Commentary Magazine


Posts For: April 18, 2010

A Rare Glimpse of Ground Truth

There are two points to make about the New York Times story concerning the “secret” Bob Gates memo on Iran strategy. One is that Gates forwarded the memo in January. That was about the time it was becoming clear that we were losing accountability on the amount of refined uranium in Iran – and that our certainty about the amount of enriched uranium could be in question as well.

Iran increased indigenous uranium mining dramatically in late 2008 and continued at a rapid pace throughout 2009. The mining activities are not inspected by IAEA. Nor has there been a reported influx of new material to the processing sites that are inspected. There is a growing amount of uranium unaccounted for. Over the past 15 months, Iran has also acquired enough low-enriched uranium to produce a weapon and has proceeded to higher-level enrichment. Iranian’s regime reported success last week with enriching a fresh batch of uranium to 20 percent purity.

The situation has changed since Obama took office, and that puts Gates’s concern in an informative light. Military plans that would have been suitable for the conditions of late 2008 are outdated now. We are not as certain today of where all the refined or enriched uranium is. Moreover, because Iran has made substantial progress during this period, it’s now more important than it was two years ago to strike key research facilities in and around heavily populated Tehran. We can’t be sure today of effectively interdicting the weapons program by hitting only the uranium-processing sites. With the passage of time, the importance of hitting other targets – targets for which the political cost of a strike is much higher – has increased. Unfortunately, as Gates’s comments imply, the activities that would cue us at these sites are also less visible and more ambiguous than at the uranium-processing sites. We will be less certain when significant events have started or culminated at them.

Pundits are looking for a political motive behind the timing of this leak, but my sense about it is different. This is the second thing worth noting about the New York Times story: its absence of apparent spin. There is no subtle attempt to discredit Gates, to question his motive for the memo, or even to help the leaker(s) drive home a policy point. It’s a very different “leak story,” in other words, from previous ones about Obama’s policy in Afghanistan or Bush’s policy in the war on terror.

It’s almost as if the New York Times, itself, has run out of spin: as if it isn’t sure what it wants readers to think about this. That is as heartening, in its way, as the article is evidence that Secretary Gates recognizes how our military planning has fallen behind the pace of events. The piece gives us a glimpse – rare for the mainstream media – of ground truth about a policy situation. And what it shows us is a “bounded” problem: one for which there are pragmatic, relevant options. If Obama chooses to ignore Gates’s warning, even the New York Times may decline to cooperate in spinning that feckless course.

There are two points to make about the New York Times story concerning the “secret” Bob Gates memo on Iran strategy. One is that Gates forwarded the memo in January. That was about the time it was becoming clear that we were losing accountability on the amount of refined uranium in Iran – and that our certainty about the amount of enriched uranium could be in question as well.

Iran increased indigenous uranium mining dramatically in late 2008 and continued at a rapid pace throughout 2009. The mining activities are not inspected by IAEA. Nor has there been a reported influx of new material to the processing sites that are inspected. There is a growing amount of uranium unaccounted for. Over the past 15 months, Iran has also acquired enough low-enriched uranium to produce a weapon and has proceeded to higher-level enrichment. Iranian’s regime reported success last week with enriching a fresh batch of uranium to 20 percent purity.

The situation has changed since Obama took office, and that puts Gates’s concern in an informative light. Military plans that would have been suitable for the conditions of late 2008 are outdated now. We are not as certain today of where all the refined or enriched uranium is. Moreover, because Iran has made substantial progress during this period, it’s now more important than it was two years ago to strike key research facilities in and around heavily populated Tehran. We can’t be sure today of effectively interdicting the weapons program by hitting only the uranium-processing sites. With the passage of time, the importance of hitting other targets – targets for which the political cost of a strike is much higher – has increased. Unfortunately, as Gates’s comments imply, the activities that would cue us at these sites are also less visible and more ambiguous than at the uranium-processing sites. We will be less certain when significant events have started or culminated at them.

Pundits are looking for a political motive behind the timing of this leak, but my sense about it is different. This is the second thing worth noting about the New York Times story: its absence of apparent spin. There is no subtle attempt to discredit Gates, to question his motive for the memo, or even to help the leaker(s) drive home a policy point. It’s a very different “leak story,” in other words, from previous ones about Obama’s policy in Afghanistan or Bush’s policy in the war on terror.

