Commentary Magazine


Posts For: December 31, 2009

Punt!

Obama was going to get a full update today, showing he was on top of the terrorist plot and the efforts to get to the bottom of things. But alas, he is just talking on the phone to John Brennan and Janet Napolitano. And he’s going to get some more reports. It is all, once again, spin zone: make it seem as if the president is urgently engaged, continue the endless churning of behind-closed-door reviews, and promise more of the same. (“I anticipate receiving assessments from several agencies this evening and will review those tonight and over the course of the weekend. On Tuesday, in Washington, I will meet personally with relevant agency heads to discuss our ongoing reviews as well as security enhancements and intelligence-sharing improvements in our homeland security and counterterrorism operations.”) And no, Hillary Clinton was not one of those the president said he had consulted. (The mystery continues!)

As I expected, there is nothing even remotely suggesting a systemic review of the administration’s approach to terror. They are focusing on relatively discrete matters, it seems (e.g., watch lists and the proverbial connecting of dots). And no comment, of course, on the release today of Iranian terrorists who killed Americans. Because that’s totally different, you see. The capture and release of terrorists, the criminal-justice model, and the willful indifference to the ideological underpinnings of our enemies are not, I think, on the agenda. This is about containing the “failure” and doing just enough to assure the public, though nothing to disrupt the ideological fixation of the administration.

UPDATE: For starters if the adminstration was interested in getting to the bottom of its security debacle it might answer the five letters Rep. Frank Wolf has sent requesting information of release of Guantanamo detainees to Yemen, Afghanistan and Somalia.

Obama was going to get a full update today, showing he was on top of the terrorist plot and the efforts to get to the bottom of things. But alas, he is just talking on the phone to John Brennan and Janet Napolitano. And he’s going to get some more reports. It is all, once again, spin zone: make it seem as if the president is urgently engaged, continue the endless churning of behind-closed-door reviews, and promise more of the same. (“I anticipate receiving assessments from several agencies this evening and will review those tonight and over the course of the weekend. On Tuesday, in Washington, I will meet personally with relevant agency heads to discuss our ongoing reviews as well as security enhancements and intelligence-sharing improvements in our homeland security and counterterrorism operations.”) And no, Hillary Clinton was not one of those the president said he had consulted. (The mystery continues!)

As I expected, there is nothing even remotely suggesting a systemic review of the administration’s approach to terror. They are focusing on relatively discrete matters, it seems (e.g., watch lists and the proverbial connecting of dots). And no comment, of course, on the release today of Iranian terrorists who killed Americans. Because that’s totally different, you see. The capture and release of terrorists, the criminal-justice model, and the willful indifference to the ideological underpinnings of our enemies are not, I think, on the agenda. This is about containing the “failure” and doing just enough to assure the public, though nothing to disrupt the ideological fixation of the administration.

UPDATE: For starters if the adminstration was interested in getting to the bottom of its security debacle it might answer the five letters Rep. Frank Wolf has sent requesting information of release of Guantanamo detainees to Yemen, Afghanistan and Somalia.

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Where Oh Where Is Hillary?

Nile Gardiner at the Daily Telegraph writes: “The White House should send a search party to track down Hillary Clinton. America’s foreign policy chief has been missing from the world stage for several days, and has become as elusive as the Scarlet Pimpernel at the height of the French Revolution.”

Come to think of it, we haven’t seen or heard from her since the Flight 253 bombing attack. Nada on the issue of the State Department’s own role in the security debacle that allowed the Christmas Day bomber to get onto the plane. (As Elliott Abrams noted, “His multiple-entry visa to the U.S. was not canceled by State, not even after his own father alerted U.S. Embassy officials in Nigeria of the danger he might present.”) And not a peep on Iran. The “Where in the World is the Secretary” locator (I am not making this up) on the State Department website puts her in the environs of Washington D.C.

Maybe she is hiding at home, assuming, correctly, that anyone who shows up on camera (e.g., Janet Napolitano, the president) gets savaged. Maybe she is the fall-gal when we get the “how we messed up” report. (Prediction: It won’t say that treating terrorists like criminal defendants or releasing terrorists to Yemen is a problem.) Or perhaps she is studying up on the 2010 senate and gubernatorial races. There must be a race in some state she could run in and win, right? After all, she is the most admired woman in America (well, she’s in a statistical tie with Sarah Palin). She might not stay that way if she hangs out with the Obami much longer.

Nile Gardiner at the Daily Telegraph writes: “The White House should send a search party to track down Hillary Clinton. America’s foreign policy chief has been missing from the world stage for several days, and has become as elusive as the Scarlet Pimpernel at the height of the French Revolution.”

Come to think of it, we haven’t seen or heard from her since the Flight 253 bombing attack. Nada on the issue of the State Department’s own role in the security debacle that allowed the Christmas Day bomber to get onto the plane. (As Elliott Abrams noted, “His multiple-entry visa to the U.S. was not canceled by State, not even after his own father alerted U.S. Embassy officials in Nigeria of the danger he might present.”) And not a peep on Iran. The “Where in the World is the Secretary” locator (I am not making this up) on the State Department website puts her in the environs of Washington D.C.

Maybe she is hiding at home, assuming, correctly, that anyone who shows up on camera (e.g., Janet Napolitano, the president) gets savaged. Maybe she is the fall-gal when we get the “how we messed up” report. (Prediction: It won’t say that treating terrorists like criminal defendants or releasing terrorists to Yemen is a problem.) Or perhaps she is studying up on the 2010 senate and gubernatorial races. There must be a race in some state she could run in and win, right? After all, she is the most admired woman in America (well, she’s in a statistical tie with Sarah Palin). She might not stay that way if she hangs out with the Obami much longer.

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No Conceivable Justification for This One

Bill Roggio reports on the release of members of a  key Iranian-backed terror group:

The US military has freed Qais Qazali, the leader of the Asaib al Haq, or League of the Righteous, as well as his brother Laith, several Qods Force officers, and more than 100 members of the terror group, in exchange for [British hostage Peter] Moore. And that isn’t all. The British also received the corpses of three security contractors who were working to protect Moore when he was kidnapped at the Finance Ministry in Baghdad in May 2007. The three contractors were executed by the Asaib al Haq; another is also thought to have been killed. Qais Qazli wasn’t just some run of the mill Shia thug; his group is backed by Iran. Qazali’s men were trained by Iranian Qods Force to infiltrate and assault the Provincial Joint Coordination Center in Karbala in January 2007. Five US soldiers were killed during the kidnapping attempt. The US soldiers were executed after US and Iraqi security forces closed in on the assault team.

It is jaw-dropping, really. The mullahs are slaughtering people in the streets. They are pressing ahead with their nuclear program. The Obami, it is reported, are eschewing “crippling” sanctions in exchange for pinpricks targeted at discrete groups within Iran like the Revolutionary Guard. But instead, we release the very individuals who have conspired to slaughter American troops. What possible explanation is there for this? We are merely restocking the supply of terrorists, just as we have done by releasing Guantanamo detainees back to Yemen. Andy McCarthy observes:

In violation of the long-standing, commonsense policy against capitulating to kidnappers and terrorists because it just encourages more hostage-taking and murder, the terrorists were released in exchange for a British hostage and the remains of his three contract guards (whom the terrorists had murdered).  So, as the mullahs, America’s incorrigible enemies, struggle to hang on, we’re giving them accommodations and legitimacy. And the messages we send? Terrorize us and we’ll negotiate with you. Kill American troops or kidnap civilians and win valuable concessions — including the release of an army of jihadists, and its leaders, who can now go back to targeting American troops.

One struggles to understand this mindset. While the Obami prepare to rearrange the checkers on the TSA board and perhaps toss a player or two overboard, we get the sinking sensation that there is some bizarre set of priorities and some very cock-eyed worldview in operation here. Who are we assisting, and how does any of this make us safer?

When Congress returns next week, we will see if anyone on the Democratic side of the aisle in the House or Senate has the moxie and determination to call foul on the entire Obama approach to terror. It is long past the time for some serious Congressional oversight. Perhaps a post-11/5 (Fort Hood) or a post-12/25 (Flight 253) independent commission is in order.

