is the Barack Obama of “There is not a black America and a white America . . . but the United States of America” back? On Wednesday, 10 members of the Black Caucus  boycotted a key House committee vote on financial regulations to pressure their fellow members and the White House to focus more attention on targeting assistance to blacks and other minority businesses in the recession. But the president refused to be mau-maued by the caucus. In an interview with USA Today, President Obama said in response to a question about why he is not doing more to help blacks specifically:

The most important thing I can do for the African-American community is the same thing I can do for the American community, period, and that is get the economy going again and get people hiring again.

He may not have much of a clue about how best to do that, but at least he’s not turning the recession into a racial issue. Putting distance between himself and Maxine Waters or Jesse Jackson (whom I recently debated on “The Color of Recession” before a D.C. audience) is not only good politics; it’s also good policy.

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Time to Take the Gloves Off in Pakistan

For years the U.S. has been carrying out Predator strikes against Islamist terrorists in Pakistan — but only in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. The rest of Pakistan has been out of bounds, including Baluchistan, where in the city of Quetta, the Afghan Taliban have established their operational headquarters. That may be changing. The New York Times reports today: “American officials are talking with Pakistan about the possibility of striking in Baluchistan for the first time — a controversial move since it is outside the tribal areas — because that is where Afghan Taliban leaders are believed to hide.”

It’s about time. In a Times op-ed today, RAND’s Seth Jones quotes a Marine he met in Helmand Province: “The Taliban sanctuary in Baluchistan is catastrophic for us. Local Taliban fighters get strategic and operational guidance from across the border, as well as supplies and technical components for their improvised explosive devices.”

I heard similar sentiments when I was in Afghanistan in October. Indeed, one senior American officer told me that many Afghans can’t figure out why we are giving a pass to Mullah Omar and the senior Afghan Taliban leadership when we are targeting leaders of al-Qaeda and even the Pakistani Taliban (including their leader, Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed in a U.S. strike in August). This has led to the spread of conspiracy theories suggesting that the Americans are somehow in cahoots with the Afghan Taliban. Crazy, I know, but those are the kinds of wild theories that are believed in tribal societies like Afghanistan.

In reality, I suspect, we have refrained from strikes on the Taliban leadership for fear of offending the Pakistani government. But if we’re going to get serious about turning around the situation on the ground in Afghanistan, we have to take the gloves off and send the Predators over Quetta.

For years the U.S. has been carrying out Predator strikes against Islamist terrorists in Pakistan — but only in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. The rest of Pakistan has been out of bounds, including Baluchistan, where in the city of Quetta, the Afghan Taliban have established their operational headquarters. That may be changing. The New York Times reports today: “American officials are talking with Pakistan about the possibility of striking in Baluchistan for the first time — a controversial move since it is outside the tribal areas — because that is where Afghan Taliban leaders are believed to hide.”

It’s about time. In a Times op-ed today, RAND’s Seth Jones quotes a Marine he met in Helmand Province: “The Taliban sanctuary in Baluchistan is catastrophic for us. Local Taliban fighters get strategic and operational guidance from across the border, as well as supplies and technical components for their improvised explosive devices.”

I heard similar sentiments when I was in Afghanistan in October. Indeed, one senior American officer told me that many Afghans can’t figure out why we are giving a pass to Mullah Omar and the senior Afghan Taliban leadership when we are targeting leaders of al-Qaeda and even the Pakistani Taliban (including their leader, Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed in a U.S. strike in August). This has led to the spread of conspiracy theories suggesting that the Americans are somehow in cahoots with the Afghan Taliban. Crazy, I know, but those are the kinds of wild theories that are believed in tribal societies like Afghanistan.

In reality, I suspect, we have refrained from strikes on the Taliban leadership for fear of offending the Pakistani government. But if we’re going to get serious about turning around the situation on the ground in Afghanistan, we have to take the gloves off and send the Predators over Quetta.

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Don’t Get the Word Out

It’s commonly believed that, compared with other countries, the U.S. enjoys an exceptional measure of freedom of the press and, closely allied to it, exceptionally liberal libel laws. The comparison with Britain is particularly marked, and the Index on Censorship and English PEN have launched a libel-reform campaign that describes British libel law as “a global disgrace” and refers glowingly to American freedoms.

The Adam Smith Institute has also weighed in, observing that “English libel laws are used by the rich and influential to deflect attention, while discouraging serious journalism and the spread of ideas to the UK.” American Rachel Ehrenfeld, whose 2003 book, Funding Evil, was targeted by a Saudi critic, would likely agree, as would the American authors of the 2007 Alms for Jihad, published by the Cambridge University Press.

But perhaps we in the U.S. should stop patting ourselves on the back. Last month, the Centre for Social Cohesion in Britain produced a well-documented study of Hizb ut-Tahrir’s Islamist ideology and strategy. The report details HuT’s activities outside and, especially, inside Britain and documents the disturbing extent to which it has been accepted as a legitimate partner for engagement by mainstream British political institutions. The study is available through CSC: notably, Britain’s strict libel laws did not prevent it from being published there.

It did not, though, get much press in the U.S. That may be because PR Newswire, the CSC’s press agency, refused to carry a news release announcing the report, stating — in e-mails I have read — that its U.S. office would “reject the release based on its inflammatory content” and that it owed a “a duty of care to the newswire providers we work with.” The U.S. office weighed in, too, with a statement that “due to the unsubstantiated allegations of criminal activities and inflammatory language,” they would not be able to run the release.