It’s almost as if the New York Times, itself, has run out of spin: as if it isn’t sure what it wants readers to think about this. That is as heartening, in its way, as the article is evidence that Secretary Gates recognizes how our military planning has fallen behind the pace of events. The piece gives us a glimpse – rare for the mainstream media – of ground truth about a policy situation. And what it shows us is a “bounded” problem: one for which there are pragmatic, relevant options. If Obama chooses to ignore Gates’s warning, even the New York Times may decline to cooperate in spinning that feckless course.

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Dreams of Disarmament

Mark Steyn predicts future historians will marvel at the omission of any discussion of Iran at this week’s Nuclear Security Summit:

For once, the cheap comparisons with 1930s appeasement barely suffice: To be sure, in 1933, the great powers were meeting in Geneva and holding utopian arms-control talks even as Hitler was taking office in Berlin. But it’s difficult to imagine Neville Chamberlain in 1938 hosting a conference on the dangers of rearmament, and inviting America, France, Brazil, Liberia, and Thailand . . . but not even mentioning Germany.

For the proper historical analogy, we may have to look back even further – to the 1921 Washington Conference on naval disarmament in the Pacific, which Churchill described in the opening chapter of “The Gathering Storm:”

At the Washington Conference of 1921 far-reaching proposals for naval disarmament were made by the United States, and the British and American governments proceeded to sink their battleships and break up their military establishments with gusto. It was argued in odd logic that it would be immoral to disarm the vanquished unless the victors also stripped themselves of their weapons.

Chalk it up to the early twentieth century belief that it was ships that killed people. Churchill wrote that Japan, then just becoming a rising Pacific power, “watched with an attentive eye.” Two decades later, the U.S. ended a world war in the Pacific with bombs not yet invented when the U.S. had led the world in dreaming of disarmament.

The 2010 Washington Conference was an idea President Obama announced last year in his Prague disarmament speech, which set forth his vision of a world without nuclear weapons. The speech featured the odd logic that America had a moral responsibility to disarm, as “the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon.” The speech was marred by North Korea’s firing, on the morning of the speech, rockets designed to demonstrate a long-range missile capability, and neither Iran nor North Korea found the speech particularly persuasive: a year later, they still resist Obama’s solution to their nuclear weapons programs – talks.

Future historians may find the Prague speech a useful guide to the themes that pervaded the Obama administration. Obama began by noting that, when he was born, “few people would have predicted that someone like me would one day become the President of the United States” – an observation he would repeat in the video he sent as the world celebrated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall without him. He noted the Czechs’ Velvet Revolution had “showed us that peaceful protest could shake the foundations of an empire, and expose the emptiness of an ideology,” proving “moral leadership is more powerful than any weapon” – but stood by in silence months later as he watched regime-threatening demonstrations in Iran.

He provided another trademark “let me be clear” moment – one the Czechs learned several months later was not quite as clear as they thought:

So let me be clear: Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile activity poses a real threat, not just to the United States, but to Iran’s neighbors and our allies. The Czech Republic and Poland have been courageous in agreeing to host a defense against these missiles.  As long as the threat from Iran persists, we will go forward with a missile defense system that is cost-effective and proven. (Applause.)

The balance of the speech set forth a lengthy series of proposals – arms reductions, treaties that would be “sufficiently bold,” strengthened international inspections, “real and immediate consequences” for rule-breakers, a global summit, etc. – ending with an applause-producing assertion that “Yes, we can.”

It was all there: the self-referential view of history, the rhetoric divorced from reality, the disingenuous let-me-be-clear assurance, the implicit denigration of his country for its supposed sins, the celebration of the moral leadership he would bring to the world, the panoply of proposals – all delivered while rockets were fired and centrifuges were spun, with no U.S. response other than a conference at which the rockets and centrifuges were not discussed.

Mark Steyn predicts future historians will marvel at the omission of any discussion of Iran at this week’s Nuclear Security Summit:

For once, the cheap comparisons with 1930s appeasement barely suffice: To be sure, in 1933, the great powers were meeting in Geneva and holding utopian arms-control talks even as Hitler was taking office in Berlin. But it’s difficult to imagine Neville Chamberlain in 1938 hosting a conference on the dangers of rearmament, and inviting America, France, Brazil, Liberia, and Thailand . . . but not even mentioning Germany.

For the proper historical analogy, we may have to look back even further – to the 1921 Washington Conference on naval disarmament in the Pacific, which Churchill described in the opening chapter of “The Gathering Storm:”

At the Washington Conference of 1921 far-reaching proposals for naval disarmament were made by the United States, and the British and American governments proceeded to sink their battleships and break up their military establishments with gusto. It was argued in odd logic that it would be immoral to disarm the vanquished unless the victors also stripped themselves of their weapons.