Bill Roggio reports on the release of members of a  key Iranian-backed terror group:

The US military has freed Qais Qazali, the leader of the Asaib al Haq, or League of the Righteous, as well as his brother Laith, several Qods Force officers, and more than 100 members of the terror group, in exchange for [British hostage Peter] Moore. And that isn’t all. The British also received the corpses of three security contractors who were working to protect Moore when he was kidnapped at the Finance Ministry in Baghdad in May 2007. The three contractors were executed by the Asaib al Haq; another is also thought to have been killed. Qais Qazli wasn’t just some run of the mill Shia thug; his group is backed by Iran. Qazali’s men were trained by Iranian Qods Force to infiltrate and assault the Provincial Joint Coordination Center in Karbala in January 2007. Five US soldiers were killed during the kidnapping attempt. The US soldiers were executed after US and Iraqi security forces closed in on the assault team.

It is jaw-dropping, really. The mullahs are slaughtering people in the streets. They are pressing ahead with their nuclear program. The Obami, it is reported, are eschewing “crippling” sanctions in exchange for pinpricks targeted at discrete groups within Iran like the Revolutionary Guard. But instead, we release the very individuals who have conspired to slaughter American troops. What possible explanation is there for this? We are merely restocking the supply of terrorists, just as we have done by releasing Guantanamo detainees back to Yemen. Andy McCarthy observes:

In violation of the long-standing, commonsense policy against capitulating to kidnappers and terrorists because it just encourages more hostage-taking and murder, the terrorists were released in exchange for a British hostage and the remains of his three contract guards (whom the terrorists had murdered).  So, as the mullahs, America’s incorrigible enemies, struggle to hang on, we’re giving them accommodations and legitimacy. And the messages we send? Terrorize us and we’ll negotiate with you. Kill American troops or kidnap civilians and win valuable concessions — including the release of an army of jihadists, and its leaders, who can now go back to targeting American troops.

One struggles to understand this mindset. While the Obami prepare to rearrange the checkers on the TSA board and perhaps toss a player or two overboard, we get the sinking sensation that there is some bizarre set of priorities and some very cock-eyed worldview in operation here. Who are we assisting, and how does any of this make us safer?

When Congress returns next week, we will see if anyone on the Democratic side of the aisle in the House or Senate has the moxie and determination to call foul on the entire Obama approach to terror. It is long past the time for some serious Congressional oversight. Perhaps a post-11/5 (Fort Hood) or a post-12/25 (Flight 253) independent commission is in order.

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You Think Death Taxes Are Tricky Now

As this report notes, the estate tax will disappear for a year beginning tomorrow, and unless Congress acts, it will pop back up in 2011 at a pre-Bush tax-cut rate of 55% with an exemption of approximately $1 million. This caused some this year to look at end-of-life decisions in a different light:

“I have two clients on life support, and the families are struggling with whether to continue heroic measures for a few more days,” says Joshua Rubenstein, a lawyer with Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP in New York. “Do they want to live for the rest of their lives having made serious medical decisions based on estate-tax law?” . . .”I’ve been practicing for more than 30 years, and never has the timing of death made such a financial difference,” says Dennis Belcher, president of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel. “People have a hard enough time talking about death and addressing estate planning without this.”

But that is nothing compared to what will occur at the end of 2010. This year families have been mulling whether to keep patients alive. But not so in 2010. Then families will have (excuse me but it’s true) an incentive to end the lives of their ailing rich relatives before Uncle Sam swoops in at the start of 2011 to take 55 percent off the top. There are many good reasons why Congress shouldn’t allow any taxes to go up while the economy is on shaky ground, including estate taxes, which may adversely impact closely-held businesses. But Congress might want to think especially hard about a few of the peculiar incentives it is creating by allowing the Bush tax cuts to “lapse.”

As this report notes, the estate tax will disappear for a year beginning tomorrow, and unless Congress acts, it will pop back up in 2011 at a pre-Bush tax-cut rate of 55% with an exemption of approximately $1 million. This caused some this year to look at end-of-life decisions in a different light:

“I have two clients on life support, and the families are struggling with whether to continue heroic measures for a few more days,” says Joshua Rubenstein, a lawyer with Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP in New York. “Do they want to live for the rest of their lives having made serious medical decisions based on estate-tax law?” . . .”I’ve been practicing for more than 30 years, and never has the timing of death made such a financial difference,” says Dennis Belcher, president of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel. “People have a hard enough time talking about death and addressing estate planning without this.”

But that is nothing compared to what will occur at the end of 2010. This year families have been mulling whether to keep patients alive. But not so in 2010. Then families will have (excuse me but it’s true) an incentive to end the lives of their ailing rich relatives before Uncle Sam swoops in at the start of 2011 to take 55 percent off the top. There are many good reasons why Congress shouldn’t allow any taxes to go up while the economy is on shaky ground, including estate taxes, which may adversely impact closely-held businesses. But Congress might want to think especially hard about a few of the peculiar incentives it is creating by allowing the Bush tax cuts to “lapse.”

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Another Year, Another Peace Process

Carl in Jerusalem has a perceptive analysis of Secretary Clinton’s statement on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, addressing some of the concerns in my post about the omitted phrase “defensible borders” — a diplomatic term of art that has been dropped without explanation from the lexicon of the Obama administration.

Carl notes another significant omission, this time on the Palestinian side: Clinton referred to the goal of an “independent and viable” Palestinian state but omitted a word that has been insisted upon by the Palestinians:

There’s a key word missing here: contiguous. I have argued many times on this blog that if a ‘Palestinian’ state is contiguous, then by definition the Jewish state would be neither contiguous nor secure. Thus Clinton’s omission of the word contiguous from her formulation, if tracked in the [potential] letter to the “Palestinians,” is significant.

There may be a connection here. If a “contiguous” Palestinian state is not consistent with an Israeli one with “defensible” borders — and vice versa — Clinton may have simply ducked the issue by leaving both words out of her statement.

As the year ends, it is time for a broader look at the peace process, which has to date produced three Israeli withdrawals (from Lebanon, Gaza, and part of the West Bank); three Israeli offers of a Palestinian state (at Camp David, in the Clinton Parameters, and during the Annapolis Process); three Palestinian rejections; and three wars – one from each area of the withdrawal. The enterprise is apparently too big to fail, even though it repeatedly does.

The Obama administration thought it would try its own unique approach – creating daylight between the U.S. and Israel, reneging on longstanding understandings about settlements, demanding pre-negotiation concessions, disregarding the 2004 Bush letter – but has not yet been able to get even new negotiations started. So we end the year just as it began, with a no-state solution that may be the best option under the circumstances.

As we now proceed to the 17th year of the peace process, it is worth re-reading Maj. Gen (Ret.) Giora Eiland’s valuable 2008 monograph for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, “Rethinking the Two-State Solution,” as well as two other paradigm-changing analyses from 2008: Caroline Glick’s “Israel and the Palestinians: Ending the Stalemate,” and former IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Moshe Yaalon’s “Israel and the Palestinians: A New Strategy.” Taken together, they provide the outline of a more reliable roadmap. Giora, in particular, argues persuasively that the current two-state paradigm is a zero-sum game that will not work even if a comprehensive peace agreement is achieved — and even if it were actually implemented:

Even in such a case, there is no chance that a Clinton [Parameter]-style solution would be stable or sustainable, for at least two reasons: the Palestinian state would not be viable, and Israel’s borders would not be defensible. The combination of these two problems would inevitably catapult the two sides back into a cycle of violence.

A strategy of artful formulations, such as Secretary Clinton’s confident statement about negotiations resolving the goals of both sides – while failing to list the conflicting ones of defensible borders and the demand for a contiguous state — is not likely to be successful. Meanwhile, the sponsor of Hamas and Hezbollah marches toward weapons of mass destruction, unimpeded by an unperturbed Barack Obama.

Carl in Jerusalem has a perceptive analysis of Secretary Clinton’s statement on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, addressing some of the concerns in my post about the omitted phrase “defensible borders” — a diplomatic term of art that has been dropped without explanation from the lexicon of the Obama administration.