“Unsubstantiated” is a curious word to describe a report of more than 100 pages and 600 footnotes with extensive quotations from original sources. But more broadly, this is precisely the problem that bedevils Britain: the real damage done by its libel laws is not caused so much by the courtroom challenges to authors but by the fear the laws create among publishers that they may be next.

In the British context, it is at least encouraging that Justice Secretary Jack Straw is now publicly committed to libel reform, though his observation that the danger derives mostly from lawsuits by “big corporations” ignores who has done most of the suing so far. But the remedy when press agencies in the U.S. refuse to run news releases that might anger jihadis is less clear: we already have the First Amendment; yet in this instance, we appear to be less able than Britain to bear the burden of publishing on terrorism.

It’s commonly believed that, compared with other countries, the U.S. enjoys an exceptional measure of freedom of the press and, closely allied to it, exceptionally liberal libel laws. The comparison with Britain is particularly marked, and the Index on Censorship and English PEN have launched a libel-reform campaign that describes British libel law as “a global disgrace” and refers glowingly to American freedoms.

The Adam Smith Institute has also weighed in, observing that “English libel laws are used by the rich and influential to deflect attention, while discouraging serious journalism and the spread of ideas to the UK.” American Rachel Ehrenfeld, whose 2003 book, Funding Evil, was targeted by a Saudi critic, would likely agree, as would the American authors of the 2007 Alms for Jihad, published by the Cambridge University Press.

But perhaps we in the U.S. should stop patting ourselves on the back. Last month, the Centre for Social Cohesion in Britain produced a well-documented study of Hizb ut-Tahrir’s Islamist ideology and strategy. The report details HuT’s activities outside and, especially, inside Britain and documents the disturbing extent to which it has been accepted as a legitimate partner for engagement by mainstream British political institutions. The study is available through CSC: notably, Britain’s strict libel laws did not prevent it from being published there.

It did not, though, get much press in the U.S. That may be because PR Newswire, the CSC’s press agency, refused to carry a news release announcing the report, stating — in e-mails I have read — that its U.S. office would “reject the release based on its inflammatory content” and that it owed a “a duty of care to the newswire providers we work with.” The U.S. office weighed in, too, with a statement that “due to the unsubstantiated allegations of criminal activities and inflammatory language,” they would not be able to run the release.

“Unsubstantiated” is a curious word to describe a report of more than 100 pages and 600 footnotes with extensive quotations from original sources. But more broadly, this is precisely the problem that bedevils Britain: the real damage done by its libel laws is not caused so much by the courtroom challenges to authors but by the fear the laws create among publishers that they may be next.

In the British context, it is at least encouraging that Justice Secretary Jack Straw is now publicly committed to libel reform, though his observation that the danger derives mostly from lawsuits by “big corporations” ignores who has done most of the suing so far. But the remedy when press agencies in the U.S. refuse to run news releases that might anger jihadis is less clear: we already have the First Amendment; yet in this instance, we appear to be less able than Britain to bear the burden of publishing on terrorism.

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A Welcome Reversal

The country (and especially the Obama administration) got some much needed good economic news this morning. While the consensus prediction had been that the unemployment rate would hold steady at 10.2 percent, it actually fell to 10 percent. And there was a net loss of only 11,000 jobs in November, while October job losses were revised downward from 190,000 to 111,000.

This adds to the growing number of signs that the Great Recession is over and that we are now climbing slowly up the other side of the valley. But no one expects that the jobless rate will decline quickly or that job creation will increase at the same pace at which the economy grows.

The administration will inevitably make the post hoc ergo propter hoc assertion that its policies have produced the good news. But they might want to be careful about that. Curiously, the good news on unemployment this month might well generate bad news next month. The rate only counts people who are looking for work. People who have given up looking don’t count. If enough of these discouraged workers start sending out résumés again because of the good news, that could send the rate right back up if job creation does not accelerate sharply, which is unlikely.

The country (and especially the Obama administration) got some much needed good economic news this morning. While the consensus prediction had been that the unemployment rate would hold steady at 10.2 percent, it actually fell to 10 percent. And there was a net loss of only 11,000 jobs in November, while October job losses were revised downward from 190,000 to 111,000.

This adds to the growing number of signs that the Great Recession is over and that we are now climbing slowly up the other side of the valley. But no one expects that the jobless rate will decline quickly or that job creation will increase at the same pace at which the economy grows.

The administration will inevitably make the post hoc ergo propter hoc assertion that its policies have produced the good news. But they might want to be careful about that. Curiously, the good news on unemployment this month might well generate bad news next month. The rate only counts people who are looking for work. People who have given up looking don’t count. If enough of these discouraged workers start sending out résumés again because of the good news, that could send the rate right back up if job creation does not accelerate sharply, which is unlikely.

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Everyone Is Mad

Tina Brown confesses that “whenever Obama makes an important policy speech these days he leaves everyone totally confused.” She wonders if this is “a strategy so that whatever bill trickles out of Congress or however many soldiers linger in Afghanistan, he can claim that the outcome is what he meant it all along.” Or maybe these guys aren’t good at governing (“for all the administration’s vaunted mastery of multiplatform communication, Rahm and Gibbs and company are actually amateurs at crafting a clear political message and launching it on the dazed American public”). Well, both alternatives are possible.

Brown settles on the explanation that the speechifying is so muddled because Obama doesn’t believe what he is saying. He knows, she thinks, there is no deficit-neutral health care that extends coverage to tens of millions of more people, and she thinks he doesn’t believe in the mission in Afghanistan. What she is really saying is that the president is a liar. And that’s a rather strong accusation, but not unlike what many liberals are grumbling about these days. Convinced that Obama’s heart and political soul is firmly on the Left, they surmise that anything short of undiluted Leftism is a “lie” or a fakery that doesn’t embody the “real” Obama.