Chalk it up to the early twentieth century belief that it was ships that killed people. Churchill wrote that Japan, then just becoming a rising Pacific power, “watched with an attentive eye.” Two decades later, the U.S. ended a world war in the Pacific with bombs not yet invented when the U.S. had led the world in dreaming of disarmament.

The 2010 Washington Conference was an idea President Obama announced last year in his Prague disarmament speech, which set forth his vision of a world without nuclear weapons. The speech featured the odd logic that America had a moral responsibility to disarm, as “the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon.” The speech was marred by North Korea’s firing, on the morning of the speech, rockets designed to demonstrate a long-range missile capability, and neither Iran nor North Korea found the speech particularly persuasive: a year later, they still resist Obama’s solution to their nuclear weapons programs – talks.

Future historians may find the Prague speech a useful guide to the themes that pervaded the Obama administration. Obama began by noting that, when he was born, “few people would have predicted that someone like me would one day become the President of the United States” – an observation he would repeat in the video he sent as the world celebrated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall without him. He noted the Czechs’ Velvet Revolution had “showed us that peaceful protest could shake the foundations of an empire, and expose the emptiness of an ideology,” proving “moral leadership is more powerful than any weapon” – but stood by in silence months later as he watched regime-threatening demonstrations in Iran.

He provided another trademark “let me be clear” moment – one the Czechs learned several months later was not quite as clear as they thought:

So let me be clear: Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile activity poses a real threat, not just to the United States, but to Iran’s neighbors and our allies. The Czech Republic and Poland have been courageous in agreeing to host a defense against these missiles.  As long as the threat from Iran persists, we will go forward with a missile defense system that is cost-effective and proven. (Applause.)

The balance of the speech set forth a lengthy series of proposals – arms reductions, treaties that would be “sufficiently bold,” strengthened international inspections, “real and immediate consequences” for rule-breakers, a global summit, etc. – ending with an applause-producing assertion that “Yes, we can.”

It was all there: the self-referential view of history, the rhetoric divorced from reality, the disingenuous let-me-be-clear assurance, the implicit denigration of his country for its supposed sins, the celebration of the moral leadership he would bring to the world, the panoply of proposals – all delivered while rockets were fired and centrifuges were spun, with no U.S. response other than a conference at which the rockets and centrifuges were not discussed.

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Petraeus Is Not Anti-Israel

In the never-ending debate about General Petraeus and Israel, a few more data points are in — and they buttress what I have said earlier, that he is hardly the Israel-basher that some on the Left (and in the Arab world) celebrate and others on the Right denounce.

Point 1: at the Woodrow Wilson Center on April 13, Petraeus noted that some commentators had seized on one of the 11 factors he had mentioned to Congress as being important in shaping the Middle East — namely lack of progress “toward a comprehensive Middle East Peace.” He noted of his congressional statement: “It did not say anything about settlements. It didn’t say anything about putting our soldiers at risk or something like that. But it [lack of progress] does create an environment. It does contribute, if you will, to the overall environment within which we operate.” And then he added: “I think it’s fair to say you could have said, ‘General, nonetheless, Israel is — has been, is and will be an important strategic ally of the United States.’ And that is fair enough. And I think that that’s something that we could and should have included in that, just to make sure that there was no missed perception about what we were implying by this.”

Point 2: at a Holocaust remembrance ceremony on April 15, Petraeus paid tribute to survivors: “The men and women who walked or were carried out of the death camps, and their descendents, have enriched our world immeasurably in the sciences and in the arts, in literature and in philanthropy. They have made extraordinary contributions in academia, in business, and in government. And, they have, of course, helped build a nation that stands as one of our great allies. The survivors have, in short, made our country and our world better, leaving lasting achievements wherever they settled.” The line about building “a nation that stands as one of our great allies” was picked up in a news story by the Jerusalem Post. The newspaper might also have noted another section of his comments, which I intrepret as an oblique reference to Iran: “It is instructive, periodically, that we remember what can happen when demonic dictators are able to hijack a country. We should never forget that.”