Carl notes another significant omission, this time on the Palestinian side: Clinton referred to the goal of an “independent and viable” Palestinian state but omitted a word that has been insisted upon by the Palestinians:

There’s a key word missing here: contiguous. I have argued many times on this blog that if a ‘Palestinian’ state is contiguous, then by definition the Jewish state would be neither contiguous nor secure. Thus Clinton’s omission of the word contiguous from her formulation, if tracked in the [potential] letter to the “Palestinians,” is significant.

There may be a connection here. If a “contiguous” Palestinian state is not consistent with an Israeli one with “defensible” borders — and vice versa — Clinton may have simply ducked the issue by leaving both words out of her statement.

As the year ends, it is time for a broader look at the peace process, which has to date produced three Israeli withdrawals (from Lebanon, Gaza, and part of the West Bank); three Israeli offers of a Palestinian state (at Camp David, in the Clinton Parameters, and during the Annapolis Process); three Palestinian rejections; and three wars – one from each area of the withdrawal. The enterprise is apparently too big to fail, even though it repeatedly does.

The Obama administration thought it would try its own unique approach – creating daylight between the U.S. and Israel, reneging on longstanding understandings about settlements, demanding pre-negotiation concessions, disregarding the 2004 Bush letter – but has not yet been able to get even new negotiations started. So we end the year just as it began, with a no-state solution that may be the best option under the circumstances.

As we now proceed to the 17th year of the peace process, it is worth re-reading Maj. Gen (Ret.) Giora Eiland’s valuable 2008 monograph for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, “Rethinking the Two-State Solution,” as well as two other paradigm-changing analyses from 2008: Caroline Glick’s “Israel and the Palestinians: Ending the Stalemate,” and former IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Moshe Yaalon’s “Israel and the Palestinians: A New Strategy.” Taken together, they provide the outline of a more reliable roadmap. Giora, in particular, argues persuasively that the current two-state paradigm is a zero-sum game that will not work even if a comprehensive peace agreement is achieved — and even if it were actually implemented:

Even in such a case, there is no chance that a Clinton [Parameter]-style solution would be stable or sustainable, for at least two reasons: the Palestinian state would not be viable, and Israel’s borders would not be defensible. The combination of these two problems would inevitably catapult the two sides back into a cycle of violence.

A strategy of artful formulations, such as Secretary Clinton’s confident statement about negotiations resolving the goals of both sides – while failing to list the conflicting ones of defensible borders and the demand for a contiguous state — is not likely to be successful. Meanwhile, the sponsor of Hamas and Hezbollah marches toward weapons of mass destruction, unimpeded by an unperturbed Barack Obama.

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The Public Sides With Cheney

The latest Rasmussen poll tells us:

Fifty-eight percent (58%) of U.S. voters say waterboarding and other aggressive interrogation techniques should be used to gain information from the terrorist who attempted to bomb an airliner on Christmas Day. . . [while] just 30% oppose the use of such techniques, and another 12% are not sure.

Not only is the terrorist not being waterboarded, he’s clammed up. He’s a”defendant” now, fully Mirandized and with lawyers at his side. The Obami, we are told, were “hoping” he’ll cooperate.

Really, what must the average American think of an administration that facilitates non-collection of information? When the Obama administration lashes out at a former VP or insists that they are being true to our “values,”  it is entirely at odds with the American people. The voters are coming to the realization that their government isn’t doing what is needed to keep us safe. And they seem to value their own safety above some distorted notion that enemy combatants are entitled to be treated like common criminals.

The latest Rasmussen poll tells us:

Fifty-eight percent (58%) of U.S. voters say waterboarding and other aggressive interrogation techniques should be used to gain information from the terrorist who attempted to bomb an airliner on Christmas Day. . . [while] just 30% oppose the use of such techniques, and another 12% are not sure.

Not only is the terrorist not being waterboarded, he’s clammed up. He’s a”defendant” now, fully Mirandized and with lawyers at his side. The Obami, we are told, were “hoping” he’ll cooperate.

Really, what must the average American think of an administration that facilitates non-collection of information? When the Obama administration lashes out at a former VP or insists that they are being true to our “values,”  it is entirely at odds with the American people. The voters are coming to the realization that their government isn’t doing what is needed to keep us safe. And they seem to value their own safety above some distorted notion that enemy combatants are entitled to be treated like common criminals.

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The Pavlovian Response: Attack Cheney

Mark Hemingway (h/t Glenn Reynolds) writes:

But what I can’t wrap my head around is that it took the President four days to acknowledge what he termed a “catastrophic” national security failure, but Cheney criticizes the administration’s handling of the war on terror and they have a rapid response on the White House blog in a matter of hours? Priorities!Then again, it took six days to respond to the riots in the streets of Tehran during their election, so four days seems about right for a barely averted domestic catastrophe. Also, is the White House aware of how small they look when they are so obviously spooked by Cheney’s every utterance? Remember when the President rescheduled a press conference earlier this year to deliberately conflict with a pre-planned Cheney speech?

They remember, but they don’t learn. This gang makes the Clintons look high-minded and magnanimous by comparison. Part of this attitude stems from their lack of other, more appropriate governing skills. They don’t know how to craft an effective, bipartisan health-care bill, or make a swift decision on Afghanistan (or announce it without the need for days of “it really isn’t a timeline” statements), or put together an alternative to “engagement” on Iran that doesn’t smack of more of the same wishful thinking. But they do know how to win elections, feed the media machine, and attack their political foes. So that is what they do over and over again.

More important, they have defined themselves as being not Bush and not Cheney. They cling to the rhetoric after it has lost all meaning (“Closing Guantanamo will protect our values.”), and they feel compelled to be contrarians (“Lose ‘the war on terror!'”). When Cheney appears periodically to mess with their heads (Don’t we think there is quite a bit of that going on?), their eyes light up and they jump. Ah, something they can do well — attack Cheney! But doing it frequently or quickly doesn’t make it smart or presidential. Like attacking Rush Limbaugh (best wishes for a speedy recovery) or Fox News, it diminishes rather than elevates Obama and gives us the sense that these are small-time pols, in over their heads. That would be more annoying than scary if we didn’t live in a world with Islamic terrorists and an Iranian regime bent on acquiring nuclear weapons.

Mark Hemingway (h/t Glenn Reynolds) writes:

But what I can’t wrap my head around is that it took the President four days to acknowledge what he termed a “catastrophic” national security failure, but Cheney criticizes the administration’s handling of the war on terror and they have a rapid response on the White House blog in a matter of hours? Priorities!Then again, it took six days to respond to the riots in the streets of Tehran during their election, so four days seems about right for a barely averted domestic catastrophe. Also, is the White House aware of how small they look when they are so obviously spooked by Cheney’s every utterance? Remember when the President rescheduled a press conference earlier this year to deliberately conflict with a pre-planned Cheney speech?

They remember, but they don’t learn. This gang makes the Clintons look high-minded and magnanimous by comparison. Part of this attitude stems from their lack of other, more appropriate governing skills. They don’t know how to craft an effective, bipartisan health-care bill, or make a swift decision on Afghanistan (or announce it without the need for days of “it really isn’t a timeline” statements), or put together an alternative to “engagement” on Iran that doesn’t smack of more of the same wishful thinking. But they do know how to win elections, feed the media machine, and attack their political foes. So that is what they do over and over again.

More important, they have defined themselves as being not Bush and not Cheney. They cling to the rhetoric after it has lost all meaning (“Closing Guantanamo will protect our values.”), and they feel compelled to be contrarians (“Lose ‘the war on terror!'”). When Cheney appears periodically to mess with their heads (Don’t we think there is quite a bit of that going on?), their eyes light up and they jump. Ah, something they can do well — attack Cheney! But doing it frequently or quickly doesn’t make it smart or presidential. Like attacking Rush Limbaugh (best wishes for a speedy recovery) or Fox News, it diminishes rather than elevates Obama and gives us the sense that these are small-time pols, in over their heads. That would be more annoying than scary if we didn’t live in a world with Islamic terrorists and an Iranian regime bent on acquiring nuclear weapons.