Obama, at a most inopportune time, with a new war-strategy rollout and the health-care debate at a critical juncture, is managing to turn off each segment of the electorate. The Tina Brown liberal sophisticates are convinced he’s faking it. The moderates and independents think they are victims of a bait and switch. And conservatives are crowing that they were right all along about Obama — he’s the worst of Jimmy Carter and George McGovern. It is, from a political perspective, a mess.

But it is, after all, what is naturally expected to flow from a candidate who let everyone form their own impression of who he is and what he stands for. It is what comes from delegating major decisions and legislative draftsmanship to others. Rather than filling in the blanks with their own positive images of Obama, diverse voters are now filling in the blanks with their gripes and disappointments. It’s only the first year of his presidency, but if this keeps up, Obama will have managed to alienate friends and persuadable voters in the middle, as well as energize the opposition. No easy feat.

Tina Brown confesses that “whenever Obama makes an important policy speech these days he leaves everyone totally confused.” She wonders if this is “a strategy so that whatever bill trickles out of Congress or however many soldiers linger in Afghanistan, he can claim that the outcome is what he meant it all along.” Or maybe these guys aren’t good at governing (“for all the administration’s vaunted mastery of multiplatform communication, Rahm and Gibbs and company are actually amateurs at crafting a clear political message and launching it on the dazed American public”). Well, both alternatives are possible.

Brown settles on the explanation that the speechifying is so muddled because Obama doesn’t believe what he is saying. He knows, she thinks, there is no deficit-neutral health care that extends coverage to tens of millions of more people, and she thinks he doesn’t believe in the mission in Afghanistan. What she is really saying is that the president is a liar. And that’s a rather strong accusation, but not unlike what many liberals are grumbling about these days. Convinced that Obama’s heart and political soul is firmly on the Left, they surmise that anything short of undiluted Leftism is a “lie” or a fakery that doesn’t embody the “real” Obama.

Obama, at a most inopportune time, with a new war-strategy rollout and the health-care debate at a critical juncture, is managing to turn off each segment of the electorate. The Tina Brown liberal sophisticates are convinced he’s faking it. The moderates and independents think they are victims of a bait and switch. And conservatives are crowing that they were right all along about Obama — he’s the worst of Jimmy Carter and George McGovern. It is, from a political perspective, a mess.

But it is, after all, what is naturally expected to flow from a candidate who let everyone form their own impression of who he is and what he stands for. It is what comes from delegating major decisions and legislative draftsmanship to others. Rather than filling in the blanks with their own positive images of Obama, diverse voters are now filling in the blanks with their gripes and disappointments. It’s only the first year of his presidency, but if this keeps up, Obama will have managed to alienate friends and persuadable voters in the middle, as well as energize the opposition. No easy feat.

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The Politics of Addition

Following the 2008 election, there was much GOP angst. Some supposedly smart pundits wanted to throw social conservatives overboard, while other supposedly smart pundits wanted to throw moderates overboard. Neither seemed like a winning strategy for a party losing market share. But it made for lots of feisty columns and got many of the pundits on cable talk shows and mainstream not-really-news magazine covers. Nothing like a good Republican fight to make TV cable news producers and magazine editors happy.

But in the world of candidates and races and real voters, there were two big gubernatorial races this year in which the candidates took a different approach. After winning a purple state by 20 points and carrying Democratic-leaning Fairfax County, Governor-elect Bob McDonnell was asked in an interview if he still “cares” about social issues and if they are “winning” issues for Republicans. He answered:

Absolutely! I am a social and economic conservative and have made no bones about it. I have an 18-year record as attorney general and as a legislator of not only supporting, but leading on a lot of those issues. So I am unequivocally pro-life, pro-property rights, pro-gun, but what I understood people were most concerned about and what I saw as the biggest challenges facing Virginia were quality of life and pocketbook issues: jobs, economic development, taxes and federal intrusion into the free enterprise system. So we decided about a year out this would be a campaign about jobs.

He also explains that he’s not big on a 10-point, or any point, “purity” test:

One of the reasons I was able to get 58.6 percent of the vote is that we tried to bring a lot of people into the party. We had a 2-1 advantage with independents and I try to do it by reaching out and embracing people, not having a covenant of limitations that excludes people. What I am concerned about are these acid tests where if you fail on one or two, somehow you are ostracized from the party. That leads to infighting, destruction and losses at the polls. For me, I stuck to my principles as a social and fiscal conservative, but focused almost entirely during the campaign on economic conservative issues. I didn’t alienate my socially conservative friends, but I’m not sure written acid tests will be helpful in building the party.

Hmm. No one thrown out? Run on a conservative message that appeals to independents and moderates? Talk about the top issues? This sounds like it might work. Well it did, at least in Virginia and at least at a time when Obama and his Left-leaning agenda have wigged out independent voters.

And there’s a lesson as well for Republicans who often take to whining about media bias. McDonnell weathered the Washington Post‘s onslaught over his 20-year-old thesis, and wryly observed: “It didn’t matter what the Post said about my views on life and marriage. … The Post, along with my opponent, created such a misplaced focus on my position on social issues that they ceded the entire playing field to me on economic issues, which is what people were voting on.” It seems that a smart and disciplined candidate, rather than wailing that the media is “150 percent in the tank” for his opponent, can use the media as a foil and get his message out anyway.

