Commentary Magazine


Posts For: April 19, 2010

RE: Stop Worshipping the False “Peace Process” Religion

Jen, nothing better demonstrates the point that Aaron David Miller and you make about the “peace process” than the fact that, when speaking about it, one needs to put air quotes around it. The “peace process” has not produced peace, and these days is not even a process. The proposed “proximity talks” are not really talks, and the word “proximity” means . . . what? That the non-talking parties are physically near each other? That the non-talks are “approximately” talks? It is getting difficult to follow even the euphemisms used for the “peace process” rituals.

The irony is that when Benjamin Netanyahu came to Washington last May, six weeks after forming a government that included both Likud and Labor, he proposed immediate peace negotiations — rejecting the advice of his foreign minister to slow down. Netanyahu was met with a new precondition: cessation of any and all building anywhere east of the 1967 boundaries, even in Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem, and even in major Jewish population centers that Israel would retain in any conceivable peace agreement. No similar cessation was proposed for Arab building, nor was any other precondition proposed for the Palestinians, who only months before had rejected still another Israeli offer of a state that the secretary of state had urged them to accept.

A week later, Obama met with Mahmoud Abbas and undoubtedly told him about the condition he had just imposed on Netanyahu; ever since, Abbas has refused to negotiate until the condition is met. A week after that, Obama went to Cairo and announced to the entire Muslim world that the U.S. did not accept the “legitimacy of continued settlements.” In a little over two weeks, Obama had transformed the “peace process” into a battle over a precondition that no Israeli government could accept and no Palestinian leader could forgo (not after the U.S. had insisted on it and announced it to the world).

To believe that the next logical step should be a U.S. “plan” to be effectively imposed on the parties — or at least one of them, or maybe one and a half of them — is a sign of a religion in search of stone tablets to be handed down. Having failed to initiate talks even after Israel accepted them, the peace processors in the administration now apparently want to jump to the end game and have the president simply announce it. They must think he is sort of a deity.

Jen, nothing better demonstrates the point that Aaron David Miller and you make about the “peace process” than the fact that, when speaking about it, one needs to put air quotes around it. The “peace process” has not produced peace, and these days is not even a process. The proposed “proximity talks” are not really talks, and the word “proximity” means . . . what? That the non-talking parties are physically near each other? That the non-talks are “approximately” talks? It is getting difficult to follow even the euphemisms used for the “peace process” rituals.

The irony is that when Benjamin Netanyahu came to Washington last May, six weeks after forming a government that included both Likud and Labor, he proposed immediate peace negotiations — rejecting the advice of his foreign minister to slow down. Netanyahu was met with a new precondition: cessation of any and all building anywhere east of the 1967 boundaries, even in Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem, and even in major Jewish population centers that Israel would retain in any conceivable peace agreement. No similar cessation was proposed for Arab building, nor was any other precondition proposed for the Palestinians, who only months before had rejected still another Israeli offer of a state that the secretary of state had urged them to accept.

A week later, Obama met with Mahmoud Abbas and undoubtedly told him about the condition he had just imposed on Netanyahu; ever since, Abbas has refused to negotiate until the condition is met. A week after that, Obama went to Cairo and announced to the entire Muslim world that the U.S. did not accept the “legitimacy of continued settlements.” In a little over two weeks, Obama had transformed the “peace process” into a battle over a precondition that no Israeli government could accept and no Palestinian leader could forgo (not after the U.S. had insisted on it and announced it to the world).

To believe that the next logical step should be a U.S. “plan” to be effectively imposed on the parties — or at least one of them, or maybe one and a half of them — is a sign of a religion in search of stone tablets to be handed down. Having failed to initiate talks even after Israel accepted them, the peace processors in the administration now apparently want to jump to the end game and have the president simply announce it. They must think he is sort of a deity.

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Dialogue with the Wrong American Muslim Partners

The New York Times is reporting that the Obama administration has come a long way from the president’s campaign practices that had him keeping his distance from Muslims. According to the paper’s Andrea Elliott, “his administration has reached out to this politically isolated constituency in a sustained and widening effort that has left even skeptics surprised.”

There is, of course, nothing wrong with a man who once considered the notion that he might be a Muslim to be a “smear” now having members of his administration meet with representatives of a minority group. However, when this same administration has banned the use of language that might give anyone the notion that America is fighting Islamist extremists, it places stories such as Elliott’s in a different light. The problem here is not talking with Muslims or Arab-Americans or even attempts to rectify any potential injustices that might have occurred in the course of pursuing the war on Islamic terror. Rather it is the fact that the groups that are the subject of this attention are themselves questionable.

One example of the president’s outreach cited by the Times is the fact that senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett spoke at the annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America, a group that has consistently served to rationalize anti-Western and anti-Israel terrorism and that was an unindicted co-conspirator in the federal prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation, whose leaders were convicted in 2008 of funneling American funds to Hamas terrorists. When the administration grants its official seal of approval to radical groups such as the ISNA, it helps these people drown out the voices of genuine moderates who are far more representative of most American Muslims. As investigative journalist Steve Emerson told the Times: “I think dialogue is good, but it has to be with genuine moderates. These are the wrong groups to legitimize.”

Moreover, if the influence of such people on the administration is to reinforce its desire to literally walk away from the war on terror and to pretend that radical Islam is not the driving force behind America’s foes through the banning of such terms as “jihad” and “Islamic terrorism” in comments by officials, then it must be acknowledged that the problem here goes deeper than public relations.

Yet the blame for whitewashing radical institutions and players isn’t all the fault of the White House. Another driving force behind this trend is the New York Times itself. It should be noted that Andrea Elliott, the author of today’s piece, won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing for her 2007 series about the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge in Brooklyn and the lives of immigrant Muslims. Yet nowhere in the three-part 11,000-word story did she mention that one of the Islamic Society’s congregants went on a shooting spree in 1994 at the Brooklyn Bridge, where he murdered a 16-year-old Jew named Ari Halberstam after hearing an anti-Semitic sermon at this mosque. Later it turned out that Elliott was completely unaware (or at least claimed to be unaware) of the most famous incident involving the institution on which her story centered.

