Commentary Magazine


Posts For: February 24, 2010

Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s Rules of Engagement Make Sense

Andrew Exum, a former U.S. Army officer who now blogs at Abu Muqawama, has a good piece explaining why Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s rules of engagement, designed to minimize civilian casualties, make sense. Those rules have been questioned by a few soldiers, parents of soldiers, and, also, right-wing pundits. He points out (as I have in the past) that “Gen. McChrystal had grown convinced that Afghan civilian casualties were taking an immense toll on the NATO mission in Afghanistan.” He explains:

This was not the conclusion of a scholar who had studied war from the comforts of a library, but rather the words of a student-practitioner of combat who had seen everything else in Afghanistan tried and fail. By 2006, when Gen. McChrystal gave up command of the U.S. military’s most elite Special Operations task force, his units were killing the enemy at a cyclical rate — as fast as they possibly could — and it was not making a difference. A friend of mine likes to say that you cannot kill your way to victory in counterinsurgency campaigns, and that is precisely what Gen. McChrystal learned at the helm of the Joint Special Operations Command.

That is something that McChrystal’s critics still do not seem to have learned.

Andrew Exum, a former U.S. Army officer who now blogs at Abu Muqawama, has a good piece explaining why Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s rules of engagement, designed to minimize civilian casualties, make sense. Those rules have been questioned by a few soldiers, parents of soldiers, and, also, right-wing pundits. He points out (as I have in the past) that “Gen. McChrystal had grown convinced that Afghan civilian casualties were taking an immense toll on the NATO mission in Afghanistan.” He explains:

This was not the conclusion of a scholar who had studied war from the comforts of a library, but rather the words of a student-practitioner of combat who had seen everything else in Afghanistan tried and fail. By 2006, when Gen. McChrystal gave up command of the U.S. military’s most elite Special Operations task force, his units were killing the enemy at a cyclical rate — as fast as they possibly could — and it was not making a difference. A friend of mine likes to say that you cannot kill your way to victory in counterinsurgency campaigns, and that is precisely what Gen. McChrystal learned at the helm of the Joint Special Operations Command.

That is something that McChrystal’s critics still do not seem to have learned.

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Deterring Ourselves

Two news reports from the last day highlight poignantly the paralysis of the West in the face of a nuclearizing Iran. One is a Washington Times piece by Eli Lake outlining recent and prospective developments with the financial “pressure track” against Iran.  The other is Der Spiegel Online’s account of the sanctions package being prepared by the EU nations.

The Lake piece is less remarkable: one of many that clarify how heavily dependent any sanctions regime will be on the honest participation of China. The piece makes a telling foil to the Der Spiegel report, however, in part because the two articles share a particular rhetorical characteristic. They lead with language that evokes strength and energy in the approach of the West to Iran. Momentum-sapping caveats are sequestered at the end of each article, receiving little treatment of any kind and certainly not consideration commensurate with their significance.

Der Spiegel’s report has quite a promising tone overall: “massive sanctions,” “choke off imports,” “banish the Iranian central bank.” But read to the end and you find that the emerging European proposal is hostage to two self-imposed constraints listed briefly in the final paragraph: a UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution as a legal foundation, and the backing of nations like Turkey, Brazil, and the Persian Gulf states.

Getting a UNSC resolution is, of course, dependent on Russia and China, which can exercise vetoes. That challenge has proved insuperable for years. But the stated reason for the second constraint — obtaining the backing of non-Western nations — is a window on the soul of the modern West. The purpose is not the practical one we might expect: to strengthen the effectiveness of sanctions, which Turkey and the Gulf states in particular could easily undermine. The concern is rather that Iran could complain of being targeted by a Western conspiracy, or the “vassals of Israel.”

To give the Europeans the benefit of the doubt, we may assume that they’re thinking of the backlash from Islamists in their own capitals if Iran claims such victimhood. But this point is only superficially persuasive. For one thing, the mullahs accuse everyone who opposes Iran of conspiracy and vassalage to Israel. It’s reflexive, not contingent on the exact nature of what anyone else does. Moreover, any backlash would probably create worse domestic problems for Turkey and the Gulf nations than it would for Europe, so attempts to gain their overt political support are unlikely to meet with success.

But the more profound concern is that if no action is taken, and taken soon, the outcome will be a nuclear-armed theocratic pariah state, one whose leaders have an apocalyptic vision of their nation’s role on earth. This nation already sponsors terrorism and insurgencies abroad. Having nuclear arms will give Iran’s disruptive activism a new strategic cover. Europe will be in range of Iranian nuclear missiles before North America is. Yet the West clearly doesn’t take this threat seriously enough to lift the self-imposed constraints — even the patently absurd ones — that are the main obstacles to action.

If Iran’s revolutionary regime does acquire nuclear weapons, the reported EU concern about a pre-nuclear Iran playing the victim card for effect will go down as one of the most foolish in history. Surely, future generations might say, the men and women of the 2010s didn’t stay their hand against Iran because of that.

Two news reports from the last day highlight poignantly the paralysis of the West in the face of a nuclearizing Iran. One is a Washington Times piece by Eli Lake outlining recent and prospective developments with the financial “pressure track” against Iran.  The other is Der Spiegel Online’s account of the sanctions package being prepared by the EU nations.

The Lake piece is less remarkable: one of many that clarify how heavily dependent any sanctions regime will be on the honest participation of China. The piece makes a telling foil to the Der Spiegel report, however, in part because the two articles share a particular rhetorical characteristic. They lead with language that evokes strength and energy in the approach of the West to Iran. Momentum-sapping caveats are sequestered at the end of each article, receiving little treatment of any kind and certainly not consideration commensurate with their significance.

Der Spiegel’s report has quite a promising tone overall: “massive sanctions,” “choke off imports,” “banish the Iranian central bank.” But read to the end and you find that the emerging European proposal is hostage to two self-imposed constraints listed briefly in the final paragraph: a UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution as a legal foundation, and the backing of nations like Turkey, Brazil, and the Persian Gulf states.

Getting a UNSC resolution is, of course, dependent on Russia and China, which can exercise vetoes. That challenge has proved insuperable for years. But the stated reason for the second constraint — obtaining the backing of non-Western nations — is a window on the soul of the modern West. The purpose is not the practical one we might expect: to strengthen the effectiveness of sanctions, which Turkey and the Gulf states in particular could easily undermine. The concern is rather that Iran could complain of being targeted by a Western conspiracy, or the “vassals of Israel.”

To give the Europeans the benefit of the doubt, we may assume that they’re thinking of the backlash from Islamists in their own capitals if Iran claims such victimhood. But this point is only superficially persuasive. For one thing, the mullahs accuse everyone who opposes Iran of conspiracy and vassalage to Israel. It’s reflexive, not contingent on the exact nature of what anyone else does. Moreover, any backlash would probably create worse domestic problems for Turkey and the Gulf nations than it would for Europe, so attempts to gain their overt political support are unlikely to meet with success.

But the more profound concern is that if no action is taken, and taken soon, the outcome will be a nuclear-armed theocratic pariah state, one whose leaders have an apocalyptic vision of their nation’s role on earth. This nation already sponsors terrorism and insurgencies abroad. Having nuclear arms will give Iran’s disruptive activism a new strategic cover. Europe will be in range of Iranian nuclear missiles before North America is. Yet the West clearly doesn’t take this threat seriously enough to lift the self-imposed constraints — even the patently absurd ones — that are the main obstacles to action.

If Iran’s revolutionary regime does acquire nuclear weapons, the reported EU concern about a pre-nuclear Iran playing the victim card for effect will go down as one of the most foolish in history. Surely, future generations might say, the men and women of the 2010s didn’t stay their hand against Iran because of that.

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Extreme Opinions Regarding the Future of Our Military

Mark Helprin, meet John Arquilla. Helprin is a gifted novelist who, in his spare time, offers strategic commentary. Arquilla is a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School who coined the term “net war” and has become an influential strategist. They have just published articles with diametrically opposing — and equally wrong-headed — messages.

Helprin in the Wall Street Journal bemoans our having “recalibrated the armed forces to deal with perhaps a division’s worth of fluid irregulars worldwide, thus granting China, Russia, and Iran military holidays in which to redirect the balance of power.” He thinks we are losing conventional-combat power and warns of dire consequences: “This year, the Air Force will keep 150 fighters in all of Europe, as at one time, while it declined but before it burned, Rome kept only a shadow of legions upon the Rhine and Danube.” Really? The U.S. will fall like the Roman Empire did because we don’t have enough fighter aircraft in Europe? Helprin thinks so, and demands that the F-22 production line be restarted, even though we have another ultra-modern aircraft, the F-35, in the pipeline. The large picture he misses is that we spend as much on defense as the rest of the world combined; our edge can’t be taken for granted but it won’t disappear soon either.

Arquilla, by contrast, thinks the U.S. military remains too conventional. His preferred analogy is not to Rome but rather to World War I: “When militaries don’t keep up with the pace of change, countries suffer. In World War I, the failure to grasp the implications of mass production led not only to senseless slaughter, but also to the end of great empires and the bankruptcy of others.” Today, he argues in Foreign Policy, the U.S. Navy is spending too much on surface warfare ships “whose aluminum superstructures will likely burn to the waterline if hit by a single missile”; the Army, on “a grab bag of new weapons, vehicles, and communications gadgets now seen by its own proponents as almost completely unworkable for the kind of military operations that land forces will be undertaking in the years ahead”; and the Air Force, on “extremely advanced and extremely expensive fighter aircraft — despite losing only one fighter plane to an enemy fighter in nearly 40 years.”

His solution is a radical one: cut defense spending by 10 percent a year, declare “a moratorium … on all legacy-like systems (think aircraft carriers, other big ships, advanced fighters, tanks, etc.),” and cut military manpower (more than 2 million serve today) by two thirds. “The model for military intervention,” he writes, “would be the 200 Special Forces ‘horse soldiers’ who beat the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan late in 2001. Such teams would deploy quickly and lethally, with ample reserves for relieving ‘first waves’ and dealing with other crises.”