McDonnell’s formula might not work everywhere for Republicans in 2010 and beyond. But it’s hard to see what might work better. A lot of Republicans, therefore, will be listening to his advice as they map out their races.

Following the 2008 election, there was much GOP angst. Some supposedly smart pundits wanted to throw social conservatives overboard, while other supposedly smart pundits wanted to throw moderates overboard. Neither seemed like a winning strategy for a party losing market share. But it made for lots of feisty columns and got many of the pundits on cable talk shows and mainstream not-really-news magazine covers. Nothing like a good Republican fight to make TV cable news producers and magazine editors happy.

But in the world of candidates and races and real voters, there were two big gubernatorial races this year in which the candidates took a different approach. After winning a purple state by 20 points and carrying Democratic-leaning Fairfax County, Governor-elect Bob McDonnell was asked in an interview if he still “cares” about social issues and if they are “winning” issues for Republicans. He answered:

Absolutely! I am a social and economic conservative and have made no bones about it. I have an 18-year record as attorney general and as a legislator of not only supporting, but leading on a lot of those issues. So I am unequivocally pro-life, pro-property rights, pro-gun, but what I understood people were most concerned about and what I saw as the biggest challenges facing Virginia were quality of life and pocketbook issues: jobs, economic development, taxes and federal intrusion into the free enterprise system. So we decided about a year out this would be a campaign about jobs.

He also explains that he’s not big on a 10-point, or any point, “purity” test:

One of the reasons I was able to get 58.6 percent of the vote is that we tried to bring a lot of people into the party. We had a 2-1 advantage with independents and I try to do it by reaching out and embracing people, not having a covenant of limitations that excludes people. What I am concerned about are these acid tests where if you fail on one or two, somehow you are ostracized from the party. That leads to infighting, destruction and losses at the polls. For me, I stuck to my principles as a social and fiscal conservative, but focused almost entirely during the campaign on economic conservative issues. I didn’t alienate my socially conservative friends, but I’m not sure written acid tests will be helpful in building the party.

Hmm. No one thrown out? Run on a conservative message that appeals to independents and moderates? Talk about the top issues? This sounds like it might work. Well it did, at least in Virginia and at least at a time when Obama and his Left-leaning agenda have wigged out independent voters.

And there’s a lesson as well for Republicans who often take to whining about media bias. McDonnell weathered the Washington Post‘s onslaught over his 20-year-old thesis, and wryly observed: “It didn’t matter what the Post said about my views on life and marriage. … The Post, along with my opponent, created such a misplaced focus on my position on social issues that they ceded the entire playing field to me on economic issues, which is what people were voting on.” It seems that a smart and disciplined candidate, rather than wailing that the media is “150 percent in the tank” for his opponent, can use the media as a foil and get his message out anyway.

McDonnell’s formula might not work everywhere for Republicans in 2010 and beyond. But it’s hard to see what might work better. A lot of Republicans, therefore, will be listening to his advice as they map out their races.

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New York Times, Meet Milton Friedman

Since John has awarded the prize for the most ridiculous headline to the Times, let’s make it a twofer and give the Times the dumbest opening paragraph as well.

The Senate voted Thursday to require health insurance companies to provide free mammograms and other preventive services to women, and it turned back a Republican challenge to Medicare savings that constitute the single largest source of financing for the bill.

Just as there are no free lunches, there are no free mammograms either. The insurance companies will pass the cost along to the policy holders in the form of higher premiums. These politically imposed mandates are a major reason why health insurance is so much more costly in states like New York and New Jersey than it is in neighboring states like Connecticut and Pennsylvania. A family policy that costs $12,250 a year in New York costs only $7,750 a year next door in Connecticut because that state does not have guaranteed issuance (get sick today, buy the policy tomorrow, and still be covered) and many fewer coverage mandates. New York has no fewer than 51 of these, including chiropractic treatment, acupuncture, and — a very big-ticket item — in vitro fertilization. Even if you think chiropractors are quacks, hate needles, and are at a stage in life when you don’t want to make babies even the old-fashioned way, you still must pay for coverage because politicians in Albany have decided you should.

As I have often pointed out, politicians cannot make economic decisions; they can make only political ones. That’s why socialism has never worked — and it never will. For socialized medicine, that goes double.

Since John has awarded the prize for the most ridiculous headline to the Times, let’s make it a twofer and give the Times the dumbest opening paragraph as well.

The Senate voted Thursday to require health insurance companies to provide free mammograms and other preventive services to women, and it turned back a Republican challenge to Medicare savings that constitute the single largest source of financing for the bill.

Just as there are no free lunches, there are no free mammograms either. The insurance companies will pass the cost along to the policy holders in the form of higher premiums. These politically imposed mandates are a major reason why health insurance is so much more costly in states like New York and New Jersey than it is in neighboring states like Connecticut and Pennsylvania. A family policy that costs $12,250 a year in New York costs only $7,750 a year next door in Connecticut because that state does not have guaranteed issuance (get sick today, buy the policy tomorrow, and still be covered) and many fewer coverage mandates. New York has no fewer than 51 of these, including chiropractic treatment, acupuncture, and — a very big-ticket item — in vitro fertilization. Even if you think chiropractors are quacks, hate needles, and are at a stage in life when you don’t want to make babies even the old-fashioned way, you still must pay for coverage because politicians in Albany have decided you should.

As I have often pointed out, politicians cannot make economic decisions; they can make only political ones. That’s why socialism has never worked — and it never will. For socialized medicine, that goes double.