The point is, for those who want to ignore the truth about the danger from homegrown Islamist radicals, the tendency is to deny any link between Islam and terror, even if this means pretending that radicals who support violence are really peaceful moderates. This is a bad recipe for journalism as well as for public policy.

The New York Times is reporting that the Obama administration has come a long way from the president’s campaign practices that had him keeping his distance from Muslims. According to the paper’s Andrea Elliott, “his administration has reached out to this politically isolated constituency in a sustained and widening effort that has left even skeptics surprised.”

There is, of course, nothing wrong with a man who once considered the notion that he might be a Muslim to be a “smear” now having members of his administration meet with representatives of a minority group. However, when this same administration has banned the use of language that might give anyone the notion that America is fighting Islamist extremists, it places stories such as Elliott’s in a different light. The problem here is not talking with Muslims or Arab-Americans or even attempts to rectify any potential injustices that might have occurred in the course of pursuing the war on Islamic terror. Rather it is the fact that the groups that are the subject of this attention are themselves questionable.

One example of the president’s outreach cited by the Times is the fact that senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett spoke at the annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America, a group that has consistently served to rationalize anti-Western and anti-Israel terrorism and that was an unindicted co-conspirator in the federal prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation, whose leaders were convicted in 2008 of funneling American funds to Hamas terrorists. When the administration grants its official seal of approval to radical groups such as the ISNA, it helps these people drown out the voices of genuine moderates who are far more representative of most American Muslims. As investigative journalist Steve Emerson told the Times: “I think dialogue is good, but it has to be with genuine moderates. These are the wrong groups to legitimize.”

Moreover, if the influence of such people on the administration is to reinforce its desire to literally walk away from the war on terror and to pretend that radical Islam is not the driving force behind America’s foes through the banning of such terms as “jihad” and “Islamic terrorism” in comments by officials, then it must be acknowledged that the problem here goes deeper than public relations.

Yet the blame for whitewashing radical institutions and players isn’t all the fault of the White House. Another driving force behind this trend is the New York Times itself. It should be noted that Andrea Elliott, the author of today’s piece, won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing for her 2007 series about the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge in Brooklyn and the lives of immigrant Muslims. Yet nowhere in the three-part 11,000-word story did she mention that one of the Islamic Society’s congregants went on a shooting spree in 1994 at the Brooklyn Bridge, where he murdered a 16-year-old Jew named Ari Halberstam after hearing an anti-Semitic sermon at this mosque. Later it turned out that Elliott was completely unaware (or at least claimed to be unaware) of the most famous incident involving the institution on which her story centered.

The point is, for those who want to ignore the truth about the danger from homegrown Islamist radicals, the tendency is to deny any link between Islam and terror, even if this means pretending that radicals who support violence are really peaceful moderates. This is a bad recipe for journalism as well as for public policy.

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Dissidents’ Wish Lists

Here at the George W. Bush Institute’s Conference on Cyber Dissidents, I asked several dissident bloggers for their U.S.-policy and private-sector wish lists. What, in other words, would they most like to see instituted to help cyber dissidents successfully oppose tyrannical regimes? Here are the answers.

Oleg Kozlovsky, Russian political dissident:

1. Private companies should include some NGOs and independent media outfits in already existing programs that provide free or low-cost software to schools.

2.  The U.S. should redouble the effort to translate the work of active dissidents into English and reliable English-language news into other languages.

Ahed Al Hendi, founder of Syrian Youth for Justice:

1. U.S. should fund and provide technology to evade regime-instituted satellite jamming.

2. (My personal favorite) Western intelligence agencies should identify rights abusers by name and position — such as Revolutionary Guard members caught beating protesters — and circulate the intelligence inside and outside the relevant country.

3. The U.S. should fund and support dissident television broadcasts.

Rodrigo Diamanti, Venezuelan activist and international director of “World Without Censorship“:

1. Human rights NGOs need to be more dogged about pressuring private companies that, unwittingly or not, aid tyrannical regimes’ suppression of dissident voices.

Then again, “bearing witness” has worked so well, so why stop now?

Here at the George W. Bush Institute’s Conference on Cyber Dissidents, I asked several dissident bloggers for their U.S.-policy and private-sector wish lists. What, in other words, would they most like to see instituted to help cyber dissidents successfully oppose tyrannical regimes? Here are the answers.

Oleg Kozlovsky, Russian political dissident:

1. Private companies should include some NGOs and independent media outfits in already existing programs that provide free or low-cost software to schools.

2.  The U.S. should redouble the effort to translate the work of active dissidents into English and reliable English-language news into other languages.

Ahed Al Hendi, founder of Syrian Youth for Justice:

1. U.S. should fund and provide technology to evade regime-instituted satellite jamming.

2. (My personal favorite) Western intelligence agencies should identify rights abusers by name and position — such as Revolutionary Guard members caught beating protesters — and circulate the intelligence inside and outside the relevant country.

3. The U.S. should fund and support dissident television broadcasts.

Rodrigo Diamanti, Venezuelan activist and international director of “World Without Censorship“:

1. Human rights NGOs need to be more dogged about pressuring private companies that, unwittingly or not, aid tyrannical regimes’ suppression of dissident voices.

Then again, “bearing witness” has worked so well, so why stop now?

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Finally Moving on a Sanctions Bill?

Ben Smith reports:

A source notes that the House Foreign Affairs Committee is, according to the Congressional Record, selecting conferees for legislation aimed at imposing tough sanctions on Iran, despite the notable lack of White House enthusiasm.

A letter calling for “crippling sanctions” now has the support of more than 80% of the members of both bodies, but the White House continues to try to rally support for sanctions from Russia and China, which appear reluctant to impose sanctions.

The move toward conference suggests that chairman Howard Berman and the House leadership are ready to push ahead on sanctions in Congress, which could add pressure to the international negotiations.