Point 3: Petraeus sent a letter on March 30 to Congressman Buck McKeon, ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, who had asked for further clarification of the general’s views of Israel. The letter (which has not previously been released) noted Centcom’s “highest priorities… the issues that keep us up at night” are not Israeli-Palestinian relations but rather “militant groups, hostile states, and [weapons of mass destruction," along with "the instability in South Asia, the activities and policies of the Iranian regime, the situation in Iraq and the growth of [al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] in Yemen.” Petreaus said that the peace process is important but no more important than “other cross-cutting factors mentioned.” He noted, as well, that neither an internal study that Centcom had conducted of the issue “nor my posture statement assigns blame for this lack of progress [in peace talks], nor do they link the lack of progress with the lives of U.S. service members.”

In sum, while Petraeus may assign greater importance to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process than some analysts (including myself) would, he is hardly anti-Israel. He hasn’t even expressed an opinion on the future of Israeli settlements, much less endorsed President Obama’s push to ban all Israeli building activity in East Jerusalem. That’s not his role. As I’ve said before, those who are (rightly) unhappy with the turn in U.S. policy against Israel should address their concerns to the White House, not to Centcom, where General Petraeus is primarily focused on Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran — not on Israel.

In the never-ending debate about General Petraeus and Israel, a few more data points are in — and they buttress what I have said earlier, that he is hardly the Israel-basher that some on the Left (and in the Arab world) celebrate and others on the Right denounce.

Point 1: at the Woodrow Wilson Center on April 13, Petraeus noted that some commentators had seized on one of the 11 factors he had mentioned to Congress as being important in shaping the Middle East — namely lack of progress “toward a comprehensive Middle East Peace.” He noted of his congressional statement: “It did not say anything about settlements. It didn’t say anything about putting our soldiers at risk or something like that. But it [lack of progress] does create an environment. It does contribute, if you will, to the overall environment within which we operate.” And then he added: “I think it’s fair to say you could have said, ‘General, nonetheless, Israel is — has been, is and will be an important strategic ally of the United States.’ And that is fair enough. And I think that that’s something that we could and should have included in that, just to make sure that there was no missed perception about what we were implying by this.”

Point 2: at a Holocaust remembrance ceremony on April 15, Petraeus paid tribute to survivors: “The men and women who walked or were carried out of the death camps, and their descendents, have enriched our world immeasurably in the sciences and in the arts, in literature and in philanthropy. They have made extraordinary contributions in academia, in business, and in government. And, they have, of course, helped build a nation that stands as one of our great allies. The survivors have, in short, made our country and our world better, leaving lasting achievements wherever they settled.” The line about building “a nation that stands as one of our great allies” was picked up in a news story by the Jerusalem Post. The newspaper might also have noted another section of his comments, which I intrepret as an oblique reference to Iran: “It is instructive, periodically, that we remember what can happen when demonic dictators are able to hijack a country. We should never forget that.”

Point 3: Petraeus sent a letter on March 30 to Congressman Buck McKeon, ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, who had asked for further clarification of the general’s views of Israel. The letter (which has not previously been released) noted Centcom’s “highest priorities… the issues that keep us up at night” are not Israeli-Palestinian relations but rather “militant groups, hostile states, and [weapons of mass destruction," along with "the instability in South Asia, the activities and policies of the Iranian regime, the situation in Iraq and the growth of [al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] in Yemen.” Petreaus said that the peace process is important but no more important than “other cross-cutting factors mentioned.” He noted, as well, that neither an internal study that Centcom had conducted of the issue “nor my posture statement assigns blame for this lack of progress [in peace talks], nor do they link the lack of progress with the lives of U.S. service members.”

In sum, while Petraeus may assign greater importance to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process than some analysts (including myself) would, he is hardly anti-Israel. He hasn’t even expressed an opinion on the future of Israeli settlements, much less endorsed President Obama’s push to ban all Israeli building activity in East Jerusalem. That’s not his role. As I’ve said before, those who are (rightly) unhappy with the turn in U.S. policy against Israel should address their concerns to the White House, not to Centcom, where General Petraeus is primarily focused on Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran — not on Israel.

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Strange Herring

Another American hero soiled: The father of our country owes $300,000 in … library fines. And I had the police knocking at my door because I kept Nuclear War: What’s in It for You? an extra day…

National Day of Prayer ruled unconstitutional because it encourages prayer. Hence the name. Closing federal institutions on Christmas also ruled unconstitutional because it encourages

Tea Party crasher cum public school teacher gets failing grade from his union. Apparently silencing political opposition via questionable tactics (“he called on his supporters to collect the Social Security numbers — among other personal identifying information — about as many Tea Party supporters as possible”) risks damaging his credibility. This from his union.