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Privileged, Indeed

The Obami are pulling out all the stops to protect their social secretary and Chicago pal from further scrutiny about the lapse in security over what is now the most infamous state dinner in recent memory. Didn’t you hear, sniffs, Valerie Jarrett, who doesn’t want her confidante and Chicago pal going anywhere near a congressional hearing: Case closed! Move along. Desiree is not going to testify, the Obami say. What!? Something about the Constitution, you say? Hmm.

Bill Burck and Dan Perino dissect the Obami’s claim that they needn’t provide Desiree Rogers to testify over the party-crashing incident because of the “separation of powers.” That’s “executive privilege,” by the way, but they don’t want to say that because people would laugh. Well, more people would laugh than are already. Rogers is not exactly a close adviser, of course. But no matter:

Lest there be any doubt on this front, the White House made it clear that “staff here don’t go to testify in front of Congress.” There is no qualifier of any sort in that statement. At face value, this is a breathtaking assertion that all White House staff — everyone from the chief of staff to the 22-year-old assistant just out of college — are absolutely immune from appearing before Congress to give testimony. This jaw-dropper makes the prior administration, vilified by so many Democrats in Congress as imperious and dismissive of congressional prerogatives, look positively weak-kneed and lap-doggish.

This is all quite at odds with the Democrats’ past eight years of foot-stomping and insistence that the Bush White House had to provide advisers (real ones, who advised on more than menus and guest lists) for testimony. (“Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Conyers must feel particularly double-crossed because they were the principal sponsors of a lawsuit filed in an effort to compel testimony and documents from Ms. Miers, Mr. Rove, and others concerning the U.S. attorney controversy.”)

Congress may be inclined to let this slide. But they do so at their institutional peril. The Obami are apparently serious, and Congress, unless it wants to set some new precedent, should be wary about letting the White House get away with a stunt like this. “We don’t want to embarrass our Chicago friend” simply isn’t a good enough reason to stiff Congress.

The Obami are pulling out all the stops to protect their social secretary and Chicago pal from further scrutiny about the lapse in security over what is now the most infamous state dinner in recent memory. Didn’t you hear, sniffs, Valerie Jarrett, who doesn’t want her confidante and Chicago pal going anywhere near a congressional hearing: Case closed! Move along. Desiree is not going to testify, the Obami say. What!? Something about the Constitution, you say? Hmm.

Bill Burck and Dan Perino dissect the Obami’s claim that they needn’t provide Desiree Rogers to testify over the party-crashing incident because of the “separation of powers.” That’s “executive privilege,” by the way, but they don’t want to say that because people would laugh. Well, more people would laugh than are already. Rogers is not exactly a close adviser, of course. But no matter:

Lest there be any doubt on this front, the White House made it clear that “staff here don’t go to testify in front of Congress.” There is no qualifier of any sort in that statement. At face value, this is a breathtaking assertion that all White House staff — everyone from the chief of staff to the 22-year-old assistant just out of college — are absolutely immune from appearing before Congress to give testimony. This jaw-dropper makes the prior administration, vilified by so many Democrats in Congress as imperious and dismissive of congressional prerogatives, look positively weak-kneed and lap-doggish.

This is all quite at odds with the Democrats’ past eight years of foot-stomping and insistence that the Bush White House had to provide advisers (real ones, who advised on more than menus and guest lists) for testimony. (“Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Conyers must feel particularly double-crossed because they were the principal sponsors of a lawsuit filed in an effort to compel testimony and documents from Ms. Miers, Mr. Rove, and others concerning the U.S. attorney controversy.”)

Congress may be inclined to let this slide. But they do so at their institutional peril. The Obami are apparently serious, and Congress, unless it wants to set some new precedent, should be wary about letting the White House get away with a stunt like this. “We don’t want to embarrass our Chicago friend” simply isn’t a good enough reason to stiff Congress.

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What Hamas Really Wants from a Prisoner Swap

One myth the negotiations over kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit should definitively debunk is that Hamas’s leadership actually cares about the fate of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

In exchange for Shalit, Israel has offered to free 980 Palestinian prisoners, including 450 chosen in consultation with Hamas. And by all accounts, it has already agreed to almost all the 450 specific prisoners whose release Hamas is demanding: the London-based daily Al-Hayat claimed today that Israel has agreed to 400 of them; the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam claimed yesterday that Israel has agreed to all but 15.

Hence if Hamas really wanted to free a large number of Palestinian prisoners — including hundreds involved in some of the worst terrorist violence of the past two decades — all it had to do was say yes. And since the handful Israel still refuses to release includes several senior Hamas figures, such a deal would even reap a public relations bonus: it would show that Hamas is willing to sacrifice for the good of the whole, to let some of its top people stay in jail in order to win freedom for almost 1,000 of its Palestinian brethren.

But in fact, Hamas has said no, publicly and repeatedly. Why? Because, as Al-Ayyam quoted a Hamas source saying, even the mere 15 prisoners whom that paper claims Israel is standing firm on are “a red line, without which there will be no deal.” Al-Hayat offered a similar explanation.

There are only two possible ways to interpret this. One, of course, is that Hamas’s leadership cares only about the handful of top-level terrorists in its inner circle, and unless they are released, the other 900-plus Palestinians can rot in jail forever for all it cares.

The other is that Hamas doesn’t actually care about any of the prisoners; what it cares about is proving that it can bend Israel completely to its will.

Granted, Hamas has already gotten Israel to capitulate almost completely. After initially refusing to negotiate at all, Israel began by agreeing to only 70 of the names on Hamas’s list and has since steadily retreated. In March, it agreed to release 325 of those on Hamas’s wish list, and now it has agreed to 400 or even 435.