Give Arquilla props for “out of the box” thinking — as well as for demonstrating why it usually makes sense to stay in the box. The “Afghan model” he cites has been found wanting since 2001 — a few Special Forces troopers could help overthrow the Taliban but couldn’t keep them down. That requires dispatching lots of more troops, which is what President Obama is wisely doing today. Likewise, the projection of U.S. power around the world requires more, not fewer, soldiers. And I wouldn’t be so quick to junk the “legacy weapons system,” which for years to come will give us an invaluable edge over potential adversaries. Helprin goes too far in the other direction, however, by focusing exclusively on the F-22 and its ilk while ignoring developments in robotics (more advanced unmanned aircraft) and the need for effective counterinsurgency forces.

As usual, between the two extremes they represent — extreme unconventionality and extreme conventionality — the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Mark Helprin, meet John Arquilla. Helprin is a gifted novelist who, in his spare time, offers strategic commentary. Arquilla is a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School who coined the term “net war” and has become an influential strategist. They have just published articles with diametrically opposing — and equally wrong-headed — messages.

Helprin in the Wall Street Journal bemoans our having “recalibrated the armed forces to deal with perhaps a division’s worth of fluid irregulars worldwide, thus granting China, Russia, and Iran military holidays in which to redirect the balance of power.” He thinks we are losing conventional-combat power and warns of dire consequences: “This year, the Air Force will keep 150 fighters in all of Europe, as at one time, while it declined but before it burned, Rome kept only a shadow of legions upon the Rhine and Danube.” Really? The U.S. will fall like the Roman Empire did because we don’t have enough fighter aircraft in Europe? Helprin thinks so, and demands that the F-22 production line be restarted, even though we have another ultra-modern aircraft, the F-35, in the pipeline. The large picture he misses is that we spend as much on defense as the rest of the world combined; our edge can’t be taken for granted but it won’t disappear soon either.

Arquilla, by contrast, thinks the U.S. military remains too conventional. His preferred analogy is not to Rome but rather to World War I: “When militaries don’t keep up with the pace of change, countries suffer. In World War I, the failure to grasp the implications of mass production led not only to senseless slaughter, but also to the end of great empires and the bankruptcy of others.” Today, he argues in Foreign Policy, the U.S. Navy is spending too much on surface warfare ships “whose aluminum superstructures will likely burn to the waterline if hit by a single missile”; the Army, on “a grab bag of new weapons, vehicles, and communications gadgets now seen by its own proponents as almost completely unworkable for the kind of military operations that land forces will be undertaking in the years ahead”; and the Air Force, on “extremely advanced and extremely expensive fighter aircraft — despite losing only one fighter plane to an enemy fighter in nearly 40 years.”

His solution is a radical one: cut defense spending by 10 percent a year, declare “a moratorium … on all legacy-like systems (think aircraft carriers, other big ships, advanced fighters, tanks, etc.),” and cut military manpower (more than 2 million serve today) by two thirds. “The model for military intervention,” he writes, “would be the 200 Special Forces ‘horse soldiers’ who beat the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan late in 2001. Such teams would deploy quickly and lethally, with ample reserves for relieving ‘first waves’ and dealing with other crises.”

Give Arquilla props for “out of the box” thinking — as well as for demonstrating why it usually makes sense to stay in the box. The “Afghan model” he cites has been found wanting since 2001 — a few Special Forces troopers could help overthrow the Taliban but couldn’t keep them down. That requires dispatching lots of more troops, which is what President Obama is wisely doing today. Likewise, the projection of U.S. power around the world requires more, not fewer, soldiers. And I wouldn’t be so quick to junk the “legacy weapons system,” which for years to come will give us an invaluable edge over potential adversaries. Helprin goes too far in the other direction, however, by focusing exclusively on the F-22 and its ilk while ignoring developments in robotics (more advanced unmanned aircraft) and the need for effective counterinsurgency forces.

As usual, between the two extremes they represent — extreme unconventionality and extreme conventionality — the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

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Obama’s Political Prospects and the Claim of 1.5 Million Jobs Saved or Created

Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation examines the new Congressional Budget Office finding that the stimulus package “saved or created” 1.5 million jobs and notes that CBO made a series of assumptions about the value of every dollar spent — for example, that “every $1 of government spending sent to state and local governments for infrastructure ultimately raises GDP by $1.75.” According to its calculations, the stimulus led to GDP growth of 2.6 percent.

There will be a great deal of debate and discussion about these numbers, all of which will have to do with the degree of credit that should attach to the stimulus package, those who voted for it, and President Obama for the economic growth it undoubtedly provided. But in fact, none of that debate and discussion will matter at this point except as an intellectual exercise. It will be very important in that respect for the future. But not now. Now the question is simply this: Will the voting public feel that a trillion dollars in government spending had the effect of improving things for the American people?

For the stimulus to have any political oomph, it will not be enough for the public to feel that things would have been worse without that trillion dollars. The price tag is simply too high for that, and the sense that the spending has burdened them with debt is too powerful. Without sustained economic growth and a resulting increase in employment, the stimulus will have felt like a failure, which is what it feels like today. And that feeling is the primary cause of the political crisis that Obama and his party find themselves in. They can try to argue their way out of it, or spin it — which is what Riedl accuses CBO of doing with the generosity of its assumptions — but it won’t do any good. People will make political choices based on how the world seems to them, and there will have to be a stunning acceleration of good news for those political choices to go any way but calamitously for Obama’s party for the foreseeable future.

Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation examines the new Congressional Budget Office finding that the stimulus package “saved or created” 1.5 million jobs and notes that CBO made a series of assumptions about the value of every dollar spent — for example, that “every $1 of government spending sent to state and local governments for infrastructure ultimately raises GDP by $1.75.” According to its calculations, the stimulus led to GDP growth of 2.6 percent.

There will be a great deal of debate and discussion about these numbers, all of which will have to do with the degree of credit that should attach to the stimulus package, those who voted for it, and President Obama for the economic growth it undoubtedly provided. But in fact, none of that debate and discussion will matter at this point except as an intellectual exercise. It will be very important in that respect for the future. But not now. Now the question is simply this: Will the voting public feel that a trillion dollars in government spending had the effect of improving things for the American people?

For the stimulus to have any political oomph, it will not be enough for the public to feel that things would have been worse without that trillion dollars. The price tag is simply too high for that, and the sense that the spending has burdened them with debt is too powerful. Without sustained economic growth and a resulting increase in employment, the stimulus will have felt like a failure, which is what it feels like today. And that feeling is the primary cause of the political crisis that Obama and his party find themselves in. They can try to argue their way out of it, or spin it — which is what Riedl accuses CBO of doing with the generosity of its assumptions — but it won’t do any good. People will make political choices based on how the world seems to them, and there will have to be a stunning acceleration of good news for those political choices to go any way but calamitously for Obama’s party for the foreseeable future.

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Governor Bush and the Future of the GOP

Since I’m spending part of this day calling attention to sober, serious-minded, and impressive governors — both current and past — here’s an interview with Jeb Bush that’s worth watching. He’s an enormously impressive figure in what he’s achieved, in what he knows, and in how he speaks. His tone and countenance, his authenticity and directness, are a joy to listen to.

People like Governor Bush, along with Governor Daniels and Representative Paul Ryan, are among the best faces and minds the GOP has to offer. Their approach, if replicated, will make the GOP America’s majority party, and an effective governing party, yet again.

Since I’m spending part of this day calling attention to sober, serious-minded, and impressive governors — both current and past — here’s an interview with Jeb Bush that’s worth watching. He’s an enormously impressive figure in what he’s achieved, in what he knows, and in how he speaks. His tone and countenance, his authenticity and directness, are a joy to listen to.

People like Governor Bush, along with Governor Daniels and Representative Paul Ryan, are among the best faces and minds the GOP has to offer. Their approach, if replicated, will make the GOP America’s majority party, and an effective governing party, yet again.

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Mitch Daniels Profile

One of America’s best political reporters, Fred Barnes, has a short piece on one of America’s best governors, Mitch Daniels. Barnes reports that Daniels has “dropped his Shermanesque stance of refusing to consider a presidential bid.” And he calls attention to Mitch’s two basic ideas for the next Republican presidential candidate:

One, the candidate should have a plan for solving the spending, deficit and debt crisis that has “intellectual credibility” and “holds water.” This mean the candidate would “campaign to govern, not merely to win” on what Daniels calls a “survival” issue for the country. The second idea: The candidate should “speak to Americans in a tone a voice that is unifying and friendly and therefore gives you a chance of unifying around some action.” In his campaigns for governor, Daniels never ran a single negative TV commercial attacking an opponent.

Obviously, running for president differs from running for governor. But I very much agree with Barnes’s two core points. (Michael Gerson and I touch on them in this COMMENTARY essay, “The Path to Republican Revival“). He has an impressive record and is one model for Republicans to look up to in the months and years ahead.

Having served with Mitch, I can testify as to what an impressive person he is. I hope he continues to keep the door ajar — and then, if he’s so inclined, I hope he walks through it. He would add a lot to a presidential campaign; and I imagine he’d do well. Maybe very well.

One of America’s best political reporters, Fred Barnes, has a short piece on one of America’s best governors, Mitch Daniels. Barnes reports that Daniels has “dropped his Shermanesque stance of refusing to consider a presidential bid.” And he calls attention to Mitch’s two basic ideas for the next Republican presidential candidate:

One, the candidate should have a plan for solving the spending, deficit and debt crisis that has “intellectual credibility” and “holds water.” This mean the candidate would “campaign to govern, not merely to win” on what Daniels calls a “survival” issue for the country. The second idea: The candidate should “speak to Americans in a tone a voice that is unifying and friendly and therefore gives you a chance of unifying around some action.” In his campaigns for governor, Daniels never ran a single negative TV commercial attacking an opponent.

Obviously, running for president differs from running for governor. But I very much agree with Barnes’s two core points. (Michael Gerson and I touch on them in this COMMENTARY essay, “The Path to Republican Revival“). He has an impressive record and is one model for Republicans to look up to in the months and years ahead.

Having served with Mitch, I can testify as to what an impressive person he is. I hope he continues to keep the door ajar — and then, if he’s so inclined, I hope he walks through it. He would add a lot to a presidential campaign; and I imagine he’d do well. Maybe very well.

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The Jig Is Up?