Do we believe this? After all, it’s April, and we’ve still not had a conference. Berman fancies himself as a great defender of Israel who is very concerned about the existential threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran, yet he’s been foot-dragging for months, no doubt at the behest of the White House. So now we’re maybe going to have a meeting? And then there is the Senate side, where Sens. Kerry, Dodd, Durbin, and Reid were noticeably absent from the letters calling for movement on the sanctions bill. One supposes they are throwing sand in the gears, as well. Let’s see how quickly the conference moves forward and whether something hits the president’s desk before the expected completion of UN sanctions. (June? Six months from never?)

Ben Smith reports:

A source notes that the House Foreign Affairs Committee is, according to the Congressional Record, selecting conferees for legislation aimed at imposing tough sanctions on Iran, despite the notable lack of White House enthusiasm.

A letter calling for “crippling sanctions” now has the support of more than 80% of the members of both bodies, but the White House continues to try to rally support for sanctions from Russia and China, which appear reluctant to impose sanctions.

The move toward conference suggests that chairman Howard Berman and the House leadership are ready to push ahead on sanctions in Congress, which could add pressure to the international negotiations.

Do we believe this? After all, it’s April, and we’ve still not had a conference. Berman fancies himself as a great defender of Israel who is very concerned about the existential threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran, yet he’s been foot-dragging for months, no doubt at the behest of the White House. So now we’re maybe going to have a meeting? And then there is the Senate side, where Sens. Kerry, Dodd, Durbin, and Reid were noticeably absent from the letters calling for movement on the sanctions bill. One supposes they are throwing sand in the gears, as well. Let’s see how quickly the conference moves forward and whether something hits the president’s desk before the expected completion of UN sanctions. (June? Six months from never?)

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Ya’alon Unloads on Obami

The entire interview with Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon should be read in full here. But a few of the Q&As are certainly of particular note. On the American administration’s amnesia:

Does the US not see in Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s refusal to accept Ehud Olmert’s generous offer in 2008 as a lack of willingness on the Palestinian side to come to an agreement?

Apparently not. From the dawn of Zionism there has not been a Palestinian leadership willing to recognize Israel’s right to exist as the national home of the Jewish people. This is the source of the problem, and not what is called the occupied territories since ’67. The opposition to Zionism began before we liberated Judea, Samaria and Gaza; before we established a state.

On the issue of settlements:

Israel’s critics say enlarging settlements helps Palestinian extremists and ruins any efforts to get the Palestinians to recognize our right to be here.

The prime minister said before the elections he was willing to accept the commitments of the previous government, among them the understanding between [George] Bush and [Ariel] Sharon, that no new settlements would be built in Judea and Samaria, and that construction in the settlements would be allowed [to enable] normal life, not exactly natural growth. That was the understanding, and construction continued through the Olmert and Sharon governments.

More than that, [Netanyahu] said we accept our commitment regarding dismantling 23 outposts that were defined by the Sharon government as illegal. He accepted that, until it became clear that the US administration does not accept the commitments of the previous administration.

Secondly, we completely reject the argument that the settlements are the reason there is no peace. I think Arafat was willing to go to Oslo because of the settlements. When he saw the [massive Russian] aliya, and the settlements, he thought he was going to lose everything.

But if we are talking about coexistence and peace, why the insistence that the territory they receive be ethnically cleansed of Jews? Why do those areas have to be Judenrein? Don’t Arabs live here, in the Negev and Galilee? Why isn’t that part of our public discussion? Why doesn’t that scream to the heavens?

In order for there to a proper prognosis, you need a proper diagnosis. We are arguing, and not only with them, but with the Israeli Left, about what is the root of the problem. Part of the issue, which influences the US and European positions, is our internal confusion.

I also used to think the solution was land for peace, until I became the head of military intelligence, saw things from up close and my thinking underwent an evolution.

And on the American role in thwarting Iran’s nuclear ambitions:

Which leaders today are the most determined regarding Iran?

We see France today demonstrating the right policies, and Britain. They understand the enormity of the challenge.

Does Obama?

Something has happened here that we haven’t seen in the past. Previously the US led the aggressive line. Today, as I said, the president of France and prime minister of Britain are leading a more aggressive line than the president of the US. And then you have Germany and Italy, who join up with the American position.

I don’t think there is an actor in the world who wants to see a nuclear Iran.

There is much more of interest, including his take on the potential for an  imposed settlement. (“If someone really thinks they can impose peace just like that, then they are detached from reality.”) What is most noteworthy is the candor with which the disdain for the American administration comes through. It seems the Israelis have at least adopted one of Obama’s suggestions — be more “honest” in public and in private.

It’s incumbent on the American Jewish community now to do likewise. It is a time to make clear whether it intends to shuffle along, meekly accepting the administration’s inertness on Iran and its ferocity toward our democratic ally.

The entire interview with Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon should be read in full here. But a few of the Q&As are certainly of particular note. On the American administration’s amnesia:

Does the US not see in Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s refusal to accept Ehud Olmert’s generous offer in 2008 as a lack of willingness on the Palestinian side to come to an agreement?

Apparently not. From the dawn of Zionism there has not been a Palestinian leadership willing to recognize Israel’s right to exist as the national home of the Jewish people. This is the source of the problem, and not what is called the occupied territories since ’67. The opposition to Zionism began before we liberated Judea, Samaria and Gaza; before we established a state.

On the issue of settlements:

Israel’s critics say enlarging settlements helps Palestinian extremists and ruins any efforts to get the Palestinians to recognize our right to be here.

The prime minister said before the elections he was willing to accept the commitments of the previous government, among them the understanding between [George] Bush and [Ariel] Sharon, that no new settlements would be built in Judea and Samaria, and that construction in the settlements would be allowed [to enable] normal life, not exactly natural growth. That was the understanding, and construction continued through the Olmert and Sharon governments.

More than that, [Netanyahu] said we accept our commitment regarding dismantling 23 outposts that were defined by the Sharon government as illegal. He accepted that, until it became clear that the US administration does not accept the commitments of the previous administration.

Secondly, we completely reject the argument that the settlements are the reason there is no peace. I think Arafat was willing to go to Oslo because of the settlements. When he saw the [massive Russian] aliya, and the settlements, he thought he was going to lose everything.