But “almost” is not enough if the goal is to prove that Hamas’s path of “resistance” (i.e., terror) works better than Fatah’s tactic of diplomatic pressure. After all, Fatah has also gotten Israel to capitulate on almost everything: just last year, Ehud Olmert offered it the equivalent of 100 percent of the territories, including East Jerusalem, plus international Muslim control of the Temple Mount. Yet even then, Israel held out on a few issues, like the “right of return.” Hence to prove that “resistance” is the better path, Hamas needs 100 percent capitulation.

The truly scary part is that it might yet get it. But if not, those 980 prisoners can continue rotting in jail — sacrifices on the altar of Hamas’s partisan interests.

One myth the negotiations over kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit should definitively debunk is that Hamas’s leadership actually cares about the fate of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

In exchange for Shalit, Israel has offered to free 980 Palestinian prisoners, including 450 chosen in consultation with Hamas. And by all accounts, it has already agreed to almost all the 450 specific prisoners whose release Hamas is demanding: the London-based daily Al-Hayat claimed today that Israel has agreed to 400 of them; the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam claimed yesterday that Israel has agreed to all but 15.

Hence if Hamas really wanted to free a large number of Palestinian prisoners — including hundreds involved in some of the worst terrorist violence of the past two decades — all it had to do was say yes. And since the handful Israel still refuses to release includes several senior Hamas figures, such a deal would even reap a public relations bonus: it would show that Hamas is willing to sacrifice for the good of the whole, to let some of its top people stay in jail in order to win freedom for almost 1,000 of its Palestinian brethren.

But in fact, Hamas has said no, publicly and repeatedly. Why? Because, as Al-Ayyam quoted a Hamas source saying, even the mere 15 prisoners whom that paper claims Israel is standing firm on are “a red line, without which there will be no deal.” Al-Hayat offered a similar explanation.

There are only two possible ways to interpret this. One, of course, is that Hamas’s leadership cares only about the handful of top-level terrorists in its inner circle, and unless they are released, the other 900-plus Palestinians can rot in jail forever for all it cares.

The other is that Hamas doesn’t actually care about any of the prisoners; what it cares about is proving that it can bend Israel completely to its will.

Granted, Hamas has already gotten Israel to capitulate almost completely. After initially refusing to negotiate at all, Israel began by agreeing to only 70 of the names on Hamas’s list and has since steadily retreated. In March, it agreed to release 325 of those on Hamas’s wish list, and now it has agreed to 400 or even 435.

But “almost” is not enough if the goal is to prove that Hamas’s path of “resistance” (i.e., terror) works better than Fatah’s tactic of diplomatic pressure. After all, Fatah has also gotten Israel to capitulate on almost everything: just last year, Ehud Olmert offered it the equivalent of 100 percent of the territories, including East Jerusalem, plus international Muslim control of the Temple Mount. Yet even then, Israel held out on a few issues, like the “right of return.” Hence to prove that “resistance” is the better path, Hamas needs 100 percent capitulation.

The truly scary part is that it might yet get it. But if not, those 980 prisoners can continue rotting in jail — sacrifices on the altar of Hamas’s partisan interests.

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The Private Sector? Who Knew?!

At his “jobs summit,” Obama discovered: “Ultimately, true economic recovery is only going to come from the private sector.” Mon dieu! You mean lambasting business, hiking taxes, imposing a flurry of mandates, and regulating carbon emissions aren’t the way to go? No, no. The Obami still want to do all that. They just expect the private sector to grow and hire workers in spite of all that. I guess.

One senses the cloud of incoherence descending daily, now on the verge of enveloping the White House in a blanket of contradictions and policy dead ends. The summit produced “a to-do list for the private sector that sounded rather familiar: weatherization, small-business incentives, regulatory and other help for exporters, and tax credits for employers who hire new workers.” But there was no recognition that the big stuff — ObamaCare and cap-and-trade — will drown out whatever small benefit might be obtained from this “familiar” list of shopworn ideas.

Clinton economic guru Roger C. Altman, writing in the Wall Street Journal, warns that the Democrats are heading for an electoral wipeout and suggests:

By providing new incentives for job creation and bank lending, offering more detailed and forceful commitment to deficit reduction, improving relations with industry, and taking a more forceful stance towards Wall Street, the Obama administration can reduce next year’s election risk.

Sounds like a good idea. They could have a summit. Perhaps they could call it the “Undo the Damage Summit.” Well, I’ll leave the marketing to others, but you get the idea. If you want the private sector to create jobs, you first have to stop bludgeoning employers.

At his “jobs summit,” Obama discovered: “Ultimately, true economic recovery is only going to come from the private sector.” Mon dieu! You mean lambasting business, hiking taxes, imposing a flurry of mandates, and regulating carbon emissions aren’t the way to go? No, no. The Obami still want to do all that. They just expect the private sector to grow and hire workers in spite of all that. I guess.

One senses the cloud of incoherence descending daily, now on the verge of enveloping the White House in a blanket of contradictions and policy dead ends. The summit produced “a to-do list for the private sector that sounded rather familiar: weatherization, small-business incentives, regulatory and other help for exporters, and tax credits for employers who hire new workers.” But there was no recognition that the big stuff — ObamaCare and cap-and-trade — will drown out whatever small benefit might be obtained from this “familiar” list of shopworn ideas.

Clinton economic guru Roger C. Altman, writing in the Wall Street Journal, warns that the Democrats are heading for an electoral wipeout and suggests:

By providing new incentives for job creation and bank lending, offering more detailed and forceful commitment to deficit reduction, improving relations with industry, and taking a more forceful stance towards Wall Street, the Obama administration can reduce next year’s election risk.