Speaking of escaped inmates, dressing like a sheep should always be Plan A.

Watching 3-D TV may be hazardous to your health. Side effects include dizziness, nausea, and Avatar: The Director’s Cut. Not necessarily in that order.

Back in January, Secretary of Defense Gates warned the White House that its Iran policy stinked. The White House denies that the memo had any effect in its decision-making of late. “We are impervious to criticism,” said one insider who agreed to speak with me on promise of anonymity and $11. “Facts are just the lazy man’s excuse not to dream. Yes, dream … the impossible dream. To fight … the unbeatable foe … to bea-a-a-r-r … with unbearable sorro-o-o-o-w … to–”

Holocaust-denying loony-bin attendant Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is convinced that he and Obama make a great team. Like Juan and Eva Peron. Or Kukla, Fran, and Ollie. Without Ollie.

So Apple has decided that banning a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist’s iPhone app for satirizing public figures may have been a mistake. Someone at the Apple store needs an anti-depressant. Or a dictionary.

Nude models shocked, shocked, that people grope them in MoMA exhibitionist exhibition. Where’s Fiorello LaGuardia when you need him?

If you’re an alcoholic, eat more chocolate. On the other hand, if you’re a diabetic, you’re … but this is a family blog.

You know he’s faking, don’t you?

Phoenix has a musical-instrument museum. (Well, it had to do something, what with Camp Verde getting all that attention with its Wicker Wonderland.)

Nicholas Cage wants to be buried beneath a pyramid, as opposed to a mountain of debts. Good call, good call.

Your pets are trying to kill you, no doubt in an effort to assume the reins of power and reduce what’s left of humankind to chattel slavery. Just like in those monkey-planet movies. Remember this the next time you’re mulling over Science Diet fare versus that sandwich that’s been in your knapsack since Wednesday.

A 20-year-old woman has been barred — from every single bar in the United Kingdom. When they say “No shirt, no shoes, no service,” they mean it over there.

Think twice before naming your baby Apple or Dweezil or Pope Alexander VI. You may live to regret it.

And finally, Tracy City, Tennessee, has elected a dead man mayor. Accusations of corruption immediately followed.

And that’s news you can use. I’ll be back next week. Unless the laws change.

Another American hero soiled: The father of our country owes $300,000 in … library fines. And I had the police knocking at my door because I kept Nuclear War: What’s in It for You? an extra day…

National Day of Prayer ruled unconstitutional because it encourages prayer. Hence the name. Closing federal institutions on Christmas also ruled unconstitutional because it encourages

Tea Party crasher cum public school teacher gets failing grade from his union. Apparently silencing political opposition via questionable tactics (“he called on his supporters to collect the Social Security numbers — among other personal identifying information — about as many Tea Party supporters as possible”) risks damaging his credibility. This from his union.

Speaking of escaped inmates, dressing like a sheep should always be Plan A.

Watching 3-D TV may be hazardous to your health. Side effects include dizziness, nausea, and Avatar: The Director’s Cut. Not necessarily in that order.

Back in January, Secretary of Defense Gates warned the White House that its Iran policy stinked. The White House denies that the memo had any effect in its decision-making of late. “We are impervious to criticism,” said one insider who agreed to speak with me on promise of anonymity and $11. “Facts are just the lazy man’s excuse not to dream. Yes, dream … the impossible dream. To fight … the unbeatable foe … to bea-a-a-r-r … with unbearable sorro-o-o-o-w … to–”

Holocaust-denying loony-bin attendant Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is convinced that he and Obama make a great team. Like Juan and Eva Peron. Or Kukla, Fran, and Ollie. Without Ollie.

So Apple has decided that banning a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist’s iPhone app for satirizing public figures may have been a mistake. Someone at the Apple store needs an anti-depressant. Or a dictionary.

Nude models shocked, shocked, that people grope them in MoMA exhibitionist exhibition. Where’s Fiorello LaGuardia when you need him?

If you’re an alcoholic, eat more chocolate. On the other hand, if you’re a diabetic, you’re … but this is a family blog.

You know he’s faking, don’t you?

Phoenix has a musical-instrument museum. (Well, it had to do something, what with Camp Verde getting all that attention with its Wicker Wonderland.)

Nicholas Cage wants to be buried beneath a pyramid, as opposed to a mountain of debts. Good call, good call.

Your pets are trying to kill you, no doubt in an effort to assume the reins of power and reduce what’s left of humankind to chattel slavery. Just like in those monkey-planet movies. Remember this the next time you’re mulling over Science Diet fare versus that sandwich that’s been in your knapsack since Wednesday.