But if we are talking about coexistence and peace, why the insistence that the territory they receive be ethnically cleansed of Jews? Why do those areas have to be Judenrein? Don’t Arabs live here, in the Negev and Galilee? Why isn’t that part of our public discussion? Why doesn’t that scream to the heavens?

In order for there to a proper prognosis, you need a proper diagnosis. We are arguing, and not only with them, but with the Israeli Left, about what is the root of the problem. Part of the issue, which influences the US and European positions, is our internal confusion.

I also used to think the solution was land for peace, until I became the head of military intelligence, saw things from up close and my thinking underwent an evolution.

And on the American role in thwarting Iran’s nuclear ambitions:

Which leaders today are the most determined regarding Iran?

We see France today demonstrating the right policies, and Britain. They understand the enormity of the challenge.

Does Obama?

Something has happened here that we haven’t seen in the past. Previously the US led the aggressive line. Today, as I said, the president of France and prime minister of Britain are leading a more aggressive line than the president of the US. And then you have Germany and Italy, who join up with the American position.

I don’t think there is an actor in the world who wants to see a nuclear Iran.

There is much more of interest, including his take on the potential for an  imposed settlement. (“If someone really thinks they can impose peace just like that, then they are detached from reality.”) What is most noteworthy is the candor with which the disdain for the American administration comes through. It seems the Israelis have at least adopted one of Obama’s suggestions — be more “honest” in public and in private.

It’s incumbent on the American Jewish community now to do likewise. It is a time to make clear whether it intends to shuffle along, meekly accepting the administration’s inertness on Iran and its ferocity toward our democratic ally.

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Stop Worshipping the False “Peace Process” Religion

There have been few more dogged proponents of and participants in the “peace process” than Aaron David Miller. So when he now hops off the bandwagon and declares the “peace process” to be the equivalent of a false religion, it’s worth taking note. He explains:

Like all religions, the peace process has developed a dogmatic creed, with immutable first principles. Over the last two decades, I wrote them hundreds of times to my bosses in the upper echelons of the State Department and the White House; they were a catechism we all could recite by heart. First, pursuit of a comprehensive peace was a core, if not the core, U.S. interest in the region, and achieving it offered the only sure way to protect U.S. interests; second, peace could be achieved, but only through a serious negotiating process based on trading land for peace; and third, only America could help the Arabs and Israelis bring that peace to fruition.

He notes that he wrote his share of memos reciting the same catechism, but he couldn’t do it again today:

Today, I couldn’t write those same memos or anything like them with a clear conscience or a straight face. Although many experts’ beliefs haven’t changed, the region has, and dramatically, becoming nastier and more complex. U.S. priorities and interests, too, have changed. The notion that there’s a single or simple fix to protecting those interests, let alone that Arab-Israeli peace would, like some magic potion, bullet, or elixir, make it all better, is just flat wrong. In a broken, angry region with so many problems — from stagnant, inequitable economies to extractive and authoritarian governments that abuse human rights and deny rule of law, to a popular culture mired in conspiracy and denial — it stretches the bounds of credulity to the breaking point to argue that settling the Arab-Israeli conflict is the most critical issue, or that its resolution would somehow guarantee Middle East stability.

And of course, we have the looming threat of a nuclear-armed Iran (which should rank, but plainly doesn’t, with this administration as a higher concern). And the likelihood of a successful negotiation is now nil given, among other factors, the experience of Palestinian rejectionism over the last 60 years and the Fatah-Hamas divide. And he takes exception to the notion gaining traction in the Obama administration that the answer is to impose an American agreement. That, he says, is simply not going to happen given the reality on the ground.

One can take exception to some of Miller’s argument, but the core of it is indisputable: the peace-process believers “need to re-examine their faith.” The peace process is not merely, as Miller argues, unproductive; it has proven counterproductive, at least in the hands of the Obami. We have reinforced Palestinian rejectionism, weakened the U.S.-Israel relationship that has been a stabilizing and peace-keeping alliance for decades, rattled other Arab leaders (whose main concern is a nuclear-armed Iran), and proven our own fecklessness. You want to promote peace in the Middle East? Stop the peace process.

There have been few more dogged proponents of and participants in the “peace process” than Aaron David Miller. So when he now hops off the bandwagon and declares the “peace process” to be the equivalent of a false religion, it’s worth taking note. He explains:

Like all religions, the peace process has developed a dogmatic creed, with immutable first principles. Over the last two decades, I wrote them hundreds of times to my bosses in the upper echelons of the State Department and the White House; they were a catechism we all could recite by heart. First, pursuit of a comprehensive peace was a core, if not the core, U.S. interest in the region, and achieving it offered the only sure way to protect U.S. interests; second, peace could be achieved, but only through a serious negotiating process based on trading land for peace; and third, only America could help the Arabs and Israelis bring that peace to fruition.

He notes that he wrote his share of memos reciting the same catechism, but he couldn’t do it again today:

Today, I couldn’t write those same memos or anything like them with a clear conscience or a straight face. Although many experts’ beliefs haven’t changed, the region has, and dramatically, becoming nastier and more complex. U.S. priorities and interests, too, have changed. The notion that there’s a single or simple fix to protecting those interests, let alone that Arab-Israeli peace would, like some magic potion, bullet, or elixir, make it all better, is just flat wrong. In a broken, angry region with so many problems — from stagnant, inequitable economies to extractive and authoritarian governments that abuse human rights and deny rule of law, to a popular culture mired in conspiracy and denial — it stretches the bounds of credulity to the breaking point to argue that settling the Arab-Israeli conflict is the most critical issue, or that its resolution would somehow guarantee Middle East stability.

And of course, we have the looming threat of a nuclear-armed Iran (which should rank, but plainly doesn’t, with this administration as a higher concern). And the likelihood of a successful negotiation is now nil given, among other factors, the experience of Palestinian rejectionism over the last 60 years and the Fatah-Hamas divide. And he takes exception to the notion gaining traction in the Obama administration that the answer is to impose an American agreement. That, he says, is simply not going to happen given the reality on the ground.