Everyone has been buzzing about reconciliation, a procedural trick for getting around the Senate filibuster on ObamaCare. But first the House has to pass it. And yes, the House has to go first, as Sen. Kent Conrad made clear today:

The House must pass the Senate bill first — before either chamber considers the reconciliation package, he said.

“I don’t know of any way, I don’t know of any way where you can have a reconciliation bill pass before the bill that it is meant to reconcile passes,” said Conrad, who would be a central figure on the Senate floor if Democrats embark on the complicated process. “I don’t know how you would deal with the scoring. I don’t know how I could look you in the eye and say this package reduces the deficit. It’s kind of got the cart before the horse.”

When reminded that House Democrats don’t want to do health care in that order, Conrad said bluntly: “Fine, then it’s dead.”

Yup. And how’s Nancy Pelosi doing rounding up those votes? Pelosi, it seems, isn’t close to getting her majority for ObamaCare II:

The chances of passing the president’s plan through the House appear to be growing slimmer by the hour. The three-vote margin the original bill had is all but gone. The one Republican who voted “yes,” Rep. Anh “Joseph’” Cao of Louisiana, says he’s a “no.” Rep. Bart Stupak, the Michigan Democrat who authored the tougher House abortion language, says the compromise language is “unacceptable.’” Now, [Rep. Dennis]Kucinich says he will not make up for those losses.

So heading into tomorrow’s summit we see that, indeed, there is less here than meets the eye. Obama has a proposal with no CBO score, no popular mandate, and no congressional majority. He better have an exit strategy.

Everyone has been buzzing about reconciliation, a procedural trick for getting around the Senate filibuster on ObamaCare. But first the House has to pass it. And yes, the House has to go first, as Sen. Kent Conrad made clear today:

The House must pass the Senate bill first — before either chamber considers the reconciliation package, he said.

“I don’t know of any way, I don’t know of any way where you can have a reconciliation bill pass before the bill that it is meant to reconcile passes,” said Conrad, who would be a central figure on the Senate floor if Democrats embark on the complicated process. “I don’t know how you would deal with the scoring. I don’t know how I could look you in the eye and say this package reduces the deficit. It’s kind of got the cart before the horse.”

When reminded that House Democrats don’t want to do health care in that order, Conrad said bluntly: “Fine, then it’s dead.”

Yup. And how’s Nancy Pelosi doing rounding up those votes? Pelosi, it seems, isn’t close to getting her majority for ObamaCare II:

The chances of passing the president’s plan through the House appear to be growing slimmer by the hour. The three-vote margin the original bill had is all but gone. The one Republican who voted “yes,” Rep. Anh “Joseph’” Cao of Louisiana, says he’s a “no.” Rep. Bart Stupak, the Michigan Democrat who authored the tougher House abortion language, says the compromise language is “unacceptable.’” Now, [Rep. Dennis]Kucinich says he will not make up for those losses.

So heading into tomorrow’s summit we see that, indeed, there is less here than meets the eye. Obama has a proposal with no CBO score, no popular mandate, and no congressional majority. He better have an exit strategy.

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Quetta Shura Under Pressure from Pakistan

The Christian Science Monitor is reporting that the Pakistani crackdown on the Afghan Taliban is more widespread than previously believed (h/t: Center for a New American Security). According to the Monitor, Pakistan has arrested seven out of 15 members of the Quetta Shura — the major governing council of the Taliban. Several of these captures have already been publicized, most notably that of Mullah Baradar, the Taliban’s second-in-command. But the Monitor claims that a number of other leaders have been quietly rolled up too, including Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir, a major military strategist who was imprisoned in Guantanamo and foolishly released (by the Bush administration) in 2006.

Assuming all this is accurate, it’s big news — and good news. It suggests that, for whatever reason, the Pakistani state is turning against its longtime allies in the Afghan Taliban. If so, it’s happening at the same time that NATO forces, beefed up by American reinforcements, are ramping up operations in Afghanistan. Thus the Tailban are being squeezed from both sides. They are far from finished, but they are suffering substantial damage.

The Christian Science Monitor is reporting that the Pakistani crackdown on the Afghan Taliban is more widespread than previously believed (h/t: Center for a New American Security). According to the Monitor, Pakistan has arrested seven out of 15 members of the Quetta Shura — the major governing council of the Taliban. Several of these captures have already been publicized, most notably that of Mullah Baradar, the Taliban’s second-in-command. But the Monitor claims that a number of other leaders have been quietly rolled up too, including Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir, a major military strategist who was imprisoned in Guantanamo and foolishly released (by the Bush administration) in 2006.

Assuming all this is accurate, it’s big news — and good news. It suggests that, for whatever reason, the Pakistani state is turning against its longtime allies in the Afghan Taliban. If so, it’s happening at the same time that NATO forces, beefed up by American reinforcements, are ramping up operations in Afghanistan. Thus the Tailban are being squeezed from both sides. They are far from finished, but they are suffering substantial damage.

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RE: Tom Campbell and Israel

Tom Campbell in an interview with the New Ledger discusses some of the issues that both Phil Klein of American Spectator and I have brought to light over the past week. In response, Phil points out that in the interview, Campbell misrepresents his acceptance of campaign money from Sami Al-Arian. As I did, Phil checked the FEC records but went one step further and got a comment from Campbell’s own campaign, which does not dispute the donation. In response to the point I raised concerning Campbell’s boosterism of Alison Weir, known Israel-defamer, Campbell only weakly argued out that there was no specific statement that he endorsed. Phil responds: “But even putting aside Weir’s recent dabbling with blood libel, she runs an organization called If Americans Knew, the entire purpose of which is to argue that Israel is using U.S. tax dollars to carry out atrocities.” And so it goes — Campbell denies that he criticized Bill Clinton as too pro-Israel, but Phil provides the quote.

One additional, if not unimportant, point: Alison Weir appears as a commenter on Phil’s article from yesterday. She helpfully adds to the conversation, confirming that she, in fact, advocates this drivel:

I have written a great many articles about Israel-Palestine; two of them are detailed, footnoted investigations of Israeli organ harvesting and theft, a reality that the Israeli media have covered in considerable depth — in fact, most of my information comes from published Israeli articles.

Following the publication of my articles, Israel’s chief pathologist (still among Israel’s highest paid public officials) admitted that for years he had been taking Palestinian body parts. People may wish to read my articles on this topic, and others, for themselves.

Now what says David Frum, Campbell’s staunchest ally on this (I think the only noteworthy public one), whose name Campbell invoked repeatedly in the New Ledger interview? To be fair, Frum’s post seems to have “crossed” with Phil’s response and therefore did not have the benefit of Phil’s dissection.

Regarding Weir, Frum is curiously mute. He simply repeats Campbell’s defense that there was not a particular statement of hers that he took issue with. I wonder if Campbell had  vouched for Pat Buchanan or other well known Israel-haters whether Frum would have considered that acceptable. Well why isn’t this further evidence of Campbell’s strange affinity with those who hate Israel? Frum doesn’t say. (By way of excuse, as discussed below, Frum tries to put Weir in the larger context of Campbell’s misguided folly in the 1990s.)

Frum then states: “On the issues, Tom Campbell has always supported Israel in every important way.” This simply isn’t so. Campbell’s record speaks for itself, and in fact Frum later acknowledges that Campbell simply got it wrong in the 1990s:

In the late 1990s, Campbell joined the so-called Muslim outreach strategy then being pushed hard by important party leaders. It was this strategy that led him to speak to the Council for American Islamic Relations – that entangled him in the al-Arian case – and that (I would guess) prompted his artfully hedged compliments to Alison Weir a decade ago.

The strategy failed, and Campbell was badly burned by it. The groups that offered their support to the GOP in the late 1990s did not in fact represent the sensible majority of American Muslims. They belonged to the radical fringe. Far from strengthening the GOP, they exploited the credulity of the GOP to enhance their own prestige.

Frum then goes on to list some dumb things that George W. Bush did in his outreach to Muslims. Let me simply say that Tom Campbell is no George W. Bush when it comes to his Israel record; but, in any case, Bush isn’t running for the Senate.

Unlike Frum, however, Campbell admits that there is no error in his record and continues to perpetuate the notion that he has always been a stalwart defender of Israel. Voters concerned about a fulsome relationship with and defense of the Jewish state will decide for themselves whether Campbell’s record is one that indicates good judgment and affinity for Israel. And they will also decide whether his lack of candor is one they find troubling.

Tom Campbell in an interview with the New Ledger discusses some of the issues that both Phil Klein of American Spectator and I have brought to light over the past week. In response, Phil points out that in the interview, Campbell misrepresents his acceptance of campaign money from Sami Al-Arian. As I did, Phil checked the FEC records but went one step further and got a comment from Campbell’s own campaign, which does not dispute the donation. In response to the point I raised concerning Campbell’s boosterism of Alison Weir, known Israel-defamer, Campbell only weakly argued out that there was no specific statement that he endorsed. Phil responds: “But even putting aside Weir’s recent dabbling with blood libel, she runs an organization called If Americans Knew, the entire purpose of which is to argue that Israel is using U.S. tax dollars to carry out atrocities.” And so it goes — Campbell denies that he criticized Bill Clinton as too pro-Israel, but Phil provides the quote.

One additional, if not unimportant, point: Alison Weir appears as a commenter on Phil’s article from yesterday. She helpfully adds to the conversation, confirming that she, in fact, advocates this drivel:

I have written a great many articles about Israel-Palestine; two of them are detailed, footnoted investigations of Israeli organ harvesting and theft, a reality that the Israeli media have covered in considerable depth — in fact, most of my information comes from published Israeli articles.

Following the publication of my articles, Israel’s chief pathologist (still among Israel’s highest paid public officials) admitted that for years he had been taking Palestinian body parts. People may wish to read my articles on this topic, and others, for themselves.

Now what says David Frum, Campbell’s staunchest ally on this (I think the only noteworthy public one), whose name Campbell invoked repeatedly in the New Ledger interview? To be fair, Frum’s post seems to have “crossed” with Phil’s response and therefore did not have the benefit of Phil’s dissection.