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Enough with the Yemen Terrorist Pipeline

The Obami are a stubborn lot. Even new and troubling evidence regarding the inanity of releasing dangerous Guantanamo detainees cannot shake them from their fixation with closing the facility. Administration background briefers tell the media — still – that we have to shut Guantanamo to protect our “values.” (Does “common sense” or “the right of self-defense” make the list of values?) “Close Guantanamo!” was a campaign slogan devised with little information and pronounced in the heady opening days of the new Obama administration, before the commander in chief could survey the obvious political and practical problems of shuttering a secure, humane facility that could indefinitely hold those who would surely, if given the chance, return to kill more Americans.

Not only Republicans but  Senate Intelligence Chairman Diane Feinstein are pleading with the administration to at the very least halt the release of detainees to Yemen, something which conservatives including Rep. Frank Wolf has been strenuously objecting to for some time. The facts about the Yemen connection are just beginning to emerge:

The al Qaeda chapter in Yemen has re-emerged under the leadership of a former secretary to Osama bin Laden. Along with a dozen other al Qaeda members, he was allowed to escape from a Yemeni jail in 2006. His deputy, Said Ali al-Shihri, was a Saudi inmate at Gitmo who after his release “graduated” from that country’s terrorist “rehabilitation” program before moving to Yemen last year. About a fifth of the so-called graduates have ended back on the Saudi terror most-wanted list, according to a GAO study this year.

And we are told that investigators (to the extent they can get information from the now-lawyered up “defendant” and from other sources) are exploring whether Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab “was in contact with al-Shihri and another Guantanamo alum who turned up at the AQAP, Muhammad al-Awfi.” We also know from an earlier release study that “one in seven freed Gitmo detainees—61 in all—returned to terrorism. Al-Shihri and Abdullah Ghulam Rasoul, the Taliban’s operations leader in southern Afghanistan, are merely the best known. The Pentagon has since updated its findings, and we’re told the numbers are even worse.” It would be nice to know more about the extent of the Yemen recidivism problem, but as Stephen Hayes has reported, the Obama administration has refused to release that data to members of Congress and the public at large. (We can guess why.) And, finally, it appears that Anwar Al-Awlaki, Major Nadal Hassan’s favorite imam, who recently escaped a raid in Yemen, provided some “spiritual guidance” to Abdulmutallab, as well.

It is remarkable that before the Christmas Day bombing, the administration thought it was a good idea to dump detainees back into Yemen. After all, the administration — one supposes the president, specifically — did order a predator bombing in that country to strike a hotbed of terrorist activity. So why would they then and even after the Abdulmutallab bombing attack want to persist in effect with resupplying places like Yemen with Guantanamo detainees? It is nothing short of jaw-dropping, really. And it reveals the degree to which ideology has overtaken sound judgment.

The Obami are a stubborn lot. Even new and troubling evidence regarding the inanity of releasing dangerous Guantanamo detainees cannot shake them from their fixation with closing the facility. Administration background briefers tell the media — still – that we have to shut Guantanamo to protect our “values.” (Does “common sense” or “the right of self-defense” make the list of values?) “Close Guantanamo!” was a campaign slogan devised with little information and pronounced in the heady opening days of the new Obama administration, before the commander in chief could survey the obvious political and practical problems of shuttering a secure, humane facility that could indefinitely hold those who would surely, if given the chance, return to kill more Americans.

Not only Republicans but  Senate Intelligence Chairman Diane Feinstein are pleading with the administration to at the very least halt the release of detainees to Yemen, something which conservatives including Rep. Frank Wolf has been strenuously objecting to for some time. The facts about the Yemen connection are just beginning to emerge:

The al Qaeda chapter in Yemen has re-emerged under the leadership of a former secretary to Osama bin Laden. Along with a dozen other al Qaeda members, he was allowed to escape from a Yemeni jail in 2006. His deputy, Said Ali al-Shihri, was a Saudi inmate at Gitmo who after his release “graduated” from that country’s terrorist “rehabilitation” program before moving to Yemen last year. About a fifth of the so-called graduates have ended back on the Saudi terror most-wanted list, according to a GAO study this year.

And we are told that investigators (to the extent they can get information from the now-lawyered up “defendant” and from other sources) are exploring whether Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab “was in contact with al-Shihri and another Guantanamo alum who turned up at the AQAP, Muhammad al-Awfi.” We also know from an earlier release study that “one in seven freed Gitmo detainees—61 in all—returned to terrorism. Al-Shihri and Abdullah Ghulam Rasoul, the Taliban’s operations leader in southern Afghanistan, are merely the best known. The Pentagon has since updated its findings, and we’re told the numbers are even worse.” It would be nice to know more about the extent of the Yemen recidivism problem, but as Stephen Hayes has reported, the Obama administration has refused to release that data to members of Congress and the public at large. (We can guess why.) And, finally, it appears that Anwar Al-Awlaki, Major Nadal Hassan’s favorite imam, who recently escaped a raid in Yemen, provided some “spiritual guidance” to Abdulmutallab, as well.

It is remarkable that before the Christmas Day bombing, the administration thought it was a good idea to dump detainees back into Yemen. After all, the administration — one supposes the president, specifically — did order a predator bombing in that country to strike a hotbed of terrorist activity. So why would they then and even after the Abdulmutallab bombing attack want to persist in effect with resupplying places like Yemen with Guantanamo detainees? It is nothing short of jaw-dropping, really. And it reveals the degree to which ideology has overtaken sound judgment.

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Profile Me if You Must

I don’t want to be profiled at the airport. It has happened before, and I hate it. Volunteering for more isn’t what I feel like doing right now, but our airport security system is so half-baked and dysfunctional it may as well not even exist, and flying is about to become more miserable anyway. So rather than doubling down on grandma and micromanaging everyone on the plane, we might want to pay as much attention to people as to their luggage, especially military-aged males who make unusual and suspicious-looking travel arrangements. That’s what the Israelis do, and that’s why security agents take me into a room and interrogate me every time I pass through Ben-Gurion International Airport.

Israeli airport security is the most thorough and strict in the world, as one might expect in one of the most terrorized countries. No plane leaving Ben-Gurion has ever been hijacked or otherwise attacked by a terrorist. The system works, yet you don’t have to take off your shoes in the security line, no one cares if you pack perfume from the duty-free in your carry-on, you can listen to your iPod 55 minutes before landing, and you don’t have to stand in front of invasive and expensive body-scanning machines.

The Israelis look for weapons, of course. You aren’t at all likely to sneak one on board. Just as important, though, the Israelis are on the look-out for terrorists. Who would you rather sit next to? A woman carrying shampoo and tweezers, or 9/11 hijacker Mohammad Atta, even if he’s not carrying anything?

Israeli security agents interview everyone, and they subject travelers who fit certain profiles to additional scrutiny. I don’t know exactly what their criteria are, but I do know they aren’t just taking Arabs and Muslims aside. They take me aside, too, partly because of my gender and age but mostly because a huge percentage of my passport stamps are from countries with serious terrorist problems.

“Does anyone in Lebanon know you’re here?” they usually ask me. They’ve also asked if I’ve ever met with anyone in Hezbollah. I am not going to lie during an airport security interview, especially not when the answer can be easily found using Google. They know I’ve met with Hezbollah. That’s why my luggage gets hand-searched one sock at a time while elderly tourists from Florida skate through. I can’t say I enjoy this procedure, but I don’t take it personally, and it makes a lot more sense than letting me skate through while grandma’s luggage is hand-searched instead.

The United States need not and should not import the Israeli system. It’s labor intensive, slow, and at times incredibly aggravating. Americans wouldn’t put up with it, and it wouldn’t scale well. The one thing we can and should learn from the Israelis, though, is that we need to pay as much attention to who gets on airplanes as to what they’re bringing on board.

I don’t like being profiled, but the Israelis aren’t wrong for looking more closely at me than at, say, an 80-year-old black woman from Kansas or a 12-year-old kid from Japan. When I get on a plane in the United States, though, I often breeze past women decades older than me while they’re being frisked. Almost every single person in line knows it’s ridiculous. We don’t say anything, partly because we don’t want to get in trouble, and partly because it feels vaguely “fair.”