One can take exception to some of Miller’s argument, but the core of it is indisputable: the peace-process believers “need to re-examine their faith.” The peace process is not merely, as Miller argues, unproductive; it has proven counterproductive, at least in the hands of the Obami. We have reinforced Palestinian rejectionism, weakened the U.S.-Israel relationship that has been a stabilizing and peace-keeping alliance for decades, rattled other Arab leaders (whose main concern is a nuclear-armed Iran), and proven our own fecklessness. You want to promote peace in the Middle East? Stop the peace process.

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Security Trending Positive in Iraq with Death of Top al-Qaeda Leaders

Good news from Iraq: Iraqi and American forces have killed the two top leaders of al-Qaeda in Iraq: Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. General Ray Odierno called their deaths “potentially the most significant blow to al-Qaeda in Iraq since the beginning of the insurgency.” Even before their demise, Odierno noted on Fox News Sunday, security trends were positive:

First quarter fiscal year ’10 was the lowest number of incidents we’ve had in a quarter, the lowest number of high-profile attacks, the lowest number of indirect fire attacks, the lowest number of civilian casualties, the lowest number of U.S. force casualties, the lowest number of Iraqi security force casualties. So the direction continues to be headed in the right way.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi electoral situation remains as unsettled as ever, with a partial recount being ordered. Iraqi politicians still do not seem to be close to forming a new government; the resulting period of indecision can be an inducement to militants to attack, as occurred during the last period of governmental formation, in 2006. Thus the body blow against al-Qaeda comes at a propitious time. We are by no means out of the woods in Iraq — a lot can still go wrong. But the country continues to defy the predictions of naysayers, who thought it would have fallen apart long ago.

Good news from Iraq: Iraqi and American forces have killed the two top leaders of al-Qaeda in Iraq: Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. General Ray Odierno called their deaths “potentially the most significant blow to al-Qaeda in Iraq since the beginning of the insurgency.” Even before their demise, Odierno noted on Fox News Sunday, security trends were positive:

First quarter fiscal year ’10 was the lowest number of incidents we’ve had in a quarter, the lowest number of high-profile attacks, the lowest number of indirect fire attacks, the lowest number of civilian casualties, the lowest number of U.S. force casualties, the lowest number of Iraqi security force casualties. So the direction continues to be headed in the right way.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi electoral situation remains as unsettled as ever, with a partial recount being ordered. Iraqi politicians still do not seem to be close to forming a new government; the resulting period of indecision can be an inducement to militants to attack, as occurred during the last period of governmental formation, in 2006. Thus the body blow against al-Qaeda comes at a propitious time. We are by no means out of the woods in Iraq — a lot can still go wrong. But the country continues to defy the predictions of naysayers, who thought it would have fallen apart long ago.

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Indiana Goes Red Again

Barack Obama in 2008 won Indiana by about 30,000 votes, the first time a Democratic presidential candidate won in the state since LBJ in the 1964 wipe-out election. Now we find the state swinging back to the GOP and to conservative positions:

Following his vote for the national health care plan, Democratic Congressman Brad Ellsworth’s support remains stuck in the low 30s, while two of his Republican opponents now earn 50% or more of the vote in Indiana’s U.S. Senate race.

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in Indiana finds that 65% favor repeal of the recently passed health care law. Just 29% in the state oppose repeal. Those findings include 56% who strongly favor repeal versus 21% who strongly oppose it.

Support for Dan Coats is up by five points from last month and he now leads Ellsworth 54 to 39 percent. It is, as we’ve observed, only with the help of Obama and the Democratic leadership that Evan Bayh, a popular senator and frequent VP contender, would flee the Senate, that the Republicans would surge to a double-digit lead, and that a signature piece of legislation would incur the ire of a huge majority of Hoosier voters.

Barack Obama in 2008 won Indiana by about 30,000 votes, the first time a Democratic presidential candidate won in the state since LBJ in the 1964 wipe-out election. Now we find the state swinging back to the GOP and to conservative positions:

Following his vote for the national health care plan, Democratic Congressman Brad Ellsworth’s support remains stuck in the low 30s, while two of his Republican opponents now earn 50% or more of the vote in Indiana’s U.S. Senate race.

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in Indiana finds that 65% favor repeal of the recently passed health care law. Just 29% in the state oppose repeal. Those findings include 56% who strongly favor repeal versus 21% who strongly oppose it.

Support for Dan Coats is up by five points from last month and he now leads Ellsworth 54 to 39 percent. It is, as we’ve observed, only with the help of Obama and the Democratic leadership that Evan Bayh, a popular senator and frequent VP contender, would flee the Senate, that the Republicans would surge to a double-digit lead, and that a signature piece of legislation would incur the ire of a huge majority of Hoosier voters.

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RE: Bill Clinton’s Double Standards on Rhetoric

Pete, to your point, there was a lively discussion on Fox News Sunday about Clinton’s comments and the Tea Parties. There is a single reason why Clinton, Obama, and the mainstream media are in a tizzy about the Tea Party protests. As Bill Kristol said:

It’s an attempt to demonize and discredit the movement and not engage it on its ideas. … I think this notion that — the left pretends to think the Tea Parties are a problem for the Republicans. The fact is the left is terrified of the Tea Parties.President Obama knows they have done a huge amount of damage to his attempt to transform America in a left-wing direction. And therefore, they don’t want to debate the issues. They want to demonize them.

You don’t see the liberal attack machine getting this bent out of shape over nothing. As Bill remarked, “The Obama administration has given rise to a more powerful conservatism than has existed for 20 years, since Ronald Reagan in this country.” And it’s not the GOP Beltway crowd that has done this — it’s ordinary citizens. I don’t think Bill was exaggerating when he said: “The Republican establishment is the threat to the future of the Republican Party and conservatism. The Tea Party is the best thing that’s happened for conservatives.” (You need look no further than the Florida Senate race, where the insiders picked the hapless Charlie Crist, and the Tea Party amateurs identified Marco Rubio as a rising star.) And so the liberals attack and make ludicrous connections to murders like Timothy McVeigh or concoct racist allegations that do not stand up to scrutiny.