Regarding Weir, Frum is curiously mute. He simply repeats Campbell’s defense that there was not a particular statement of hers that he took issue with. I wonder if Campbell had  vouched for Pat Buchanan or other well known Israel-haters whether Frum would have considered that acceptable. Well why isn’t this further evidence of Campbell’s strange affinity with those who hate Israel? Frum doesn’t say. (By way of excuse, as discussed below, Frum tries to put Weir in the larger context of Campbell’s misguided folly in the 1990s.)

Frum then states: “On the issues, Tom Campbell has always supported Israel in every important way.” This simply isn’t so. Campbell’s record speaks for itself, and in fact Frum later acknowledges that Campbell simply got it wrong in the 1990s:

In the late 1990s, Campbell joined the so-called Muslim outreach strategy then being pushed hard by important party leaders. It was this strategy that led him to speak to the Council for American Islamic Relations – that entangled him in the al-Arian case – and that (I would guess) prompted his artfully hedged compliments to Alison Weir a decade ago.

The strategy failed, and Campbell was badly burned by it. The groups that offered their support to the GOP in the late 1990s did not in fact represent the sensible majority of American Muslims. They belonged to the radical fringe. Far from strengthening the GOP, they exploited the credulity of the GOP to enhance their own prestige.

Frum then goes on to list some dumb things that George W. Bush did in his outreach to Muslims. Let me simply say that Tom Campbell is no George W. Bush when it comes to his Israel record; but, in any case, Bush isn’t running for the Senate.

Unlike Frum, however, Campbell admits that there is no error in his record and continues to perpetuate the notion that he has always been a stalwart defender of Israel. Voters concerned about a fulsome relationship with and defense of the Jewish state will decide for themselves whether Campbell’s record is one that indicates good judgment and affinity for Israel. And they will also decide whether his lack of candor is one they find troubling.

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The Son of Hamas Speaks

Haaretz has an amazing story about how 
Mosab Hassan Yousef, son of one of Hamas’s founders, was for years a top intelligence source for Israel’s Shin Bet security service. A convert to Christianity who now lives in California, Yousef tells his story in the upcoming book Son of Hamas. According to Haaretz, “During the second intifada, intelligence Yousef supplied led to the arrests of a number of high-ranking Palestinian figures responsible for planning deadly suicide bombings.” And according to his former handler, “none of his actions were done for money. He did things he believed in. He wanted to save lives.”

What most impressed me about the Haaretz article was Yousef’s opinion on the possibility of rapprochement between Hamas and Israel — a favorite fantasy of the “peace process” crowd in the West:

Hamas cannot make peace with the Israelis. That is against what their God tells them. It is impossible to make peace with infidels, only a cease-fire, and no one knows that better than I. The Hamas leadership is responsible for the killing of Palestinians, not Israelis,” he said. “Palestinians! They do not hesitate to massacre people in a mosque or to throw people from the 15th or 17th floor of a building, as they did during the coup in Gaza. The Israelis would never do such things. I tell you with certainty that the Israelis care about the Palestinians far more than the Hamas or Fatah leadership does.

It’s easy to dismiss such sentiments when they come from conservative Israelis. Perhaps Yousef’s view — informed by his intimate knowledge of Hamas — will carry greater weight with some naïve proponents of endless “engagement.”

Haaretz has an amazing story about how 
Mosab Hassan Yousef, son of one of Hamas’s founders, was for years a top intelligence source for Israel’s Shin Bet security service. A convert to Christianity who now lives in California, Yousef tells his story in the upcoming book Son of Hamas. According to Haaretz, “During the second intifada, intelligence Yousef supplied led to the arrests of a number of high-ranking Palestinian figures responsible for planning deadly suicide bombings.” And according to his former handler, “none of his actions were done for money. He did things he believed in. He wanted to save lives.”

What most impressed me about the Haaretz article was Yousef’s opinion on the possibility of rapprochement between Hamas and Israel — a favorite fantasy of the “peace process” crowd in the West:

Hamas cannot make peace with the Israelis. That is against what their God tells them. It is impossible to make peace with infidels, only a cease-fire, and no one knows that better than I. The Hamas leadership is responsible for the killing of Palestinians, not Israelis,” he said. “Palestinians! They do not hesitate to massacre people in a mosque or to throw people from the 15th or 17th floor of a building, as they did during the coup in Gaza. The Israelis would never do such things. I tell you with certainty that the Israelis care about the Palestinians far more than the Hamas or Fatah leadership does.

It’s easy to dismiss such sentiments when they come from conservative Israelis. Perhaps Yousef’s view — informed by his intimate knowledge of Hamas — will carry greater weight with some naïve proponents of endless “engagement.”

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The Unpresidential President

The New York Times has a rather jaw-dropping look into the inability of Obama to do his job. This report recounts a meeting with lawmakers in mid-January:

As the clock neared 1 a.m., the two sides were at an impasse. Mr. Obama stood up. “‘See what you guys can figure out,’” one participant remembers him saying, adding that the failed effort left the president mad. Another Democrat who was there, Representative Henry A. Waxman of California, said Mr. Obama left “frustrated that while he was putting out ways to bridge the problem, we hadn’t reached a conclusion.”

Everything is so hard, it seems, for Obama. The Middle East is hard. Health-care reform is hard. None of it just “happens,” as he might have imagined would happen when he appeared on the scene.

The Times tries to put it gently, suggesting that “Mr. Obama has not been the sort to bludgeon his party into following his lead or to intimidate reluctant legislators.” Maybe “it is not clear whether his gentle, consensus-building style will be enough.” He is just too darn “lofty” and also doggone devoted to “appeals to conscience and history that were his hallmark on the campaign trail.” Hmm. Could it be none of that is really the problem – and rather that he’s just not very effective when it comes to getting things done?

A little reality slips in via one lawmaker, who says Obama needs more “toughness” and doesn’t, come to think of it, really dominate the room. What?! The President of the United States doesn’t dominate the room? What’s he there for, then?

Well, his spinners say it’s not like the old days, when LBJ could twist arms and get things done. Perhaps. But Bill Clinton got things done. Ronald Reagan got things done. And in the first term George W. Bush got things done as well. They all, you see, were up to the task of being president, which includes figuring out where a deal is plausible, persuading recalcitrant lawmakers, and coming up with proposals that have some chance of passing.

This is all a bit bracing, isn’t it? A president who can’t make deals, who doesn’t dominate the room, and who, as a result, really hasn’t accomplished anything. It turns out he lacks some basic skills and the disposition that make for a successful president. It doesn’t mean he can’t improve, but it’s been a year and there’s no sign of things getting any better.

The New York Times has a rather jaw-dropping look into the inability of Obama to do his job. This report recounts a meeting with lawmakers in mid-January:

As the clock neared 1 a.m., the two sides were at an impasse. Mr. Obama stood up. “‘See what you guys can figure out,’” one participant remembers him saying, adding that the failed effort left the president mad. Another Democrat who was there, Representative Henry A. Waxman of California, said Mr. Obama left “frustrated that while he was putting out ways to bridge the problem, we hadn’t reached a conclusion.”

Everything is so hard, it seems, for Obama. The Middle East is hard. Health-care reform is hard. None of it just “happens,” as he might have imagined would happen when he appeared on the scene.

The Times tries to put it gently, suggesting that “Mr. Obama has not been the sort to bludgeon his party into following his lead or to intimidate reluctant legislators.” Maybe “it is not clear whether his gentle, consensus-building style will be enough.” He is just too darn “lofty” and also doggone devoted to “appeals to conscience and history that were his hallmark on the campaign trail.” Hmm. Could it be none of that is really the problem – and rather that he’s just not very effective when it comes to getting things done?

A little reality slips in via one lawmaker, who says Obama needs more “toughness” and doesn’t, come to think of it, really dominate the room. What?! The President of the United States doesn’t dominate the room? What’s he there for, then?

Well, his spinners say it’s not like the old days, when LBJ could twist arms and get things done. Perhaps. But Bill Clinton got things done. Ronald Reagan got things done. And in the first term George W. Bush got things done as well. They all, you see, were up to the task of being president, which includes figuring out where a deal is plausible, persuading recalcitrant lawmakers, and coming up with proposals that have some chance of passing.

This is all a bit bracing, isn’t it? A president who can’t make deals, who doesn’t dominate the room, and who, as a result, really hasn’t accomplished anything. It turns out he lacks some basic skills and the disposition that make for a successful president. It doesn’t mean he can’t improve, but it’s been a year and there’s no sign of things getting any better.

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Was It Something They Did?

Big Labor has an image problem. It seems that helping to run the American car industry into the ground (with help from less-than-stellar management, of course), trying to snag a sweetheart deal to exempt its members from the Cadillac excise tax on health-care plans, and making a run at abolishing secret-ballot elections in the workplace have left a bad taste in the mouths of American. A Pew survey tells us:

Favorable views of labor unions have plummeted since 2007, amid growing public skepticism about unions’ purpose and power. Currently, 41% say they have a favorable opinion of labor unions while about as many (42%) express an unfavorable opinion. In January 2007, a clear majority (58%) had a favorable view of unions while just 31% had an unfavorable impression. … In April 2009, 61% agreed with the statement “labor unions are necessary to protect the working person,” down from 68% in 2007 and 74% in 2003. In the same survey, six-in-ten (61%) agreed that “labor unions have too much power,” up from 52% in 1999.

The Pew report notes that this is consistent with surveys by other polling outfits. Big Labor’s approval ratings have plunged in all demographic and racial groups. Only union households (of which there are fewer every year) think their unions are doing a bang-up job.

Big Labor would have us believe that its decline is attributable to rigged federal labor rules or nefarious employers. But the reality is that most Americans don’t see unions doing much good for them — but they do see union bosses acting like every other strong-arming, special-interest group. So it may not be an issue of whether federal labor law is outmoded but whether labor unions are.

Big Labor has an image problem. It seems that helping to run the American car industry into the ground (with help from less-than-stellar management, of course), trying to snag a sweetheart deal to exempt its members from the Cadillac excise tax on health-care plans, and making a run at abolishing secret-ballot elections in the workplace have left a bad taste in the mouths of American. A Pew survey tells us:

Favorable views of labor unions have plummeted since 2007, amid growing public skepticism about unions’ purpose and power. Currently, 41% say they have a favorable opinion of labor unions while about as many (42%) express an unfavorable opinion. In January 2007, a clear majority (58%) had a favorable view of unions while just 31% had an unfavorable impression. … In April 2009, 61% agreed with the statement “labor unions are necessary to protect the working person,” down from 68% in 2007 and 74% in 2003. In the same survey, six-in-ten (61%) agreed that “labor unions have too much power,” up from 52% in 1999.