Maybe it is, but it’s no way to catch terrorists. And it’s not as if the only alternative is a separate policy for Arabs and Muslims. Racial and religious profiling won’t even work. Shoe bomber Richard Reid wouldn’t have been caught that way, and it’s probably safe to let a 90 year-old woman from Dubai through with minimal hassle.

Right now there appears to be no effort whatsoever to discriminate among passengers using any criteria, let alone racist criteria. “Pants bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab did not have a passport, did not have any luggage, and bought a one-way ticket with cash. His name is in a database of possible terrorists. Any Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, or all-American white boys from Iowa who fit that description should be stopped. Abdulmutallab wasn’t stopped. In 2004, though, Senator Ted Kennedy found himself with his name on the no-fly list.

The TSA’s whole mindset is wrong. Its agents confiscate things, even harmless things, and they apply additional scrutiny to things carried by people selected at random. If they were also tasked with looking for dangerous people, they would rightly ease up on grandmothers and senators, and they’d have a competently compiled list in the computer of those who are known to be dangerous. And if some kind of broad profiling means I’ll have to suffer the indignity of being frisked while the nun in line behind me does not, it’s no worse, really, than the embarrassment and contempt I’ll feel if the nun gets frisked instead.

Security agents will never find everything or everyone. It’s impossible. Abdulmutallab sewed a bomb into his underwear. Not even the most draconian new rules imaginable will allow agents to search inside anyone’s underwear. Patting down grandpa below the mid-thigh won’t do any good. Patting down Abdulmutallab below the mid-thigh wouldn’t have done any good either — all the more reason to start paying as much attention to people as to what they carry.

I don’t want to be profiled at the airport. It has happened before, and I hate it. Volunteering for more isn’t what I feel like doing right now, but our airport security system is so half-baked and dysfunctional it may as well not even exist, and flying is about to become more miserable anyway. So rather than doubling down on grandma and micromanaging everyone on the plane, we might want to pay as much attention to people as to their luggage, especially military-aged males who make unusual and suspicious-looking travel arrangements. That’s what the Israelis do, and that’s why security agents take me into a room and interrogate me every time I pass through Ben-Gurion International Airport.

Israeli airport security is the most thorough and strict in the world, as one might expect in one of the most terrorized countries. No plane leaving Ben-Gurion has ever been hijacked or otherwise attacked by a terrorist. The system works, yet you don’t have to take off your shoes in the security line, no one cares if you pack perfume from the duty-free in your carry-on, you can listen to your iPod 55 minutes before landing, and you don’t have to stand in front of invasive and expensive body-scanning machines.

The Israelis look for weapons, of course. You aren’t at all likely to sneak one on board. Just as important, though, the Israelis are on the look-out for terrorists. Who would you rather sit next to? A woman carrying shampoo and tweezers, or 9/11 hijacker Mohammad Atta, even if he’s not carrying anything?

Israeli security agents interview everyone, and they subject travelers who fit certain profiles to additional scrutiny. I don’t know exactly what their criteria are, but I do know they aren’t just taking Arabs and Muslims aside. They take me aside, too, partly because of my gender and age but mostly because a huge percentage of my passport stamps are from countries with serious terrorist problems.

“Does anyone in Lebanon know you’re here?” they usually ask me. They’ve also asked if I’ve ever met with anyone in Hezbollah. I am not going to lie during an airport security interview, especially not when the answer can be easily found using Google. They know I’ve met with Hezbollah. That’s why my luggage gets hand-searched one sock at a time while elderly tourists from Florida skate through. I can’t say I enjoy this procedure, but I don’t take it personally, and it makes a lot more sense than letting me skate through while grandma’s luggage is hand-searched instead.

The United States need not and should not import the Israeli system. It’s labor intensive, slow, and at times incredibly aggravating. Americans wouldn’t put up with it, and it wouldn’t scale well. The one thing we can and should learn from the Israelis, though, is that we need to pay as much attention to who gets on airplanes as to what they’re bringing on board.

I don’t like being profiled, but the Israelis aren’t wrong for looking more closely at me than at, say, an 80-year-old black woman from Kansas or a 12-year-old kid from Japan. When I get on a plane in the United States, though, I often breeze past women decades older than me while they’re being frisked. Almost every single person in line knows it’s ridiculous. We don’t say anything, partly because we don’t want to get in trouble, and partly because it feels vaguely “fair.”

Maybe it is, but it’s no way to catch terrorists. And it’s not as if the only alternative is a separate policy for Arabs and Muslims. Racial and religious profiling won’t even work. Shoe bomber Richard Reid wouldn’t have been caught that way, and it’s probably safe to let a 90 year-old woman from Dubai through with minimal hassle.

Right now there appears to be no effort whatsoever to discriminate among passengers using any criteria, let alone racist criteria. “Pants bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab did not have a passport, did not have any luggage, and bought a one-way ticket with cash. His name is in a database of possible terrorists. Any Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, or all-American white boys from Iowa who fit that description should be stopped. Abdulmutallab wasn’t stopped. In 2004, though, Senator Ted Kennedy found himself with his name on the no-fly list.

The TSA’s whole mindset is wrong. Its agents confiscate things, even harmless things, and they apply additional scrutiny to things carried by people selected at random. If they were also tasked with looking for dangerous people, they would rightly ease up on grandmothers and senators, and they’d have a competently compiled list in the computer of those who are known to be dangerous. And if some kind of broad profiling means I’ll have to suffer the indignity of being frisked while the nun in line behind me does not, it’s no worse, really, than the embarrassment and contempt I’ll feel if the nun gets frisked instead.

Security agents will never find everything or everyone. It’s impossible. Abdulmutallab sewed a bomb into his underwear. Not even the most draconian new rules imaginable will allow agents to search inside anyone’s underwear. Patting down grandpa below the mid-thigh won’t do any good. Patting down Abdulmutallab below the mid-thigh wouldn’t have done any good either — all the more reason to start paying as much attention to people as to what they carry.

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But He Told Us. . .

Obama spent a great deal of 2009 trying to convince us of things that just weren’t true. He told us we had to have a trillion dollar (including interest) stimulus plan to keep unemployment at 8 percent. We paid (well, borrowed) the money, and unemployment went above 10 percent. He told us the stimulus plan saved many jobs. We never could figure out how many or where they were. He told us there was a health-care crisis. But more people than ever like their health care just the way it is. He told us he wanted a health-care bill that would cut costs, reform Medicare, improve access to care, not tax anyone but the rich, and eliminate the disparity between the haves and have-nots. We got a bill that does none of that. He promised an end to partisan recriminations and small-minded politics. He practiced both, leaving the New York Times complaining about the resurgence of partisan bitterness. He vowed to end the politicization of the Justice Department, but Eric Holder has run roughshod over career attorneys, given free rein to leftist ideologues, and effectuated a war on the CIA. Obama told us he would return science to its rightful place but refuses to acknowledge evidence that the science underpinning climate-change fanaticism has been exaggerated and bastardized.

In the realm of national security, Obama told us George W. Bush and Dick Cheney had made us less safe, and he set about to reverse the policies that kept us free from domestic attacks for seven and a half years.  But Americans now feel less safe and have experienced three domestic terror attacks. Obama told us he was going to engage Iran to cure the misunderstandings and ill will between our countries. He sent video messages to the mullahs and spent a year overlooking the regime’s thuggish behavior and downplaying their violations of international agreements.  But the Iranian regime has stolen an election, murdered its own people, and is building gobs of new enrichment sites. Obama said he could improve America’s image in the “Muslim World,” but as David Ignatius put it, “The problems the United States faced in 2009 in the Muslim world were deep and intractable, and less amenable to solutions than the Obama administration might have hoped.” Obama told us if he could halt Israel’s settlements, the Palestinians would be forthcoming, and a peace deal could be reached. The parties are farther apart than ever.