Sounds like a good idea. They could have a summit. Perhaps they could call it the “Undo the Damage Summit.” Well, I’ll leave the marketing to others, but you get the idea. If you want the private sector to create jobs, you first have to stop bludgeoning employers.

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We May Learn Something, Finally

Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden stepped down from the No. 2 spot at the Justice Department. The reason, we are told, is that he really didn’t get along with the attorney general, the career lawyers, or the political appointees. And the White House didn’t care for him. Well, sometimes things just don’t work out.

But that means we’ll have a confirmation hearing for the position responsible for a great many things in the Justice Department, including criminal matters and “federal programs” (Guantanamo). A high-profile confirmation hearing provides the Senate with the opportunity to get some answers out of a very tight-lipped Justice Department.

For starters, what’s become of the internal investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility over the dismissal of the New Black Panthers voter-intimidation case? This week, Congressmen Frank Wolf and Lamar Smith penned a letter to Holder that read in part:

We remain concerned that the Justice Department is prolonging OPR’s investigation as a pretense to ignore inquiries from Congress and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights into the sudden and unexplained dismissal of voter intimidation charges against the New Black Panther Party. Any written report by OPR will be prepared exclusively for the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General, with no guarantee that it will ever be made public.

After five months of unanswered questions, the American people can tell a cover up when they see one. If the Justice Department had any credible reason for dropping these charges, what do they have to hide by providing those answers to Congress?

Perhaps if the confirmation of DOJ’s No. 2 is at issue, Holder will cough up some answers. And by the way, why was the case dismissed?

Then there’s the decision to give KSM a civilian trial. It seems that other than the lefty lawyer brigade at DOJ, Holder didn’t consult with anyone but his wife and brother, not even the New York City Police Department or the Department of Homeland Security. What process does Justice go through? Was the White House really never consulted? Which lawyers were involved, and what consideration was given to the release of national-security data? A key confirmation hearing is the time to get some information. I’m sure the most transparent administration in history will be willing to share all.

There has been precious little oversight of the Holder Justice Department by the Democratic Congress. Now senators will have their opportunity to ask some hard questions. It is, as they say, a teachable moment.

Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden stepped down from the No. 2 spot at the Justice Department. The reason, we are told, is that he really didn’t get along with the attorney general, the career lawyers, or the political appointees. And the White House didn’t care for him. Well, sometimes things just don’t work out.

But that means we’ll have a confirmation hearing for the position responsible for a great many things in the Justice Department, including criminal matters and “federal programs” (Guantanamo). A high-profile confirmation hearing provides the Senate with the opportunity to get some answers out of a very tight-lipped Justice Department.

For starters, what’s become of the internal investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility over the dismissal of the New Black Panthers voter-intimidation case? This week, Congressmen Frank Wolf and Lamar Smith penned a letter to Holder that read in part:

We remain concerned that the Justice Department is prolonging OPR’s investigation as a pretense to ignore inquiries from Congress and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights into the sudden and unexplained dismissal of voter intimidation charges against the New Black Panther Party. Any written report by OPR will be prepared exclusively for the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General, with no guarantee that it will ever be made public.

After five months of unanswered questions, the American people can tell a cover up when they see one. If the Justice Department had any credible reason for dropping these charges, what do they have to hide by providing those answers to Congress?

Perhaps if the confirmation of DOJ’s No. 2 is at issue, Holder will cough up some answers. And by the way, why was the case dismissed?

Then there’s the decision to give KSM a civilian trial. It seems that other than the lefty lawyer brigade at DOJ, Holder didn’t consult with anyone but his wife and brother, not even the New York City Police Department or the Department of Homeland Security. What process does Justice go through? Was the White House really never consulted? Which lawyers were involved, and what consideration was given to the release of national-security data? A key confirmation hearing is the time to get some information. I’m sure the most transparent administration in history will be willing to share all.

There has been precious little oversight of the Holder Justice Department by the Democratic Congress. Now senators will have their opportunity to ask some hard questions. It is, as they say, a teachable moment.

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Remember December 3

Remember December 3. It’s a date that will pop up in many campaign ads next year when they roll those votes (Sen. Bill # 9999) with the date (in this case December 3) to show voters that the candidate’s opponent really did cast a vote on a given day. The vote yesterday was to cut $500B from Medicare. To be more exact, as Politico reports:

The Senate voted to keep nearly $500 billion in Medicare spending cuts in the bill, rejecting an amendment from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to send the legislation back to the Finance Committee with orders to strip it out. The measure would have eliminated the major funding source for the bill. All 40 Republicans joined Ben Nelson and Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) to support the McCain amendment, which failed 42-58.

That’s right: 58 Democrats voted to slash half a trillion from Medicare. And those who are up for re-election next year will hear about it over and over again.

What’s more, two Democrats bolted. What’s that mean? A Senate source replied with his own question: “They couldn’t get Ben Nelson and Jim Webb on this, so will they be there at the end to vote for $500 billion in Medicare cuts?” Hmm. We don’t know. And before we get there, as Politico notes, ”the public option, abortion and financing the plan remained serious obstacles to negotiating a final bill.”

For now, the greatest deliberative body in the world continues to deliberate. And the ad makers will be making notes.