The irony is great, of course. The community organizer has stirred the sleeping beast and is now the object of its ire. The Democrats want to shush them all up. I suspect the more the Democrats shush, the more irate the citizen protesters will become. It is proof of how disconnected the ruling party is from popular sentiment and how scared the Democrats are of their own constituents.

Pete, to your point, there was a lively discussion on Fox News Sunday about Clinton’s comments and the Tea Parties. There is a single reason why Clinton, Obama, and the mainstream media are in a tizzy about the Tea Party protests. As Bill Kristol said:

It’s an attempt to demonize and discredit the movement and not engage it on its ideas. … I think this notion that — the left pretends to think the Tea Parties are a problem for the Republicans. The fact is the left is terrified of the Tea Parties.President Obama knows they have done a huge amount of damage to his attempt to transform America in a left-wing direction. And therefore, they don’t want to debate the issues. They want to demonize them.

You don’t see the liberal attack machine getting this bent out of shape over nothing. As Bill remarked, “The Obama administration has given rise to a more powerful conservatism than has existed for 20 years, since Ronald Reagan in this country.” And it’s not the GOP Beltway crowd that has done this — it’s ordinary citizens. I don’t think Bill was exaggerating when he said: “The Republican establishment is the threat to the future of the Republican Party and conservatism. The Tea Party is the best thing that’s happened for conservatives.” (You need look no further than the Florida Senate race, where the insiders picked the hapless Charlie Crist, and the Tea Party amateurs identified Marco Rubio as a rising star.) And so the liberals attack and make ludicrous connections to murders like Timothy McVeigh or concoct racist allegations that do not stand up to scrutiny.

The irony is great, of course. The community organizer has stirred the sleeping beast and is now the object of its ire. The Democrats want to shush them all up. I suspect the more the Democrats shush, the more irate the citizen protesters will become. It is proof of how disconnected the ruling party is from popular sentiment and how scared the Democrats are of their own constituents.

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What the U.S. Should Do About the SCUDs

Elliott Abrams cautions that we can’t be certain whether the SCUD missiles, which can reach major Israeli cities, have in fact been delivered to Hezbollah and whether the Israelis is fact were restrained by the Obami from attacking. What we do know it that such arming is a a plain violation of UN Resolution 1701 :

As the resolution was being drafted and debated, the government of Israel approached the U.S. government to ask for a critical clarification. Suppose Syria violates the resolution, the Israelis asked? Do you agree with us that Israel will have the right to bomb any truck caravan carrying missiles or rockets from Syria into Lebanon for Hezbollah? And the answer was as clear as the question: Yes. With that now understood, Israel said it would go along with Resolution 1701 and begin to withdraw from Lebanon.

Abrams advises that it would be helpful for the U.S. and Israel to make it clear that:

The supply of SCUDs to Hezbollah is a violation of Resolution 1701, and Israel has the right to act to prevent it, both under 1701 and as an exercise of the right of self-defense. It should also be made clear that if Israel strikes, it will have U.S. support, and we will veto any Security Council resolution criticizing Israel for doing so.

That message would no doubt be heard in Damascus but also in Tehran, where Bashar al-Assad’s new best friends are assessing how badly U.S.-Israel ties have frayed. A reminder that the administration is ready to enforce UN resolutions and back Israel’s right to self defense would come at an opportune time — when there is considerable doubt as to both. Will the U.S. do so? It would be welcomed but entirely out of character. And our silence will, of course, send another powerful signal to the mullahs — just as our quietude on the deaths of Americans in Iraq at the hands of Iranians did: that there is no price to be paid for aggression against the U.S. and its allies.

Elliott Abrams cautions that we can’t be certain whether the SCUD missiles, which can reach major Israeli cities, have in fact been delivered to Hezbollah and whether the Israelis is fact were restrained by the Obami from attacking. What we do know it that such arming is a a plain violation of UN Resolution 1701 :

As the resolution was being drafted and debated, the government of Israel approached the U.S. government to ask for a critical clarification. Suppose Syria violates the resolution, the Israelis asked? Do you agree with us that Israel will have the right to bomb any truck caravan carrying missiles or rockets from Syria into Lebanon for Hezbollah? And the answer was as clear as the question: Yes. With that now understood, Israel said it would go along with Resolution 1701 and begin to withdraw from Lebanon.

Abrams advises that it would be helpful for the U.S. and Israel to make it clear that:

The supply of SCUDs to Hezbollah is a violation of Resolution 1701, and Israel has the right to act to prevent it, both under 1701 and as an exercise of the right of self-defense. It should also be made clear that if Israel strikes, it will have U.S. support, and we will veto any Security Council resolution criticizing Israel for doing so.

That message would no doubt be heard in Damascus but also in Tehran, where Bashar al-Assad’s new best friends are assessing how badly U.S.-Israel ties have frayed. A reminder that the administration is ready to enforce UN resolutions and back Israel’s right to self defense would come at an opportune time — when there is considerable doubt as to both. Will the U.S. do so? It would be welcomed but entirely out of character. And our silence will, of course, send another powerful signal to the mullahs — just as our quietude on the deaths of Americans in Iraq at the hands of Iranians did: that there is no price to be paid for aggression against the U.S. and its allies.

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George W. Bush: “I am concerned about isolationism”

I’m in Dallas, Texas, attending the George W. Bush Institute’s “Conference on Cyber Dissidents: Global Successes and Challenges.” There will be various discussions involving dissidents from five countries rated “not free” by Freedom House: China, Cuba, Iran, Syria, and Russia, as well as two countries rated “partially free” by same: Venezuela and Colombia.

Laura Bush just offered some introductory remarks and singled out the Burmese regime for jailing democrats and enacting a “systematic campaign of rape and abuse.”

President Bush then spoke frankly about the disturbing change in the country’s attitude toward freedom and democracy abroad. “I am concerned about isolationism,” he said. It was a reifying moment to hear the president so closely associated with the promotion of freedom and human rights state plainly that we must “fight off isolationism,” which is making a return in the public consciousness and policy circles. None of the “false choice,” gray-area equivocation that we’ve come to hear day in and day out over the past year. “If we allow isolation to become a dominant philosophy we forget our own past,” he said. America’s long-active role as engine and projector of freedom abroad is indeed being forgotten with news of each cynical “reset” and every panicking ally.