I could go on, but you get the point. There is ample evidence that Obama’s rhetoric is divorced from reality and that his policies, both foreign and domestic, have failed even by his own standards. Will he learn and adjust — or will he persist in his folly, a prisoner of a worldview and domestic agenda ill-suited to the challenges that confront us? If he adjusts, his presidency may still be a successful one. If not, he will join the list of failed presidents who never lived up to the promise of their campaigns and who left the country less prosperous and less safe. In 2010, we’ll get an idea which it will be.

Obama spent a great deal of 2009 trying to convince us of things that just weren’t true. He told us we had to have a trillion dollar (including interest) stimulus plan to keep unemployment at 8 percent. We paid (well, borrowed) the money, and unemployment went above 10 percent. He told us the stimulus plan saved many jobs. We never could figure out how many or where they were. He told us there was a health-care crisis. But more people than ever like their health care just the way it is. He told us he wanted a health-care bill that would cut costs, reform Medicare, improve access to care, not tax anyone but the rich, and eliminate the disparity between the haves and have-nots. We got a bill that does none of that. He promised an end to partisan recriminations and small-minded politics. He practiced both, leaving the New York Times complaining about the resurgence of partisan bitterness. He vowed to end the politicization of the Justice Department, but Eric Holder has run roughshod over career attorneys, given free rein to leftist ideologues, and effectuated a war on the CIA. Obama told us he would return science to its rightful place but refuses to acknowledge evidence that the science underpinning climate-change fanaticism has been exaggerated and bastardized.

In the realm of national security, Obama told us George W. Bush and Dick Cheney had made us less safe, and he set about to reverse the policies that kept us free from domestic attacks for seven and a half years.  But Americans now feel less safe and have experienced three domestic terror attacks. Obama told us he was going to engage Iran to cure the misunderstandings and ill will between our countries. He sent video messages to the mullahs and spent a year overlooking the regime’s thuggish behavior and downplaying their violations of international agreements.  But the Iranian regime has stolen an election, murdered its own people, and is building gobs of new enrichment sites. Obama said he could improve America’s image in the “Muslim World,” but as David Ignatius put it, “The problems the United States faced in 2009 in the Muslim world were deep and intractable, and less amenable to solutions than the Obama administration might have hoped.” Obama told us if he could halt Israel’s settlements, the Palestinians would be forthcoming, and a peace deal could be reached. The parties are farther apart than ever.

I could go on, but you get the point. There is ample evidence that Obama’s rhetoric is divorced from reality and that his policies, both foreign and domestic, have failed even by his own standards. Will he learn and adjust — or will he persist in his folly, a prisoner of a worldview and domestic agenda ill-suited to the challenges that confront us? If he adjusts, his presidency may still be a successful one. If not, he will join the list of failed presidents who never lived up to the promise of their campaigns and who left the country less prosperous and less safe. In 2010, we’ll get an idea which it will be.

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Will They Do What Must Be Done?

In the case of the Christmas Day terror attack, the Obama administration has gone from denying error to acknowledging a systematic failure of intelligence. But nothing the president and his hapless advisers have said, nor the reviews ordered by the president, suggest that they are re-examining the fundamental policy errors that, if unaddressed, will continue to undermine the safety and security of Americans. Yes, we should fire the ball-droppers (Dennis Blair should be preparing to “spend more time with his family”). And we should figure out how to elevate suspected terrorists to the “no fly” watch list when their parents turn them in to the CIA. But there is more to the problem than that. Unfortunately, one has the sense that in all the new-found frenzy to “report what went wrong,” no one will report that the president’s own ideological predispositions and outlook are at the root of the problem. Three of these come to mind.

First, if we persist in treating terrorists as criminal defendants, we will not get the maximum amount of information required to prevent further attacks. Andy McCarthy explains:

A terrorist submitted to the criminal justice system immediately after arrest must be brought to court and have counsel assigned promptly — generally, within six hours. As a defendant, the terrorist is empowered because once he has counsel and a case to fight, he realizes he has cards to play — he is incentivized to hold back the most critical, fresh, operational intelligence in order to pressure the prosecutors into dropping charges, dropping the death penalty, and agreeing to various other accommodations. His confederates are empowered because the discovery provided for his criminal case, and then the public trial, provide a window into what the government knows about the enemy.

Second, we cannot, as Cliff May puts it, make ourselves “inoffensive” to our enemies:

President Obama’s Cairo speech, his respectful outreach to Iran’s radical mullahs, his pledge to close Guantanamo, his ban on coercive interrogations, his multicultural family history and his middle name — none of this has had the slightest impact on those dedicated to waging holy war against what they see as the “Satanic” West.

Our enemies have many grievances — from our support of Israel to our interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen to our laissez-faire attitudes toward women and homosexuals. Nothing we do to appease them will be enough because what they really want is to humiliate, defeat, and dominate us; to force us to live under sharia law, embrace their religion as they interpret it, or suffer the consequences due arrogant infidels. We know this because they tell us.

And third, by refusing to identify our enemies — Islamic fundamentalists — we encourage officials (from Major Nadal Hassan’s colleagues to State Department bureaucrats) to ignore red flags that suggest a radicalized jihadist may be ready to strike. We refuse to profile terrorists when we know their profiles. (As Newt Gingrich noted, “Today, because our elites fear politically incorrect honesty, they believe that it is better to harass the innocent, delay the harmless, and risk the lives of every American than to do the obvious, the effective, and the necessary.”) Yes, that means going into mosques when we believe there is intelligence to be gathered there. It means empowering, not penalizing, members of the armed services who report that one of their own may have fallen under the sway of jihadism. The cult of political correctness, which excuses aberrant behavior, has to end. And that cannot happen if the commander in chief refuses to speak candidly about the identity of our enemies and their ideological motivations.

All of this would, of course, require that the Obami rethink their “not Bush” approach to the war on terror. That would be a bitter bill indeed to swallow. But unless and until they do so, they are gambling with the lives of Americans, and with their own political futures. The country would forgive them a reversal in policy; it will likely not forgive them should a terrorist catastrophe occur.

In the case of the Christmas Day terror attack, the Obama administration has gone from denying error to acknowledging a systematic failure of intelligence. But nothing the president and his hapless advisers have said, nor the reviews ordered by the president, suggest that they are re-examining the fundamental policy errors that, if unaddressed, will continue to undermine the safety and security of Americans. Yes, we should fire the ball-droppers (Dennis Blair should be preparing to “spend more time with his family”). And we should figure out how to elevate suspected terrorists to the “no fly” watch list when their parents turn them in to the CIA. But there is more to the problem than that. Unfortunately, one has the sense that in all the new-found frenzy to “report what went wrong,” no one will report that the president’s own ideological predispositions and outlook are at the root of the problem. Three of these come to mind.

First, if we persist in treating terrorists as criminal defendants, we will not get the maximum amount of information required to prevent further attacks. Andy McCarthy explains:

A terrorist submitted to the criminal justice system immediately after arrest must be brought to court and have counsel assigned promptly — generally, within six hours. As a defendant, the terrorist is empowered because once he has counsel and a case to fight, he realizes he has cards to play — he is incentivized to hold back the most critical, fresh, operational intelligence in order to pressure the prosecutors into dropping charges, dropping the death penalty, and agreeing to various other accommodations. His confederates are empowered because the discovery provided for his criminal case, and then the public trial, provide a window into what the government knows about the enemy.

Second, we cannot, as Cliff May puts it, make ourselves “inoffensive” to our enemies:

President Obama’s Cairo speech, his respectful outreach to Iran’s radical mullahs, his pledge to close Guantanamo, his ban on coercive interrogations, his multicultural family history and his middle name — none of this has had the slightest impact on those dedicated to waging holy war against what they see as the “Satanic” West.

Our enemies have many grievances — from our support of Israel to our interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen to our laissez-faire attitudes toward women and homosexuals. Nothing we do to appease them will be enough because what they really want is to humiliate, defeat, and dominate us; to force us to live under sharia law, embrace their religion as they interpret it, or suffer the consequences due arrogant infidels. We know this because they tell us.