A 20-year-old woman has been barred — from every single bar in the United Kingdom. When they say “No shirt, no shoes, no service,” they mean it over there.

Think twice before naming your baby Apple or Dweezil or Pope Alexander VI. You may live to regret it.

And finally, Tracy City, Tennessee, has elected a dead man mayor. Accusations of corruption immediately followed.

And that’s news you can use. I’ll be back next week. Unless the laws change.

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Gates: Obama’s Iran Policy Is a Flop

The New York Times reports:

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has warned in a secret three-page memorandum to top White House officials that the United States does not have an effective long-range policy for dealing with Iran’s steady progress toward nuclear capability, according to government officials familiar with the document. … One senior official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the memo, described the document as “a wake-up call.” But White House officials dispute that view, insisting that for 15 months they had been conducting detailed planning for many possible outcomes regarding Iran’s nuclear program.

There seem to be some, but certainly not all, within the administration who recognize the Obami have failed to come up with a strategy commensurate with the danger posed by a nuclear-armed Iran or realistic about the nature of the Iranian regime:

In an interview on Friday, General Jones declined to speak about the memorandum. But he said: “On Iran, we are doing what we said we were going to do. The fact that we don’t announce publicly our entire strategy for the world to see doesn’t mean we don’t have a strategy that anticipates the full range of contingencies — we do.”

But in his memo, Mr. Gates wrote of a variety of concerns, including the absence of an effective strategy should Iran choose the course that many government and outside analysts consider likely: Iran could assemble all the major parts it needs for a nuclear weapon — fuel, designs and detonators — but stop just short of assembling a fully operational weapon.

Really, it’s jaw-dropping that, at this stage, Gates must sound the alarm, reminding everyone that nothing they’ve done so far has or is likely to work. Indeed, it’s hard to see how what the Obami are presently doing won’t impair those military options. After all, Obama is giving the Iranians cover to move ahead with their nuclear program while the UN dithers over negotiations about ineffective sanctions. The problem, we must conclude, is Obama, himself, who seems blissfully unaware of his own inadequate and misguided efforts. (“Some officials said his memo should be viewed in that light: as a warning to a relatively new president that the United States was not adequately prepared. He wrote the memo after Iran had let pass a 2009 deadline set by Mr. Obama to respond to his offers of diplomatic engagement.”)

The Obami seemed unprepared for the failure of engagement last year and are only now working on a sanctions effort; Gates’ memo suggests we are now no more prepared for what is in all likelihood the outcome of the next round of dithering: an Iranian regime undeterred from pursuing its nuclear ambitions. As the Times notes, “Mr. Gates’s memo appears to reflect concerns in the upper echelons of the Pentagon and the military that the White House did not have a well-prepared series of alternatives in place in case all the diplomatic steps finally failed.” There is no greater national-security challenge than the threat of a nuclear-armed, revolutionary Islamic state. And the president is failing to address it, as his defense secretary warns. The American people and history will judge Obama accordingly.

The New York Times reports:

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has warned in a secret three-page memorandum to top White House officials that the United States does not have an effective long-range policy for dealing with Iran’s steady progress toward nuclear capability, according to government officials familiar with the document. … One senior official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the memo, described the document as “a wake-up call.” But White House officials dispute that view, insisting that for 15 months they had been conducting detailed planning for many possible outcomes regarding Iran’s nuclear program.

There seem to be some, but certainly not all, within the administration who recognize the Obami have failed to come up with a strategy commensurate with the danger posed by a nuclear-armed Iran or realistic about the nature of the Iranian regime:

In an interview on Friday, General Jones declined to speak about the memorandum. But he said: “On Iran, we are doing what we said we were going to do. The fact that we don’t announce publicly our entire strategy for the world to see doesn’t mean we don’t have a strategy that anticipates the full range of contingencies — we do.”

But in his memo, Mr. Gates wrote of a variety of concerns, including the absence of an effective strategy should Iran choose the course that many government and outside analysts consider likely: Iran could assemble all the major parts it needs for a nuclear weapon — fuel, designs and detonators — but stop just short of assembling a fully operational weapon.