The Pew report notes that this is consistent with surveys by other polling outfits. Big Labor’s approval ratings have plunged in all demographic and racial groups. Only union households (of which there are fewer every year) think their unions are doing a bang-up job.

Big Labor would have us believe that its decline is attributable to rigged federal labor rules or nefarious employers. But the reality is that most Americans don’t see unions doing much good for them — but they do see union bosses acting like every other strong-arming, special-interest group. So it may not be an issue of whether federal labor law is outmoded but whether labor unions are.

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The Curse of Insiderism

Democrats shouldn’t feel too badly; they aren’t the only ones voters are less than enamored of these days. It seems that anyone from Washington running against anyone who isn’t is at a disadvantage. In the Texas Republican gubernatorial primary, longtime senator Kay Bailey Hutchison was thought to be a tough challenger for the incumbent governor, Rick Perry. After all, she’s a solid conservative, has served her state well, and is a practiced campaigner. But this year, that’s not enough:

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison offered what appeared to be her first acknowledgment that Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry has done some damage to her bid to unseat him by successfully casting her as a Washington insider. … “It definitely has made it more difficult for me. I didn’t think that people would buy that because I’ve been so effective for Texas,” Hutchison told the AP on her campaign bus. “I didn’t think that anyone could turn my success in producing results for Texas into a negative, but I think that he has attempted to do that and that is what I’ve been having to fight against.”

It turns out that all that fighting for dollars to send back home and a track record inside the Beltway are liabilities these days. “Perry seems to be riding a national wave of frustration directed at Washington politicians — the same anger that has fueled the ‘tea party’ movement and complicated Democrats’ plans to overhaul the nation’s health care system. The long-serving governor who has campaigned as populist has repeatedly criticized Hutchison for pushing earmarks and voting for the $700 billion Wall Street bailout.”

Now keep in mind that Perry isn’t a political novice. He’s the sitting governor, and he’s been there for 10 years. But he hasn’t been in Washington like Hutchison, which now seems to be the cause of much of voters’ anger. Perhaps this is a welcome rebalancing between the states and the federal government. Some healthy aversion to one-size-fits-all legislation and ill-conceived Washington pork-barrel projects is a good thing, most conservatives would argue.

But for those running for office at the national level, the message is clear. Unless a candidate can posit himself as an outsider and someone not inclined to go along with the status quo (think Charlie Crist), it’s a tough political environment. And for those whose record is one of down-the-line support for the Obama agenda (recall that poor Hutchison opposed most of Obamaism and still can’t catch a break), it may just be the right moment to “spend more time with the family.”

Democrats shouldn’t feel too badly; they aren’t the only ones voters are less than enamored of these days. It seems that anyone from Washington running against anyone who isn’t is at a disadvantage. In the Texas Republican gubernatorial primary, longtime senator Kay Bailey Hutchison was thought to be a tough challenger for the incumbent governor, Rick Perry. After all, she’s a solid conservative, has served her state well, and is a practiced campaigner. But this year, that’s not enough:

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison offered what appeared to be her first acknowledgment that Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry has done some damage to her bid to unseat him by successfully casting her as a Washington insider. … “It definitely has made it more difficult for me. I didn’t think that people would buy that because I’ve been so effective for Texas,” Hutchison told the AP on her campaign bus. “I didn’t think that anyone could turn my success in producing results for Texas into a negative, but I think that he has attempted to do that and that is what I’ve been having to fight against.”

It turns out that all that fighting for dollars to send back home and a track record inside the Beltway are liabilities these days. “Perry seems to be riding a national wave of frustration directed at Washington politicians — the same anger that has fueled the ‘tea party’ movement and complicated Democrats’ plans to overhaul the nation’s health care system. The long-serving governor who has campaigned as populist has repeatedly criticized Hutchison for pushing earmarks and voting for the $700 billion Wall Street bailout.”

Now keep in mind that Perry isn’t a political novice. He’s the sitting governor, and he’s been there for 10 years. But he hasn’t been in Washington like Hutchison, which now seems to be the cause of much of voters’ anger. Perhaps this is a welcome rebalancing between the states and the federal government. Some healthy aversion to one-size-fits-all legislation and ill-conceived Washington pork-barrel projects is a good thing, most conservatives would argue.

But for those running for office at the national level, the message is clear. Unless a candidate can posit himself as an outsider and someone not inclined to go along with the status quo (think Charlie Crist), it’s a tough political environment. And for those whose record is one of down-the-line support for the Obama agenda (recall that poor Hutchison opposed most of Obamaism and still can’t catch a break), it may just be the right moment to “spend more time with the family.”

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The Silence of the Lamb

In an interview last week with Al Arabiya, Hillary Clinton expressed surprise that “engagement” has failed, since “so many experts” thought it would succeed:

People say to me all the time, what happened to Iran? … When President Obama came in, he was very clear that he wanted to engage, and that’s what he’s been trying to do — reaching out to the Iranian people, reaching out to the Iranian leadership. And you have to ask yourself, why, when so many experts thought that there would be a positive response to President Obama’s outreach, has there not?

It’s a puzzler. But who were those experts who thought an outstretched hand, a video, an apology, a private letter, and a speech would cause Iran to slow (much less agree to stop) its nuclear weapons program? How many thought a nine-month period for response would produce anything other than nine months of uninterrupted centrifuge-spinning? Was there some hitherto unknown academic study of lion-lamb relations that gave the experts cause for optimism?

An explanation for the Iranian reaction is suggested by the question Ruth Wisse once asked in a different context: “Did the bleat of the lamb excite the tiger?” Obama set a deadline, then another, and then discarded any deadline at all; the result was open contempt from Iran’s president. The current effort to move to the “pressure track” of a UN resolution (with a strong letter to follow) is accompanied by public assurances from the secretary of state that the “engagement track” remains open and that the third track has been removed from the table. This is a foreign policy that would embarrass Neville Chamberlain.

The explanation Clinton gave to Al Arabiya for the expert-confounding situation was that the power of the Revolutionary Guard has been growing. But that explanation elicits the question: what caused it to grow? Bill Kristol’s analysis from 2006 now looks prophetic:

One of the bad side effects of our looking weak and hesitant is that in the last year Ahmadinejad’s been running around provoking everyone, behaving like a madman, thumbing his nose at the U.S. and the West — and he pays no price. And if one were an opponent of Admadinejad in Iran — not a dissident, but someone in government who is kind of a more cautious type, and you’ve been warning, “gee, this will get us in trouble” — and [Admadinejad] gets in no trouble at all — it’s very bad for the internal dynamics in Iran. I think we have inadvertently helped to strengthen [hardliners] in Iran by not responding vigorously.

Clinton’s Al Arabyia interview marked the inauguration of a new, exculpatory administration meme: don’t blame us for the failure of our “engagement” policy — it was thwarted by the triumph of the Iranian hardliners. But that triumph was the predictable result of the policy itself.

Obama’s obsessive “reaching out to the Iranian leadership,” starting in his inauguration speech and continuing month after month in spite of no Iranian response, sent an unmistakable signal — one confirmed when he stood mute after the fraudulent Iranian election; confirmed again after he offered a muffled response to the secret nuclear facility in Qom; confirmed yet again when he remained silent as each of his “deadlines” passed; and confirmed even now by his continuing silence on the subject as he devotes his speeches and attention to ObamaCare. Lions know a lamb when they see one.

In an interview last week with Al Arabiya, Hillary Clinton expressed surprise that “engagement” has failed, since “so many experts” thought it would succeed:

People say to me all the time, what happened to Iran? … When President Obama came in, he was very clear that he wanted to engage, and that’s what he’s been trying to do — reaching out to the Iranian people, reaching out to the Iranian leadership. And you have to ask yourself, why, when so many experts thought that there would be a positive response to President Obama’s outreach, has there not?

It’s a puzzler. But who were those experts who thought an outstretched hand, a video, an apology, a private letter, and a speech would cause Iran to slow (much less agree to stop) its nuclear weapons program? How many thought a nine-month period for response would produce anything other than nine months of uninterrupted centrifuge-spinning? Was there some hitherto unknown academic study of lion-lamb relations that gave the experts cause for optimism?

An explanation for the Iranian reaction is suggested by the question Ruth Wisse once asked in a different context: “Did the bleat of the lamb excite the tiger?” Obama set a deadline, then another, and then discarded any deadline at all; the result was open contempt from Iran’s president. The current effort to move to the “pressure track” of a UN resolution (with a strong letter to follow) is accompanied by public assurances from the secretary of state that the “engagement track” remains open and that the third track has been removed from the table. This is a foreign policy that would embarrass Neville Chamberlain.

The explanation Clinton gave to Al Arabiya for the expert-confounding situation was that the power of the Revolutionary Guard has been growing. But that explanation elicits the question: what caused it to grow? Bill Kristol’s analysis from 2006 now looks prophetic:

One of the bad side effects of our looking weak and hesitant is that in the last year Ahmadinejad’s been running around provoking everyone, behaving like a madman, thumbing his nose at the U.S. and the West — and he pays no price. And if one were an opponent of Admadinejad in Iran — not a dissident, but someone in government who is kind of a more cautious type, and you’ve been warning, “gee, this will get us in trouble” — and [Admadinejad] gets in no trouble at all — it’s very bad for the internal dynamics in Iran. I think we have inadvertently helped to strengthen [hardliners] in Iran by not responding vigorously.

Clinton’s Al Arabyia interview marked the inauguration of a new, exculpatory administration meme: don’t blame us for the failure of our “engagement” policy — it was thwarted by the triumph of the Iranian hardliners. But that triumph was the predictable result of the policy itself.

Obama’s obsessive “reaching out to the Iranian leadership,” starting in his inauguration speech and continuing month after month in spite of no Iranian response, sent an unmistakable signal — one confirmed when he stood mute after the fraudulent Iranian election; confirmed again after he offered a muffled response to the secret nuclear facility in Qom; confirmed yet again when he remained silent as each of his “deadlines” passed; and confirmed even now by his continuing silence on the subject as he devotes his speeches and attention to ObamaCare. Lions know a lamb when they see one.