And third, by refusing to identify our enemies — Islamic fundamentalists — we encourage officials (from Major Nadal Hassan’s colleagues to State Department bureaucrats) to ignore red flags that suggest a radicalized jihadist may be ready to strike. We refuse to profile terrorists when we know their profiles. (As Newt Gingrich noted, “Today, because our elites fear politically incorrect honesty, they believe that it is better to harass the innocent, delay the harmless, and risk the lives of every American than to do the obvious, the effective, and the necessary.”) Yes, that means going into mosques when we believe there is intelligence to be gathered there. It means empowering, not penalizing, members of the armed services who report that one of their own may have fallen under the sway of jihadism. The cult of political correctness, which excuses aberrant behavior, has to end. And that cannot happen if the commander in chief refuses to speak candidly about the identity of our enemies and their ideological motivations.

All of this would, of course, require that the Obami rethink their “not Bush” approach to the war on terror. That would be a bitter bill indeed to swallow. But unless and until they do so, they are gambling with the lives of Americans, and with their own political futures. The country would forgive them a reversal in policy; it will likely not forgive them should a terrorist catastrophe occur.

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Our Place In the World

Barack Obama rode into office promising to “restore our place in the world.” Many thought this meant that Obama intended to elevate America’s profile, make us more popular and more effective, and soothe the feelings of hurt allies. But “our place in the world,” it has turned out, means a smaller place from which a less confident and assertive America simply “bears witness” as events swirl around us.

In a must-read piece, Fouad Ajami argues persuasively that Obama would rather we do less in the world and turn our attention to his quite radical plans for refashioning America. He writes of the Obama mindset:

We’re weary, the disillusioned liberalism maintains, and we’re broke, and there are those millions of Americans aching for health care and an economic lifeline. We can’t care for both Ohio and the Anbar, Peoria and Peshawar. It is either those embattled people in Iran or a rescue package for Chrysler.

The joke is on the enthralled crowds in Cairo, Ankara, Berlin and Oslo. The new American president they had fallen for had no genuine calling or attachments abroad. In their enthusiasm for Mr. Obama, and their eagerness to proclaim themselves at one with the postracial meaning of his election, they had missed his aloofness from the genuine struggles in the foreign world.

The catch in all this is that America’s retreat and equivocation neither keeps our enemies at bay nor frees the president to focus on the home front. To the contrary, our foes become emboldened and the dangers rage. As Ajami observes: “History and its furies have their logic, and they have not bent to Mr. Obama’s will. He had declared a unilateral end to the ‘war on terror,’ but the jihadists and their mentors are yet to call their war to a halt. From Yemen to Fort Hood and Detroit, the terror continues.” And while Obama is obsessed with half-a-loaf policies (e.g., surge in Afghanistan but with a deadline, sanctions in Iran but just little bitty ones) our adversaries in Afghanistan, Iran, Yemen, North Korea, Syria, and elsewhere remain unimpressed, if not emboldened, by what appears to be irresolution, not “nuance,” and hesitancy, not “smart diplomacy.”

So after nearly a year, what has Obama accomplished? The world is no less dangerous, our allies (Britain, Israel, Honduras, Poland, and the Czech Republic, among others) are not cheered, and America has made it clear to human-rights activists and their oppressors that there is little this administration is willing to say (and even less it is willing to do) to advance democracy and freedom. The result? Ajami sums up: “We’re smaller for accepting that false choice between burdens at home and burdens abroad, and the world beyond our shores is more hazardous and cynical for our retrenchment and our self-flagellation.”

Anxious conservatives keep waiting for the “Ah ha!” moment when Obama will recognize the folly of his effort to turn away from the demands of a dangerous world, will instead embrace American exceptionalism, and unabashedly assert American values and interests. Yet he continues to nibble around the edges of an effective foreign policy. He drops the more ludicrous gambits (e.g., backing Hugo Chavez’s flunky in Honduras and demanding a unilateral settlement freeze by Israel) but has yet to match action with revised rhetoric. He continues to do the least possible when the most is required. His idea of America’s place in the world seems not so majestic as some had imagined. And the world, as a result, is more dangerous, and America is less enamored and respected. Alas, it is not at all what was promised.

Barack Obama rode into office promising to “restore our place in the world.” Many thought this meant that Obama intended to elevate America’s profile, make us more popular and more effective, and soothe the feelings of hurt allies. But “our place in the world,” it has turned out, means a smaller place from which a less confident and assertive America simply “bears witness” as events swirl around us.

In a must-read piece, Fouad Ajami argues persuasively that Obama would rather we do less in the world and turn our attention to his quite radical plans for refashioning America. He writes of the Obama mindset:

We’re weary, the disillusioned liberalism maintains, and we’re broke, and there are those millions of Americans aching for health care and an economic lifeline. We can’t care for both Ohio and the Anbar, Peoria and Peshawar. It is either those embattled people in Iran or a rescue package for Chrysler.

The joke is on the enthralled crowds in Cairo, Ankara, Berlin and Oslo. The new American president they had fallen for had no genuine calling or attachments abroad. In their enthusiasm for Mr. Obama, and their eagerness to proclaim themselves at one with the postracial meaning of his election, they had missed his aloofness from the genuine struggles in the foreign world.

The catch in all this is that America’s retreat and equivocation neither keeps our enemies at bay nor frees the president to focus on the home front. To the contrary, our foes become emboldened and the dangers rage. As Ajami observes: “History and its furies have their logic, and they have not bent to Mr. Obama’s will. He had declared a unilateral end to the ‘war on terror,’ but the jihadists and their mentors are yet to call their war to a halt. From Yemen to Fort Hood and Detroit, the terror continues.” And while Obama is obsessed with half-a-loaf policies (e.g., surge in Afghanistan but with a deadline, sanctions in Iran but just little bitty ones) our adversaries in Afghanistan, Iran, Yemen, North Korea, Syria, and elsewhere remain unimpressed, if not emboldened, by what appears to be irresolution, not “nuance,” and hesitancy, not “smart diplomacy.”

So after nearly a year, what has Obama accomplished? The world is no less dangerous, our allies (Britain, Israel, Honduras, Poland, and the Czech Republic, among others) are not cheered, and America has made it clear to human-rights activists and their oppressors that there is little this administration is willing to say (and even less it is willing to do) to advance democracy and freedom. The result? Ajami sums up: “We’re smaller for accepting that false choice between burdens at home and burdens abroad, and the world beyond our shores is more hazardous and cynical for our retrenchment and our self-flagellation.”

Anxious conservatives keep waiting for the “Ah ha!” moment when Obama will recognize the folly of his effort to turn away from the demands of a dangerous world, will instead embrace American exceptionalism, and unabashedly assert American values and interests. Yet he continues to nibble around the edges of an effective foreign policy. He drops the more ludicrous gambits (e.g., backing Hugo Chavez’s flunky in Honduras and demanding a unilateral settlement freeze by Israel) but has yet to match action with revised rhetoric. He continues to do the least possible when the most is required. His idea of America’s place in the world seems not so majestic as some had imagined. And the world, as a result, is more dangerous, and America is less enamored and respected. Alas, it is not at all what was promised.

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Do You Feel Safer?

After nearly a year, Americans are voting thumbs down on Obama’s handling of the war on terror:

Belief that the bad guys are winning the War on Terror is now at its highest level in over two years, and nearly half of U.S. voters say America is not safer than it was before 9/11. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 30% of voters think the terrorists are winning the War on Terror. That’s the first time the number holding that pessimistic view has reached 30% since October 2007. . . Just 27% now say that the United States is safer today than it was before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. However, 47% say it is not, That latter figure marks a nine-point jump from earlier in the month and is the highest negative finding on the question since Rasmussen Reports began surveying on it in 2002.

Try as he might to turn away from the Bush-era policies and downgrade the war on terror, Obama finds that the world does not cooperate. Terrorists persist in striking us, detainees released from Guantanamo return to the business of trying to kill Americans, and hamstringing our intelligence agencies makes for less effective intelligence gathering. Moreover, his approach — consisting of much wishful thinking (e.g., closing Guantanamo will quell the terrorists’ hatred), a determination to shift to a criminal-justice model, and a rejection of the robust policies able to extract life-saving information from terrorists — has not instilled confidence in the American people.