I’m in Dallas, Texas, attending the George W. Bush Institute’s “Conference on Cyber Dissidents: Global Successes and Challenges.” There will be various discussions involving dissidents from five countries rated “not free” by Freedom House: China, Cuba, Iran, Syria, and Russia, as well as two countries rated “partially free” by same: Venezuela and Colombia.

Laura Bush just offered some introductory remarks and singled out the Burmese regime for jailing democrats and enacting a “systematic campaign of rape and abuse.”

President Bush then spoke frankly about the disturbing change in the country’s attitude toward freedom and democracy abroad. “I am concerned about isolationism,” he said. It was a reifying moment to hear the president so closely associated with the promotion of freedom and human rights state plainly that we must “fight off isolationism,” which is making a return in the public consciousness and policy circles. None of the “false choice,” gray-area equivocation that we’ve come to hear day in and day out over the past year. “If we allow isolation to become a dominant philosophy we forget our own past,” he said. America’s long-active role as engine and projector of freedom abroad is indeed being forgotten with news of each cynical “reset” and every panicking ally.

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Bill Clinton’s Double Standard on Rhetoric

The Big Dog has slipped his leash again.

Bill Clinton began a concerted attack on the Tea Party movement in the New York Times late last week:

With the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing approaching, former President Bill Clinton… drew parallels between the antigovernment tone that preceded that devastating attack and the political tumult of today, saying government critics must be mindful that angry words can stir violent actions…  “There can be real consequences when what you say animates people who do things you would never do,” Mr. Clinton said in an interview, saying that Timothy McVeigh, who carried out the Oklahoma City bombing, and those who assisted him, “were profoundly alienated, disconnected people who bought into this militant antigovernment line.”

“Because of the Internet, there is this vast echo chamber and our advocacy reaches into corners that never would have been possible before,” said Mr. Clinton, who said political messages are now able to reach those who are both “serious and seriously disturbed.”… Mr. Clinton said his intent was not to stifle debate or muzzle critics of the government but to encourage them to consider what repercussions could follow. He acknowledged that drawing the line between acceptable discourse and that which goes too far is difficult but that lawmakers and other officials should try.

“Have at it,” he said. “You can attack the politics. Criticize their policies. Don’t demonize them, and don’t say things that will encourage violent opposition.”

Then, at an event for the Center for American Progress Action Fund, he said this:

What we learned from Oklahoma City is not that we should gag each other or that we should reduce our passion for the positions we hold — but that the words we use really do matter, because there’s this vast echo chamber, and they go across space and they fall on the serious and the delirious alike. They fall on the connected and the unhinged alike.

As you would expect from Mr. Clinton, his words are both sophisticated and slick. There is even some truth to them. Words have meaning, and context matters. Public officials in particular should be careful not to exploit passions that can become harmful. There’s no rulebook that tells us which slang phrases and locutions are clever and which are inflammatory. Things that may be fine in one context might not be so in another. We have to rely on common sense and good judgment.

The problem for Mr. Clinton is that his concern about the dangers of incendiary rhetoric seems to have taken flight during the two terms of the Bush presidency, as well as during his own. Regarding the former, there was, for starters, the 2006 film, The Death of a President, on the assassination of President Bush. Mr. Clinton did not, to my knowledge, condemn the movie in a front-page story in the New York Times or in a major speech.

Moreover, George W. Bush was, during his two terms in office, routinely called a war criminal, an international terrorist, and compared to Hitler [see a photo gallery here and here]. Signs with bullet holes in Bush’s forehead, with blood running down his face, were all part of the fun and games. The president was accused of moral cowardice by Al Gore, of being a liar and the anti-Christ, and of being a totalitarian and dictatorial leader. Members of Congress such as Keith Ellison compared the attacks on September 11 to the Reichstag fire.

This was all pretty common fare during the Bush presidency. Yet Bush’s predecessor, Bill Clinton, remained silent, apparently unconcerned that such words would fall on the serious and the delirious, the connected and the unhinged, at the same time. And many of Mr. Clinton’s fellow Democrats, including his vice president, said words that encouraged the worst elements and instincts of the haters and the loons.

The Tea Party protests, in terms of the level of hate speech and the placards and signs used, don’t hold a candle to the anti-war protests we witnessed during the Bush years. Yet for some inexplicable reason — inexplicable because we all know the press and the political class are fantastically free of bias — the hate directed against Bush didn’t receive anything like the scrutiny the Tea Party is receiving.

It’s also worth recalling that the Clinton administration organized, coordinated, and participated in some of the ugliest rhetoric we have seen in recent American politics. I have in mind, for example, the campaign against Judge Ken Starr, who was the independent counsel during the Clinton-Lewinsky investigation. The Clinton team said Starr was a “spineless, gutless weasel” and “engaged in anti-constitutional destructiveness.” He was a “thug” and a “Grand Inquisitor for life.” His tactics were “frightening,” “vicious,” and “lawless.” His investigation was an “inquisition,” “smacks of Gestapo,” and “outstrips McCarthyism.” He was acting “irresponsibility, illegally.” Starr was “undermining the very integrity of the criminal-justice system.” The office of independent counsel was filled with “a crew of prosecutorial pirates” and Starr was using “instruments of intimidation and smear without restraint.”

And now Mr. Clinton is preaching to us about not demonizing our opponents and about the importance of not crossing rhetorical lines. Can a Clinton sermon on the importance of fidelity and the gift of celibacy be far behind?

The level of concern and consternation that is being directed at the Tea Party movement is hard to take seriously given the blinding double standard at play. When Bush was president and greater hate was directed at him than is today directed at Obama, the narrative was that this was a sign of Bush’s divisiveness. In those days dissent was the highest form of patriotism. Today, with Obama as president, everything is reversed. Obama is the victim, not the divider; dissent is viewed as sedition.

I have no problem at all condemning the Tea Party movement if it crosses lines of civility and reason. But the hypocrisy at play here is discrediting.