Really, it’s jaw-dropping that, at this stage, Gates must sound the alarm, reminding everyone that nothing they’ve done so far has or is likely to work. Indeed, it’s hard to see how what the Obami are presently doing won’t impair those military options. After all, Obama is giving the Iranians cover to move ahead with their nuclear program while the UN dithers over negotiations about ineffective sanctions. The problem, we must conclude, is Obama, himself, who seems blissfully unaware of his own inadequate and misguided efforts. (“Some officials said his memo should be viewed in that light: as a warning to a relatively new president that the United States was not adequately prepared. He wrote the memo after Iran had let pass a 2009 deadline set by Mr. Obama to respond to his offers of diplomatic engagement.”)

The Obami seemed unprepared for the failure of engagement last year and are only now working on a sanctions effort; Gates’ memo suggests we are now no more prepared for what is in all likelihood the outcome of the next round of dithering: an Iranian regime undeterred from pursuing its nuclear ambitions. As the Times notes, “Mr. Gates’s memo appears to reflect concerns in the upper echelons of the Pentagon and the military that the White House did not have a well-prepared series of alternatives in place in case all the diplomatic steps finally failed.” There is no greater national-security challenge than the threat of a nuclear-armed, revolutionary Islamic state. And the president is failing to address it, as his defense secretary warns. The American people and history will judge Obama accordingly.

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“Narrative Gap”?

Ronald Brownstein writes:

The Republicans’ “narrative” about Obama’s economic agenda — articulated again in Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s attack on financial reform — has been straightforward and unrelenting. In their telling, Obama is transforming the United States into a sclerotic European social-welfare state; forcing the strained middle class to fund both a “crony capitalism” of bailouts for the powerful (the charge McConnell leveled against the financial bill) and handouts for the poor (through health care reform); and impeding recovery by smothering the economy beneath stultifying federal spending, taxes, and regulation.

The fear among the Democracy contributors is that against this disciplined assault the White House is suffering from what could be called a “narrative gap.”

Translation: Republicans have done an excellent job pointing out what Obama is up to — and voters don’t like Obama’s efforts to transform America. There is not a “narrative gap” strictly speaking — that’s Washington spin, reducing everything to messaging. There is a gap between what Obama wants to do and what the voters want. After all, it is not as if Republicans made up the fact that Obama took over two car companies, passed a mammoth health-care bill, ran up the deficit, and is hiking taxes on capital and labor. Obama has done this and is going to do more of this if left to his own devices.

The dilemma for Democrats is that they have embarked on an unpopular program, and rather than receiving applause for expanding the scope of the federal government, they find they have provoked the Center-Right coalition and roused the populist, anti-Big-Government sentiments of many previously indifferent voters. The idea that health-care reform would, along with a slew of other leftist policies, provide a “new foundation” for recovery was a great non sequitur. If anything, these things  have freaked out employers and dulled their enthusiasm for expanding payrolls. But even if one thinks that business somehow ignores public policy and averts its eyes from regulatory and tax changes, you’d be hard pressed to make the argument that any of this has promoted economic recovery.

It’s comforting, I suppose, to blame all of this on messaging. That avoids the serious policy failures of the Keynesian stimulus debacle and the hugely unpopular health-care plan. But the voters don’t think there’s a “narrative gap.” They think there’s been a bait-and-switch –  the soothing candidate Obama has emerged as a dogged leftist. They can’t do much about him for now (especially because he’s indifferent to public opinion), but they can take away his Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. And that’s precisely what makes Democrats so nervous.  They should be.

Ronald Brownstein writes:

The Republicans’ “narrative” about Obama’s economic agenda — articulated again in Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s attack on financial reform — has been straightforward and unrelenting. In their telling, Obama is transforming the United States into a sclerotic European social-welfare state; forcing the strained middle class to fund both a “crony capitalism” of bailouts for the powerful (the charge McConnell leveled against the financial bill) and handouts for the poor (through health care reform); and impeding recovery by smothering the economy beneath stultifying federal spending, taxes, and regulation.

The fear among the Democracy contributors is that against this disciplined assault the White House is suffering from what could be called a “narrative gap.”

Translation: Republicans have done an excellent job pointing out what Obama is up to — and voters don’t like Obama’s efforts to transform America. There is not a “narrative gap” strictly speaking — that’s Washington spin, reducing everything to messaging. There is a gap between what Obama wants to do and what the voters want. After all, it is not as if Republicans made up the fact that Obama took over two car companies, passed a mammoth health-care bill, ran up the deficit, and is hiking taxes on capital and labor. Obama has done this and is going to do more of this if left to his own devices.