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End-of-Days Fallacies

A left-wing professor and a right-wing rabbi have finally found something they agree on. In Israel’s fractured reality, that would normally be great news — were their point of agreement not one of the most counterproductive fallacies afflicting the Jewish world today: that an alliance between Jews and evangelical Christians is a bad idea because their short-term common interests are outweighed by irreconcilable long-term goals.

Writing in the Jerusalem Post this week, Prof. David Newman approvingly cited a commentary published last Friday by Shlomo Aviner, a leading religious Zionist rabbi from the settlement of Beit El. Aviner wrote that he refuses to accept money from evangelicals, because their ultimate aim is to convert the Jews to Christianity, and their end-of-days vision is of a world where Christianity has vanquished all other religions. Newman concurred. “No short-term gains in cultivating artificial relationships can hide the long-term objectives and contrasting religious ideologies as espoused by the Evangelical movements which, if implemented, which would lead to head-on confrontation,” he wrote.

If you ignore the context, both men have a valid argument. A short-term alliance with someone who is certain to prove a bitter foe down the road can indeed be dangerous, and history is full of grim examples: for instance, the Hitler-Stalin pact.

But in this case, the eventual conflict is a trumped-up bogeyman that has no chance of ever occurring in reality — because according to evangelical theology, it is due to take place only at the end of days. There are only two possible scenarios for what this end of days can look like, and contrary to the doomsday crowd, neither leads to Jewish-Christian conflict.

The first scenario is that the Jews are right and Jesus is not the Messiah. In that case, there will be no second coming, so the end-of-days demand that the Jews convert will never arrive, and fruitful cooperation between Jews and evangelicals can continue for all eternity.

The second is that the Christians are right, and Jesus is the Messiah. In that case, when he comes again, the Jews should all convert. After all, if they’re right, they’re right.

Needless to say, I believe the first, and my evangelical friends believe the second. But as long we can agree to disagree until the end of days arrives to settle the question, there is no conflict, and no potential for one.

Clearly, that would not be true if evangelicals wanted to forcibly convert the Jews before the end of days arrives. But so far, not even their harshest critics have found any grounds for suspecting them of that.

Even if Israel were awash with allies, it would be foolish to spurn friends as loyal as the evangelicals have proved to be over a trumped-up conflict that will never actually materialize. But to do so when Israel is besieged on all sides, with supporters few and far between, is nothing short of suicidal insanity. Israelis ought to have better sense — and so should their American Jewish supporters.

A left-wing professor and a right-wing rabbi have finally found something they agree on. In Israel’s fractured reality, that would normally be great news — were their point of agreement not one of the most counterproductive fallacies afflicting the Jewish world today: that an alliance between Jews and evangelical Christians is a bad idea because their short-term common interests are outweighed by irreconcilable long-term goals.

Writing in the Jerusalem Post this week, Prof. David Newman approvingly cited a commentary published last Friday by Shlomo Aviner, a leading religious Zionist rabbi from the settlement of Beit El. Aviner wrote that he refuses to accept money from evangelicals, because their ultimate aim is to convert the Jews to Christianity, and their end-of-days vision is of a world where Christianity has vanquished all other religions. Newman concurred. “No short-term gains in cultivating artificial relationships can hide the long-term objectives and contrasting religious ideologies as espoused by the Evangelical movements which, if implemented, which would lead to head-on confrontation,” he wrote.

If you ignore the context, both men have a valid argument. A short-term alliance with someone who is certain to prove a bitter foe down the road can indeed be dangerous, and history is full of grim examples: for instance, the Hitler-Stalin pact.

But in this case, the eventual conflict is a trumped-up bogeyman that has no chance of ever occurring in reality — because according to evangelical theology, it is due to take place only at the end of days. There are only two possible scenarios for what this end of days can look like, and contrary to the doomsday crowd, neither leads to Jewish-Christian conflict.

The first scenario is that the Jews are right and Jesus is not the Messiah. In that case, there will be no second coming, so the end-of-days demand that the Jews convert will never arrive, and fruitful cooperation between Jews and evangelicals can continue for all eternity.

The second is that the Christians are right, and Jesus is the Messiah. In that case, when he comes again, the Jews should all convert. After all, if they’re right, they’re right.

Needless to say, I believe the first, and my evangelical friends believe the second. But as long we can agree to disagree until the end of days arrives to settle the question, there is no conflict, and no potential for one.

Clearly, that would not be true if evangelicals wanted to forcibly convert the Jews before the end of days arrives. But so far, not even their harshest critics have found any grounds for suspecting them of that.

Even if Israel were awash with allies, it would be foolish to spurn friends as loyal as the evangelicals have proved to be over a trumped-up conflict that will never actually materialize. But to do so when Israel is besieged on all sides, with supporters few and far between, is nothing short of suicidal insanity. Israelis ought to have better sense — and so should their American Jewish supporters.

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Dershowitz on the Mahmoud al-Mabhouh Killing

As Alan Dershowitz is wont to do, he takes a lawyerly look at whether the killing of Hamas military leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel room was legally and morally justified. He assumes, for the sake of argument, of course, that Mossad “did make the hit.” On the legal side, he notes that there are certainly extrajudicial killings that are not unlawful. “Every soldier who kills an enemy combatant engages in an extrajudicial killing, as does every policeman who shoots a fleeing felon.” After some analysis, he concludes: “This was not an ordinary murder. It was carried out as a matter of state policy as part of an ongoing war. … Obviously it would have been better if he could have been captured and subjected to judicial justice. But it was impossible to capture him, especially when he was in Dubai.” Well, the “obviously” is debatable, but his conclusion is sound.

Once Dershowitz considers the moral equation, the fun starts. He’s Dershowitz, after all, so he goes at it:

The Goldstone Report ordered by the UN Human Rights Council suggests that Israel cannot lawfully fight Hamas rockets by wholesale air attacks. Richard Goldstone, in interviews, has suggested that Israel should protect itself from these unlawful attacks by more proportionate retail measures, such as commando raids and targeted killing of terrorists.

Well, there could be no better example of a proportionate and focused attack on a combatant who was deeply involved in the rocket attacks on Israel, than the killing of Mabhouh. Not only was he the commander in charge of Hamas’ unlawful military actions, he was also personally responsible for the kidnapping and murder of two Israeli soldiers several years earlier.

It’s hard not to see the unalloyed benefit in the surgical assassination of Mabhouh, unless, of course, the applicable moral rule in these situations is that Israel is never entitled to defend itself. While the professional Israel hamstringers fret, others are mystified by all the hand-wringing, content in the knowledge that some women, children, and Israel soldiers might be spared. (“Was he sleeping the happy sleep of the just terrorist after completing yet another deal with the butchers of Iran to import Iranian-made weapons into Gaza when he was dispatched to the arms of his 72 virgins?”) Meanwhile, moral clarity reigns in Israel, even on the Left:

While Europe is up in arms over the slaying of top Hamas guerrilla Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh — and everyone blames the Mossad — the near-unanimous verdict in Israel: mission accomplished.

Even self-described Tel Aviv “Communist” Haish Harel gave a thumbs-up to the Jan. 20 assassination in Dubai, which has brought Israel a blizzard of unwanted international attention.

“He wasn’t a civilian. He was a fighter, and he was still active,” said Harel, 29, carrying his young son on his shoulders.

And thanks to Mossad — well, if it was Mossad – Harel and that young son may sleep a little sounder, and those who would seek to slaughter them both (and thousands more, if they could) may be warier of hotel rooms and many other spots on the planet where at any moment they too can be victims of a justified extrajudicial killing.

As Alan Dershowitz is wont to do, he takes a lawyerly look at whether the killing of Hamas military leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel room was legally and morally justified. He assumes, for the sake of argument, of course, that Mossad “did make the hit.” On the legal side, he notes that there are certainly extrajudicial killings that are not unlawful. “Every soldier who kills an enemy combatant engages in an extrajudicial killing, as does every policeman who shoots a fleeing felon.” After some analysis, he concludes: “This was not an ordinary murder. It was carried out as a matter of state policy as part of an ongoing war. … Obviously it would have been better if he could have been captured and subjected to judicial justice. But it was impossible to capture him, especially when he was in Dubai.” Well, the “obviously” is debatable, but his conclusion is sound.

Once Dershowitz considers the moral equation, the fun starts. He’s Dershowitz, after all, so he goes at it:

The Goldstone Report ordered by the UN Human Rights Council suggests that Israel cannot lawfully fight Hamas rockets by wholesale air attacks. Richard Goldstone, in interviews, has suggested that Israel should protect itself from these unlawful attacks by more proportionate retail measures, such as commando raids and targeted killing of terrorists.

Well, there could be no better example of a proportionate and focused attack on a combatant who was deeply involved in the rocket attacks on Israel, than the killing of Mabhouh. Not only was he the commander in charge of Hamas’ unlawful military actions, he was also personally responsible for the kidnapping and murder of two Israeli soldiers several years earlier.

It’s hard not to see the unalloyed benefit in the surgical assassination of Mabhouh, unless, of course, the applicable moral rule in these situations is that Israel is never entitled to defend itself. While the professional Israel hamstringers fret, others are mystified by all the hand-wringing, content in the knowledge that some women, children, and Israel soldiers might be spared. (“Was he sleeping the happy sleep of the just terrorist after completing yet another deal with the butchers of Iran to import Iranian-made weapons into Gaza when he was dispatched to the arms of his 72 virgins?”) Meanwhile, moral clarity reigns in Israel, even on the Left:

While Europe is up in arms over the slaying of top Hamas guerrilla Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh — and everyone blames the Mossad — the near-unanimous verdict in Israel: mission accomplished.

Even self-described Tel Aviv “Communist” Haish Harel gave a thumbs-up to the Jan. 20 assassination in Dubai, which has brought Israel a blizzard of unwanted international attention.

“He wasn’t a civilian. He was a fighter, and he was still active,” said Harel, 29, carrying his young son on his shoulders.