Remember December 3. It’s a date that will pop up in many campaign ads next year when they roll those votes (Sen. Bill # 9999) with the date (in this case December 3) to show voters that the candidate’s opponent really did cast a vote on a given day. The vote yesterday was to cut $500B from Medicare. To be more exact, as Politico reports:

The Senate voted to keep nearly $500 billion in Medicare spending cuts in the bill, rejecting an amendment from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to send the legislation back to the Finance Committee with orders to strip it out. The measure would have eliminated the major funding source for the bill. All 40 Republicans joined Ben Nelson and Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) to support the McCain amendment, which failed 42-58.

That’s right: 58 Democrats voted to slash half a trillion from Medicare. And those who are up for re-election next year will hear about it over and over again.

What’s more, two Democrats bolted. What’s that mean? A Senate source replied with his own question: “They couldn’t get Ben Nelson and Jim Webb on this, so will they be there at the end to vote for $500 billion in Medicare cuts?” Hmm. We don’t know. And before we get there, as Politico notes, ”the public option, abortion and financing the plan remained serious obstacles to negotiating a final bill.”

For now, the greatest deliberative body in the world continues to deliberate. And the ad makers will be making notes.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Mitt Romney has a 10-point plan to revive the economy. The best idea: “Stop frightening the private sector by continuing to hold GM stock, by imposing tighter and tighter controls on compensation, and by pursuing a public insurance plan to compete with private insurers. Government encroachment on free enterprise is depressing investment and job creation.”

Why not a peace process that works? “What if instead of squandering it for sixty years on victimology and bomb-making the Palestinians had taken all the talent and ingenuity and energy for which they’re famous and expended it on building a state; on establishing a democratic government; on turning malarial swamps and barren deserts into rich, fertile farmland; on pioneering breakthroughs in science, medicine, mathematics, and technology; on music, literature, art, movies; on creating a live nation booming with progress and awash in Nobel Prizes?”

Republican Mike Castle leads by 6 points in the latest poll in the Delaware Senate race.

Gallup polling on Afghanistan: “President Obama has managed to thread the needle with his newly announced Afghanistan strategy, with his approach winning the approval of a majority of both Democrats (58%) and Republicans (55%) in a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted Wednesday night. … Regarding the timetable component of Obama’s new policy, the plurality of Americans, 46%, say it is too soon to set a timetable for beginning to withdraw troops.” Sometimes good policy does make good politics.

Charles Krauthammer has reason to worry over that “call to arms so ambivalent, so tentative, so defensive”: ”Words matter because will matters. Success in war depends on three things: a brave and highly skilled soldiery, such as the 2009 U.S. military, the finest counterinsurgency force in history; brilliant, battle-tested commanders such as Gens. David Petraeus and McChrystal, fresh from the success of the surge in Iraq; and the will to prevail as personified by the commander in chief. … Has there ever been a call to arms more dispiriting, a trumpet more uncertain?”

David Broder ruefully observes: “Obama’s rhetoric was skilled enough that many of his listeners Tuesday thought they heard him promise that the buildup of forces in Afghanistan he has ordered will be suspended as early as 2011. But Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who is incapable of dissembling, quickly made it clear that the withdrawal will begin — not end — that year, and only if battlefield conditions permit.”

The New York Times headline reads: “Obama Tackles Jobless Woes, but Warns of Limited Funds.” Translation: sorry we spent all your money and we still have sky-high unemployment.

Sen. Ben Nelson threatens to filibuster ObamaCare without a Stupak amendment that prohibits abortion funding.

Mitt Romney has a 10-point plan to revive the economy. The best idea: “Stop frightening the private sector by continuing to hold GM stock, by imposing tighter and tighter controls on compensation, and by pursuing a public insurance plan to compete with private insurers. Government encroachment on free enterprise is depressing investment and job creation.”

Why not a peace process that works? “What if instead of squandering it for sixty years on victimology and bomb-making the Palestinians had taken all the talent and ingenuity and energy for which they’re famous and expended it on building a state; on establishing a democratic government; on turning malarial swamps and barren deserts into rich, fertile farmland; on pioneering breakthroughs in science, medicine, mathematics, and technology; on music, literature, art, movies; on creating a live nation booming with progress and awash in Nobel Prizes?”

Republican Mike Castle leads by 6 points in the latest poll in the Delaware Senate race.

Gallup polling on Afghanistan: “President Obama has managed to thread the needle with his newly announced Afghanistan strategy, with his approach winning the approval of a majority of both Democrats (58%) and Republicans (55%) in a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted Wednesday night. … Regarding the timetable component of Obama’s new policy, the plurality of Americans, 46%, say it is too soon to set a timetable for beginning to withdraw troops.” Sometimes good policy does make good politics.

Charles Krauthammer has reason to worry over that “call to arms so ambivalent, so tentative, so defensive”: ”Words matter because will matters. Success in war depends on three things: a brave and highly skilled soldiery, such as the 2009 U.S. military, the finest counterinsurgency force in history; brilliant, battle-tested commanders such as Gens. David Petraeus and McChrystal, fresh from the success of the surge in Iraq; and the will to prevail as personified by the commander in chief. … Has there ever been a call to arms more dispiriting, a trumpet more uncertain?”

David Broder ruefully observes: “Obama’s rhetoric was skilled enough that many of his listeners Tuesday thought they heard him promise that the buildup of forces in Afghanistan he has ordered will be suspended as early as 2011. But Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who is incapable of dissembling, quickly made it clear that the withdrawal will begin — not end — that year, and only if battlefield conditions permit.”

The New York Times headline reads: “Obama Tackles Jobless Woes, but Warns of Limited Funds.” Translation: sorry we spent all your money and we still have sky-high unemployment.

Sen. Ben Nelson threatens to filibuster ObamaCare without a Stupak amendment that prohibits abortion funding.

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