The dilemma for Democrats is that they have embarked on an unpopular program, and rather than receiving applause for expanding the scope of the federal government, they find they have provoked the Center-Right coalition and roused the populist, anti-Big-Government sentiments of many previously indifferent voters. The idea that health-care reform would, along with a slew of other leftist policies, provide a “new foundation” for recovery was a great non sequitur. If anything, these things  have freaked out employers and dulled their enthusiasm for expanding payrolls. But even if one thinks that business somehow ignores public policy and averts its eyes from regulatory and tax changes, you’d be hard pressed to make the argument that any of this has promoted economic recovery.

It’s comforting, I suppose, to blame all of this on messaging. That avoids the serious policy failures of the Keynesian stimulus debacle and the hugely unpopular health-care plan. But the voters don’t think there’s a “narrative gap.” They think there’s been a bait-and-switch –  the soothing candidate Obama has emerged as a dogged leftist. They can’t do much about him for now (especially because he’s indifferent to public opinion), but they can take away his Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. And that’s precisely what makes Democrats so nervous.  They should be.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Is the media having buyers remorse too? “Ed Chen, a White House correspondent for Bloomberg News who is president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, said he asked for the meeting ‘to clear the air because in my 10-plus years at the White House, rarely have I sensed such a level of anger, which is wide and deep, among members over White House practices and attitude toward the press.’”

A story about an Iraq vet, the Yankees and a rabbi. Honest.

David Ignatius suggests that if Obama is looking for “big ideas to shape its foreign policy,” he should consider promoting freedom of the press. Hasn’t Ignatius heard? Obama isn’t much interested in promoting any sort of freedom. It’s too much like George Bush, I suppose.

Gov. Rick Perry sounds Shermanesque about 2012.

One ludicrous nuclear summit begets another one: “Iran opened an ‘alternative’ nuclear disarmament summit in Tehran on Saturday, bringing together representatives of 60 countries including Russia and China to slam U.S. nuclear policy and encourage nations to pull out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”

Stuart Rothenberg: “Substantial Republican gains are inevitable, with net Democratic losses now looking to be at least two dozen. At this point, GOP gains of 25-30 seats seem likely, though considerably larger gains in excess of 40 seats certainly seem possible. We’ve moved 44 seats toward the Republicans and only 4 toward the Democrats.”

By the time he’s done, he will have alienated everyone in the state: “Some of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist’s top fundraisers are warning that they will no longer support him if he bolts the Republican Party to run for the Senate as an independent. … If he abandons the GOP race, a group of his most prominent supporters indicate they will not follow him.”

Barbara Boxer isn’t entirely clueless: “Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) warned that Democrats must match the Tea Party’s energy and enthusiasm or face the consequences in November. ‘At this point, I think the polls are showing that there is more enthusiasm with the tea party party,’ Boxer said.”

Is the media having buyers remorse too? “Ed Chen, a White House correspondent for Bloomberg News who is president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, said he asked for the meeting ‘to clear the air because in my 10-plus years at the White House, rarely have I sensed such a level of anger, which is wide and deep, among members over White House practices and attitude toward the press.’”

A story about an Iraq vet, the Yankees and a rabbi. Honest.

David Ignatius suggests that if Obama is looking for “big ideas to shape its foreign policy,” he should consider promoting freedom of the press. Hasn’t Ignatius heard? Obama isn’t much interested in promoting any sort of freedom. It’s too much like George Bush, I suppose.

Gov. Rick Perry sounds Shermanesque about 2012.

One ludicrous nuclear summit begets another one: “Iran opened an ‘alternative’ nuclear disarmament summit in Tehran on Saturday, bringing together representatives of 60 countries including Russia and China to slam U.S. nuclear policy and encourage nations to pull out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”

Stuart Rothenberg: “Substantial Republican gains are inevitable, with net Democratic losses now looking to be at least two dozen. At this point, GOP gains of 25-30 seats seem likely, though considerably larger gains in excess of 40 seats certainly seem possible. We’ve moved 44 seats toward the Republicans and only 4 toward the Democrats.”

By the time he’s done, he will have alienated everyone in the state: “Some of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist’s top fundraisers are warning that they will no longer support him if he bolts the Republican Party to run for the Senate as an independent. … If he abandons the GOP race, a group of his most prominent supporters indicate they will not follow him.”

Barbara Boxer isn’t entirely clueless: “Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) warned that Democrats must match the Tea Party’s energy and enthusiasm or face the consequences in November. ‘At this point, I think the polls are showing that there is more enthusiasm with the tea party party,’ Boxer said.”

Read Less




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