Plainly, Obama would rather be doing other things (taking over the health-care sector of the economy and regulating carbon emissions, to name two) but he cannot escape a fundamental reality: we are at war and his presidency will fail, horribly so, if he does not make his first priority the defense of Americans against Islamic terrorists. If he is looking to pivot and arrest the slide in his political fortunes next year, he should begin by a comprehensive rethinking of the anti-terror policies that have caused the public to lose faith in him. His decision on Afghanistan, as halting and half-hearted as it was, should be instructive. When the president commits to a war, allocates appropriate resources, and utilizes the advice of military experts rather than political hacks, the public responds favorably. It is a lesson worth applying more broadly — we hope before the next detonator works as planned or the passengers on the next airplane targeted by terror are sleeping rather than keeping watch.

After nearly a year, Americans are voting thumbs down on Obama’s handling of the war on terror:

Belief that the bad guys are winning the War on Terror is now at its highest level in over two years, and nearly half of U.S. voters say America is not safer than it was before 9/11. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 30% of voters think the terrorists are winning the War on Terror. That’s the first time the number holding that pessimistic view has reached 30% since October 2007. . . Just 27% now say that the United States is safer today than it was before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. However, 47% say it is not, That latter figure marks a nine-point jump from earlier in the month and is the highest negative finding on the question since Rasmussen Reports began surveying on it in 2002.

Try as he might to turn away from the Bush-era policies and downgrade the war on terror, Obama finds that the world does not cooperate. Terrorists persist in striking us, detainees released from Guantanamo return to the business of trying to kill Americans, and hamstringing our intelligence agencies makes for less effective intelligence gathering. Moreover, his approach — consisting of much wishful thinking (e.g., closing Guantanamo will quell the terrorists’ hatred), a determination to shift to a criminal-justice model, and a rejection of the robust policies able to extract life-saving information from terrorists — has not instilled confidence in the American people.

Plainly, Obama would rather be doing other things (taking over the health-care sector of the economy and regulating carbon emissions, to name two) but he cannot escape a fundamental reality: we are at war and his presidency will fail, horribly so, if he does not make his first priority the defense of Americans against Islamic terrorists. If he is looking to pivot and arrest the slide in his political fortunes next year, he should begin by a comprehensive rethinking of the anti-terror policies that have caused the public to lose faith in him. His decision on Afghanistan, as halting and half-hearted as it was, should be instructive. When the president commits to a war, allocates appropriate resources, and utilizes the advice of military experts rather than political hacks, the public responds favorably. It is a lesson worth applying more broadly — we hope before the next detonator works as planned or the passengers on the next airplane targeted by terror are sleeping rather than keeping watch.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Time to see if the Senate Cash for Cloture deal can survive scrutiny (legal and otherwise): “Republican attorneys general in 13 states say congressional leaders must remove Nebraska’s political deal from the federal health care reform bill or face legal action, according to a letter provided to The Associated Press Wednesday. ‘We believe this provision is constitutionally flawed,’ South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster and the 12 other attorneys general wrote in the letter to be sent Wednesday night to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.”

The Obami don’t like “Islamic terrorism” or “war on terror” but they are a never-ending font of bureaucratic gibberish: “‘Pulsing it.’ ‘Pulsing the system.’ That’s the language used Tuesday by a senior Obama White House administration official to describe how the administration is scrambling to find out about the intelligence failures that led to a Nigerian suspected terrorist boarding Detroit bound Northwest Flight 253 with explosives in his underwear on Christmas Day.” Yeah, I don’t feel comforted by this either.

Sounds good in theory: “President Barack Obama on Tuesday ordered the federal government to rethink how it protects the nation’s secrets, in a move that was expected to declassify more than 400 million pages of Cold War-era documents and curb the number of government records hidden from the public.” But then why hasn’t the administration released all the Bush-era interrogation documents requested by Dick Cheney, the information on the dismissal of the New Black Panther Party voter case, and the data Congress has requested about the domestic-terror attacks on the Obami’s watch?

More people than ever hate ObamaCare — 58 percent, a new high in the Rasmussen poll, oppose it.

Because we haven’t had enough government bailouts? “The federal government said Wednesday it will take a majority ownership stake in the troubled auto lender GMAC, providing another $3.8 billion in aid to the company, which has been unable to raise from private investors the money it needs to stanch its losses. The new aid package for GMAC, coming as most large banks are repaying the government, underscores both the problems afflicting the company and its importance to the Obama administration’s efforts to revive the auto industry.” Hmm, sounds like we’re never getting our money back.

What’s wrong with a criminal-justice approach to terrorism? “By whatever name, designating Mutallab as an enemy of the United States would have provided interrogators much greater flexibility in questioning him and given him no legal right to resist. The decision to charge Mutallab as a criminal, rather than designate him as an enemy combatant, was a momentous one that in all likelihood guarantees we will gain less intelligence about how the attack was planned, who planned it, and whether others are on the way.”

They have a point: “Members of the Allied Pilots Association, the pilots’ union at American Airlines, said Wednesday that the U.S. Transportation Security Administration didn’t do enough to warn in-air flight crews of the Christmas Day terrorist threat on a Northwest Airlines flight.” But then no one was warned, so it’s not like they were treated any differently than anyone else.

Despite the White House’s best efforts, Fox News doesn’t look as though it is going away any time soon.

Time to see if the Senate Cash for Cloture deal can survive scrutiny (legal and otherwise): “Republican attorneys general in 13 states say congressional leaders must remove Nebraska’s political deal from the federal health care reform bill or face legal action, according to a letter provided to The Associated Press Wednesday. ‘We believe this provision is constitutionally flawed,’ South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster and the 12 other attorneys general wrote in the letter to be sent Wednesday night to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.”

The Obami don’t like “Islamic terrorism” or “war on terror” but they are a never-ending font of bureaucratic gibberish: “‘Pulsing it.’ ‘Pulsing the system.’ That’s the language used Tuesday by a senior Obama White House administration official to describe how the administration is scrambling to find out about the intelligence failures that led to a Nigerian suspected terrorist boarding Detroit bound Northwest Flight 253 with explosives in his underwear on Christmas Day.” Yeah, I don’t feel comforted by this either.

Sounds good in theory: “President Barack Obama on Tuesday ordered the federal government to rethink how it protects the nation’s secrets, in a move that was expected to declassify more than 400 million pages of Cold War-era documents and curb the number of government records hidden from the public.” But then why hasn’t the administration released all the Bush-era interrogation documents requested by Dick Cheney, the information on the dismissal of the New Black Panther Party voter case, and the data Congress has requested about the domestic-terror attacks on the Obami’s watch?

More people than ever hate ObamaCare — 58 percent, a new high in the Rasmussen poll, oppose it.

Because we haven’t had enough government bailouts? “The federal government said Wednesday it will take a majority ownership stake in the troubled auto lender GMAC, providing another $3.8 billion in aid to the company, which has been unable to raise from private investors the money it needs to stanch its losses. The new aid package for GMAC, coming as most large banks are repaying the government, underscores both the problems afflicting the company and its importance to the Obama administration’s efforts to revive the auto industry.” Hmm, sounds like we’re never getting our money back.

What’s wrong with a criminal-justice approach to terrorism? “By whatever name, designating Mutallab as an enemy of the United States would have provided interrogators much greater flexibility in questioning him and given him no legal right to resist. The decision to charge Mutallab as a criminal, rather than designate him as an enemy combatant, was a momentous one that in all likelihood guarantees we will gain less intelligence about how the attack was planned, who planned it, and whether others are on the way.”

They have a point: “Members of the Allied Pilots Association, the pilots’ union at American Airlines, said Wednesday that the U.S. Transportation Security Administration didn’t do enough to warn in-air flight crews of the Christmas Day terrorist threat on a Northwest Airlines flight.” But then no one was warned, so it’s not like they were treated any differently than anyone else.

Despite the White House’s best efforts, Fox News doesn’t look as though it is going away any time soon.

Read Less




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