And thanks to Mossad — well, if it was Mossad – Harel and that young son may sleep a little sounder, and those who would seek to slaughter them both (and thousands more, if they could) may be warier of hotel rooms and many other spots on the planet where at any moment they too can be victims of a justified extrajudicial killing.

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RE: President Obama, Meet Reality

Saner liberals are nervous. Ruth Marcus, who is rooting for ObamaCare to pass, can do the math. Yeah, there might be 50 votes to jam through the Senate whatever can be jammed through via reconciliation, but what about the House? She writes:

With the House down a few members, 217 votes will be needed for passage. The original House measure passed with 220 votes — with 39 Democrats defecting. But two of those yes votes are gone: John Murtha of Pennsylvania died; Robert Wexler of Florida resigned. A third, Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii, is leaving at the end of the month to run for governor. The lone Republican voting for the measure, Joseph Cao of Louisiana, is no longer on board.

Meanwhile, the president’s proposal does not include the anti-abortion language inserted in the House-passed measure by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), largely because the Senate would have difficulty fiddling with abortion language under the restrictive rules of the reconciliation process. So Stupak will be gone, and with him another five votes, perhaps more.

There are, Marcus explains, a few liberals like Dennis Kucinich to be wooed back to vote for ObamaCare this time around and some retirees who don’t care if they enrage the voters by voting for a bill they hate. But it still probably doesn’t get Obama to a majority. So Marcus frets: “My worry is that going for broke and failing will leave no time or appetite for a fallback, scaled-down plan. And the moment to do something on health care — not everything, but something significant — will have evaporated, once again.”

This is the essence of Obama: filled with grand plans and a grandiose conception of himself, but short on workable plans, legislative prowess, and strategic thinking. And underneath it all is a deep contempt for the wishes and concerns of average Americans. As Michael Gerson aptly sums up:

Americans have taken every opportunity — the town hall revolt, increasingly lopsided polling, a series of upset elections culminating in Massachusetts — to shout their second thoughts. At this point, for Democratic leaders to insist on their current approach is to insist that Americans are not only misinformed but also dimwitted. And the proposed form of this insistence — enacting health reform through the quick, dirty shove of the reconciliation process — would add coercion to arrogance.

But that, too, is quintessential Obama, the Chicago pol who never much cares what the little people think, because they and critics can be written off, delegitimized, and shouted down.

Unfortunately, with such a political persona, you generally wind up with legislative flops (e.g., the stimulus) or nothing at all. That might suit conservatives, who frankly prefer the status quo to Obama’s Brave New World of health care, but it sure must come as a blow to those who thought Obama would be a transformative president.

Saner liberals are nervous. Ruth Marcus, who is rooting for ObamaCare to pass, can do the math. Yeah, there might be 50 votes to jam through the Senate whatever can be jammed through via reconciliation, but what about the House? She writes:

With the House down a few members, 217 votes will be needed for passage. The original House measure passed with 220 votes — with 39 Democrats defecting. But two of those yes votes are gone: John Murtha of Pennsylvania died; Robert Wexler of Florida resigned. A third, Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii, is leaving at the end of the month to run for governor. The lone Republican voting for the measure, Joseph Cao of Louisiana, is no longer on board.

Meanwhile, the president’s proposal does not include the anti-abortion language inserted in the House-passed measure by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), largely because the Senate would have difficulty fiddling with abortion language under the restrictive rules of the reconciliation process. So Stupak will be gone, and with him another five votes, perhaps more.

There are, Marcus explains, a few liberals like Dennis Kucinich to be wooed back to vote for ObamaCare this time around and some retirees who don’t care if they enrage the voters by voting for a bill they hate. But it still probably doesn’t get Obama to a majority. So Marcus frets: “My worry is that going for broke and failing will leave no time or appetite for a fallback, scaled-down plan. And the moment to do something on health care — not everything, but something significant — will have evaporated, once again.”

This is the essence of Obama: filled with grand plans and a grandiose conception of himself, but short on workable plans, legislative prowess, and strategic thinking. And underneath it all is a deep contempt for the wishes and concerns of average Americans. As Michael Gerson aptly sums up:

Americans have taken every opportunity — the town hall revolt, increasingly lopsided polling, a series of upset elections culminating in Massachusetts — to shout their second thoughts. At this point, for Democratic leaders to insist on their current approach is to insist that Americans are not only misinformed but also dimwitted. And the proposed form of this insistence — enacting health reform through the quick, dirty shove of the reconciliation process — would add coercion to arrogance.

But that, too, is quintessential Obama, the Chicago pol who never much cares what the little people think, because they and critics can be written off, delegitimized, and shouted down.

Unfortunately, with such a political persona, you generally wind up with legislative flops (e.g., the stimulus) or nothing at all. That might suit conservatives, who frankly prefer the status quo to Obama’s Brave New World of health care, but it sure must come as a blow to those who thought Obama would be a transformative president.

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Yoo Gets the Last Word

John Yoo is entitled to dance a jig on the grave of Eric Holder’s credibility. And he does. He sums up the ludicrous witch hunt conducted by the Office of Professional Responsibility, which examined whether he and Jay Bybee violated their ethical obligations in providing legal advice on enhanced interrogation techniques:

Rank bias and sheer incompetence infused OPR’s investigation. OPR attorneys, for example, omitted a number of precedents that squarely supported the approach in the memoranda and undermined OPR’s preferred outcome. They declared that no Americans have a right of self-defense against a criminal prosecution, not even when they or their government agents attempt to stop terrorist attacks on the United States. OPR claimed that Congress enjoyed full authority over wartime strategy and tactics, despite decades of Justice Department opinions and practice defending the president’s commander-in-chief power. They accused us of violating ethical standards without ever defining them. They concocted bizarre conspiracy theories about which they never asked us, and for which they had no evidence, even though we both patiently—and with no legal obligation to do so—sat through days of questioning.

OPR’s investigation was so biased, so flawed, and so beneath the Justice Department’s own standards that last week the department’s ranking civil servant and senior ethicist, David Margolis, completely rejected its recommendations.

But who is ultimately responsible for this three-ring circus? The attorney general, of course. “Attorney General Holder could have stopped this sorry mess earlier, just as his predecessor had tried to do.” Yoo then describes the efforts of outgoing Attorney General Michael Mukasey and his deputy Mark Filip to critique the OPR’s sloppy work and end the investigation before they left office. But OPR “decided to run out the clock and push the investigation into the lap of the Obama administration.” And Holder let the investigation churn on and on until it was apparent that its work could not be defended and that the Justice Department risked humiliation were it to follow OPR’s error-ridden recommendation. Finally, David Margolis was brought in to clean up the mess, reverse the recommendations of OPR, and do what Holder could have done on his first day on the job: end the entire inquiry.

Yoo makes a key point: this is not simply about the persecution of two fine lawyers. It’s not even about the untold damage done to the Justice Department, which may find it difficult to find top-flight attorneys willing to stake their careers and savings by rolling the dice that some future administration won’t second-guess and investigate them. No, as Yoo points out, it’s about stopping the Justice Department from actively interfering with the serious business of the fighting a war against Islamic terrorists. (“Ending the Justice Department’s ethics witch hunt not only brought an unjust persecution to an end, but it protects the president’s constitutional ability to fight the enemies that threaten our nation today.”)

Now Holder needs to end the equally spurious reinvestigation of CIA agents who utilized enhanced interrogation methods and whom career prosecutors had previously declined to prosecute. And then he might reconsider whether Mirandizing terrorists and giving jihadists public trials are really helping us win a war. Or is it “criminal warlike activities“? That’s the problem, all right. And if Holder can’t give up the pipe dream of running a war from the ACLU handbook and conducting witch hunts to please the MoveOn.org crowd, Obama should find an attorney general who will.

John Yoo is entitled to dance a jig on the grave of Eric Holder’s credibility. And he does. He sums up the ludicrous witch hunt conducted by the Office of Professional Responsibility, which examined whether he and Jay Bybee violated their ethical obligations in providing legal advice on enhanced interrogation techniques:

Rank bias and sheer incompetence infused OPR’s investigation. OPR attorneys, for example, omitted a number of precedents that squarely supported the approach in the memoranda and undermined OPR’s preferred outcome. They declared that no Americans have a right of self-defense against a criminal prosecution, not even when they or their government agents attempt to stop terrorist attacks on the United States. OPR claimed that Congress enjoyed full authority over wartime strategy and tactics, despite decades of Justice Department opinions and practice defending the president’s commander-in-chief power. They accused us of violating ethical standards without ever defining them. They concocted bizarre conspiracy theories about which they never asked us, and for which they had no evidence, even though we both patiently—and with no legal obligation to do so—sat through days of questioning.

OPR’s investigation was so biased, so flawed, and so beneath the Justice Department’s own standards that last week the department’s ranking civil servant and senior ethicist, David Margolis, completely rejected its recommendations.

But who is ultimately responsible for this three-ring circus? The attorney general, of course. “Attorney General Holder could have stopped this sorry mess earlier, just as his predecessor had tried to do.” Yoo then describes the efforts of outgoing Attorney General Michael Mukasey and his deputy Mark Filip to critique the OPR’s sloppy work and end the investigation before they left office. But OPR “decided to run out the clock and push the investigation into the lap of the Obama administration.” And Holder let the investigation churn on and on until it was apparent that its work could not be defended and that the Justice Department risked humiliation were it to follow OPR’s error-ridden recommendation. Finally, David Margolis was brought in to clean up the mess, reverse the recommendations of OPR, and do what Holder could have done on his first day on the job: end the entire inquiry.

Yoo makes a key point: this is not simply about the persecution of two fine lawyers. It’s not even about the untold damage done to the Justice Department, which may find it difficult to find top-flight attorneys willing to stake their careers and savings by rolling the dice that some future administration won’t second-guess and investigate them. No, as Yoo points out, it’s about stopping the Justice Department from actively interfering with the serious business of the fighting a war against Islamic terrorists. (“Ending the Justice Department’s ethics witch hunt not only brought an unjust persecution to an end, but it protects the president’s constitutional ability to fight the enemies that threaten our nation today.”)

Now Holder needs to end the equally spurious reinvestigation of CIA agents who utilized enhanced interrogation methods and whom career prosecutors had previously declined to prosecute. And then he might reconsider whether Mirandizing terrorists and giving jihadists public trials are really helping us win a war. Or is it “criminal warlike activities“? That’s the problem, all right. And if Holder can’t give up the pipe dream of running a war from the ACLU handbook and conducting witch hunts to please the MoveOn.org crowd, Obama should find an attorney general who will.

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RE: ObamaCare and Political Theater

Pete, it’s hard to see exactly what Obama is doing here. Certainly, even in the hubris-filled halls of the West Wing, the Obami must know that the votes aren’t there in the House, and as a result, it will be mighty hard even to get 50 Senate Democrats to walk the plank for a bill that is so grossly unpopular. There are a few theories circulating.

First, Obama is simply tending to his base, trying to demonstrate how he did everything possible (other than find a reasonable bill the country could support). He is, he will tell his netroot base, simply a victim of the Republican attack machine and all that misinformation. He’s putting on a show summit, giving his faithful a reminder of better days when dog-and-pony shows and big speeches seemed to be the road to legislative victory.

Another theory is that this is simply a prelude to a bare-bones bill that will save him from humiliation. Regulation of the insurance industry — i.e., price controls and federal micro-management — might be popular and passable. That was Obama’s “added element” in the ObamaCare II rollout. And if he can throw in some tort reform studies, a Medicare reform commission, some tinkering on interstate insurance sales and the like, he can declare “victory” and climb out of the hole he dug for himself as he pursued an unpopular signature agenda item at the expense of achieving anything else of note.

And finally, Obama might have no game plan at all. It wouldn’t be the first time. He’ll have a summit. Maybe the poll numbers will improve. Maybe he’ll force the Democrats to take a vote. Maybe not. Just figure it out as he goes along. After all, if he had planned on garnering bipartisan support and actually passing something, Obama wouldn’t have rolled out an ObamaCare II so similar to  ObamaCare I, nor would he have threatened the Republicans with reconciliation in advance of the summit.

In the end, there are two simple realities. The public doesn’t like the bill at all. And it’s an election year, following a losing run for Democrats that has spooked incumbents. That’s why it’s hard to see how ObamaCare II will ever become law.

Pete, it’s hard to see exactly what Obama is doing here. Certainly, even in the hubris-filled halls of the West Wing, the Obami must know that the votes aren’t there in the House, and as a result, it will be mighty hard even to get 50 Senate Democrats to walk the plank for a bill that is so grossly unpopular. There are a few theories circulating.

First, Obama is simply tending to his base, trying to demonstrate how he did everything possible (other than find a reasonable bill the country could support). He is, he will tell his netroot base, simply a victim of the Republican attack machine and all that misinformation. He’s putting on a show summit, giving his faithful a reminder of better days when dog-and-pony shows and big speeches seemed to be the road to legislative victory.

Another theory is that this is simply a prelude to a bare-bones bill that will save him from humiliation. Regulation of the insurance industry — i.e., price controls and federal micro-management — might be popular and passable. That was Obama’s “added element” in the ObamaCare II rollout. And if he can throw in some tort reform studies, a Medicare reform commission, some tinkering on interstate insurance sales and the like, he can declare “victory” and climb out of the hole he dug for himself as he pursued an unpopular signature agenda item at the expense of achieving anything else of note.

And finally, Obama might have no game plan at all. It wouldn’t be the first time. He’ll have a summit. Maybe the poll numbers will improve. Maybe he’ll force the Democrats to take a vote. Maybe not. Just figure it out as he goes along. After all, if he had planned on garnering bipartisan support and actually passing something, Obama wouldn’t have rolled out an ObamaCare II so similar to  ObamaCare I, nor would he have threatened the Republicans with reconciliation in advance of the summit.

In the end, there are two simple realities. The public doesn’t like the bill at all. And it’s an election year, following a losing run for Democrats that has spooked incumbents. That’s why it’s hard to see how ObamaCare II will ever become law.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Michael Rubin: “[Iran] Foreign Minister Mottaki: ‘Mr. [Yukiya] Amanu’s [IAEA] report shows that he is relatively new in his job. It takes some time until he reaches the maturity of Mr. El Baradei.’ That’s a bit like Hitler complaining that Churchill doesn’t have the maturity of Chamberlain. Congratulations to the IAEA for putting mission first, and leaving politics to the politicians.”

James Capretta on ObamaCare II: “The latest Obama plan would still pile a massive new health-entitlement program on top of the unaffordable ones already on the books. The Congressional Budget Office says the cost of the coverage expansions in the Senate bill (upon which the president’s plan is based) will reach $200 billion annually by 2019 and increase 8 percent every year thereafter. The Obama plan would increase those costs with even more expensive promises. Over the next decade, the plan would cost at least $1.2 trillion. Over a full ten years of implementation, its cost would approach $2.5 trillion.”

Even the Washington Post‘s editors don’t have nice things to say about Obama: “Overall, though, the president has proposed a plan whose uncertain savings are made even less certain, and whose known costs are increased. Already a trillion-dollar plan was ‘paid for’ with hundreds of billions of dollars in promised ‘savings’ from Medicare; already it ignored a known cost of well over $200 billion in Medicare payments to physicians; already it relegated too many reforms to pilot programs with long horizons. Now it postpones the key savings mechanism [the Cadillac excise tax]. Administration officials argue that Mr. Obama deserves credit for not dropping the tax altogether. But when did he stand up and fight for the better approach?”

Might it be all that talk of ObamaCare II? “For the second straight week, Republican candidates lead Democrats by nine points in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot.”

Not buying Eric Holder’s latest: “Republicans are hitting back against Democratic claims that a guilty plea from an al Qaeda operative in federal court is proof the criminal justice system is up to the task of prosecuting terrorism suspects. … Republicans, however, remain steadfastly opposed to trying terrorism suspects in civilian courts and argued that the [Najibullah] Zazi case has no bearing on other prospective terrorism prosecutions, because Zazi is a legal permanent resident of the United States, while most accused terrorists are citizens of other countries who are not entitled to the constitutional rights civilian trials afford.” Rep. Lamar Smith chides Holder: “But comparing the prosecution of Zazi — a legal permanent resident of the U.S. — to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — who engaged in an act of war against the U.S. by plotting the mass murder of Americans on 9/11 — is misleading at best.” Holder’s response? Still waiting.

Leslie Gelb points out that Rahm Emanuel is defending himself by dumping on Obama. “In other words, Mr. Obama could have thrived and saved himself on key issues had he only listened to Rahm. It sure looks like Rahm (or someone near and dear to him) trying to save himself at the president’s expense.” Or maybe anti-Rahm forces are trying to make Rahm look like a disloyal snitch.

Not a headline Gov. Charlie Crist wants to see: “Wounded Crist Campaign Losing Staff.”

Sen. Harry Reid gets criticized for saying that unemployment contributes to domestic abuse. (“I met with some people while I was home dealing with domestic abuse. It has gotten out of hand. Why? Men don’t have jobs.”) He actually has a point and certainly has said dumber, less defensible things. But he now has the ability to make even a plausible observation seem like a gaffe.

Michael Rubin: “[Iran] Foreign Minister Mottaki: ‘Mr. [Yukiya] Amanu’s [IAEA] report shows that he is relatively new in his job. It takes some time until he reaches the maturity of Mr. El Baradei.’ That’s a bit like Hitler complaining that Churchill doesn’t have the maturity of Chamberlain. Congratulations to the IAEA for putting mission first, and leaving politics to the politicians.”

James Capretta on ObamaCare II: “The latest Obama plan would still pile a massive new health-entitlement program on top of the unaffordable ones already on the books. The Congressional Budget Office says the cost of the coverage expansions in the Senate bill (upon which the president’s plan is based) will reach $200 billion annually by 2019 and increase 8 percent every year thereafter. The Obama plan would increase those costs with even more expensive promises. Over the next decade, the plan would cost at least $1.2 trillion. Over a full ten years of implementation, its cost would approach $2.5 trillion.”

Even the Washington Post‘s editors don’t have nice things to say about Obama: “Overall, though, the president has proposed a plan whose uncertain savings are made even less certain, and whose known costs are increased. Already a trillion-dollar plan was ‘paid for’ with hundreds of billions of dollars in promised ‘savings’ from Medicare; already it ignored a known cost of well over $200 billion in Medicare payments to physicians; already it relegated too many reforms to pilot programs with long horizons. Now it postpones the key savings mechanism [the Cadillac excise tax]. Administration officials argue that Mr. Obama deserves credit for not dropping the tax altogether. But when did he stand up and fight for the better approach?”

Might it be all that talk of ObamaCare II? “For the second straight week, Republican candidates lead Democrats by nine points in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot.”

Not buying Eric Holder’s latest: “Republicans are hitting back against Democratic claims that a guilty plea from an al Qaeda operative in federal court is proof the criminal justice system is up to the task of prosecuting terrorism suspects. … Republicans, however, remain steadfastly opposed to trying terrorism suspects in civilian courts and argued that the [Najibullah] Zazi case has no bearing on other prospective terrorism prosecutions, because Zazi is a legal permanent resident of the United States, while most accused terrorists are citizens of other countries who are not entitled to the constitutional rights civilian trials afford.” Rep. Lamar Smith chides Holder: “But comparing the prosecution of Zazi — a legal permanent resident of the U.S. — to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — who engaged in an act of war against the U.S. by plotting the mass murder of Americans on 9/11 — is misleading at best.” Holder’s response? Still waiting.

Leslie Gelb points out that Rahm Emanuel is defending himself by dumping on Obama. “In other words, Mr. Obama could have thrived and saved himself on key issues had he only listened to Rahm. It sure looks like Rahm (or someone near and dear to him) trying to save himself at the president’s expense.” Or maybe anti-Rahm forces are trying to make Rahm look like a disloyal snitch.

Not a headline Gov. Charlie Crist wants to see: “Wounded Crist Campaign Losing Staff.”

Sen. Harry Reid gets criticized for saying that unemployment contributes to domestic abuse. (“I met with some people while I was home dealing with domestic abuse. It has gotten out of hand. Why? Men don’t have jobs.”) He actually has a point and certainly has said dumber, less defensible things. But he now has the ability to make even a plausible observation seem like a gaffe.

Read Less




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