In a deeper sense, the impulse on display here is, despite what Clinton says, illiberal. The end game for many Tea Party critics isn’t to silence a few nuts in a movement comprising millions of people; it is to discredit the movement itself. It is to silence the overwhelming number of decent people who comprise the Tea Party movement by attaching them to the hip with haters and kooks.

This tactic will, I think, backfire. We are seeing a huge, lawful, civic uprising against the Obama agenda — and to slander people as clones of Timothy McVeigh will only add kindling wood and kerosene to this bonfire.

Liberals and the Democratic Party are losing virtually every substantive debate on the issues. It is blowing their circuits. And so they are left to resort to libel, to portray Tea Party participants as Timothy McVeighs in waiting. There will be a high price to pay for this ugly and petty tactic, beginning with the first Tuesday in November.

The Big Dog has slipped his leash again.

Bill Clinton began a concerted attack on the Tea Party movement in the New York Times late last week:

With the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing approaching, former President Bill Clinton… drew parallels between the antigovernment tone that preceded that devastating attack and the political tumult of today, saying government critics must be mindful that angry words can stir violent actions…  “There can be real consequences when what you say animates people who do things you would never do,” Mr. Clinton said in an interview, saying that Timothy McVeigh, who carried out the Oklahoma City bombing, and those who assisted him, “were profoundly alienated, disconnected people who bought into this militant antigovernment line.”

“Because of the Internet, there is this vast echo chamber and our advocacy reaches into corners that never would have been possible before,” said Mr. Clinton, who said political messages are now able to reach those who are both “serious and seriously disturbed.”… Mr. Clinton said his intent was not to stifle debate or muzzle critics of the government but to encourage them to consider what repercussions could follow. He acknowledged that drawing the line between acceptable discourse and that which goes too far is difficult but that lawmakers and other officials should try.

“Have at it,” he said. “You can attack the politics. Criticize their policies. Don’t demonize them, and don’t say things that will encourage violent opposition.”

Then, at an event for the Center for American Progress Action Fund, he said this:

What we learned from Oklahoma City is not that we should gag each other or that we should reduce our passion for the positions we hold — but that the words we use really do matter, because there’s this vast echo chamber, and they go across space and they fall on the serious and the delirious alike. They fall on the connected and the unhinged alike.

As you would expect from Mr. Clinton, his words are both sophisticated and slick. There is even some truth to them. Words have meaning, and context matters. Public officials in particular should be careful not to exploit passions that can become harmful. There’s no rulebook that tells us which slang phrases and locutions are clever and which are inflammatory. Things that may be fine in one context might not be so in another. We have to rely on common sense and good judgment.

The problem for Mr. Clinton is that his concern about the dangers of incendiary rhetoric seems to have taken flight during the two terms of the Bush presidency, as well as during his own. Regarding the former, there was, for starters, the 2006 film, The Death of a President, on the assassination of President Bush. Mr. Clinton did not, to my knowledge, condemn the movie in a front-page story in the New York Times or in a major speech.

Moreover, George W. Bush was, during his two terms in office, routinely called a war criminal, an international terrorist, and compared to Hitler [see a photo gallery here and here]. Signs with bullet holes in Bush’s forehead, with blood running down his face, were all part of the fun and games. The president was accused of moral cowardice by Al Gore, of being a liar and the anti-Christ, and of being a totalitarian and dictatorial leader. Members of Congress such as Keith Ellison compared the attacks on September 11 to the Reichstag fire.

This was all pretty common fare during the Bush presidency. Yet Bush’s predecessor, Bill Clinton, remained silent, apparently unconcerned that such words would fall on the serious and the delirious, the connected and the unhinged, at the same time. And many of Mr. Clinton’s fellow Democrats, including his vice president, said words that encouraged the worst elements and instincts of the haters and the loons.

The Tea Party protests, in terms of the level of hate speech and the placards and signs used, don’t hold a candle to the anti-war protests we witnessed during the Bush years. Yet for some inexplicable reason — inexplicable because we all know the press and the political class are fantastically free of bias — the hate directed against Bush didn’t receive anything like the scrutiny the Tea Party is receiving.

It’s also worth recalling that the Clinton administration organized, coordinated, and participated in some of the ugliest rhetoric we have seen in recent American politics. I have in mind, for example, the campaign against Judge Ken Starr, who was the independent counsel during the Clinton-Lewinsky investigation. The Clinton team said Starr was a “spineless, gutless weasel” and “engaged in anti-constitutional destructiveness.” He was a “thug” and a “Grand Inquisitor for life.” His tactics were “frightening,” “vicious,” and “lawless.” His investigation was an “inquisition,” “smacks of Gestapo,” and “outstrips McCarthyism.” He was acting “irresponsibility, illegally.” Starr was “undermining the very integrity of the criminal-justice system.” The office of independent counsel was filled with “a crew of prosecutorial pirates” and Starr was using “instruments of intimidation and smear without restraint.”

And now Mr. Clinton is preaching to us about not demonizing our opponents and about the importance of not crossing rhetorical lines. Can a Clinton sermon on the importance of fidelity and the gift of celibacy be far behind?

The level of concern and consternation that is being directed at the Tea Party movement is hard to take seriously given the blinding double standard at play. When Bush was president and greater hate was directed at him than is today directed at Obama, the narrative was that this was a sign of Bush’s divisiveness. In those days dissent was the highest form of patriotism. Today, with Obama as president, everything is reversed. Obama is the victim, not the divider; dissent is viewed as sedition.

I have no problem at all condemning the Tea Party movement if it crosses lines of civility and reason. But the hypocrisy at play here is discrediting.

In a deeper sense, the impulse on display here is, despite what Clinton says, illiberal. The end game for many Tea Party critics isn’t to silence a few nuts in a movement comprising millions of people; it is to discredit the movement itself. It is to silence the overwhelming number of decent people who comprise the Tea Party movement by attaching them to the hip with haters and kooks.

This tactic will, I think, backfire. We are seeing a huge, lawful, civic uprising against the Obama agenda — and to slander people as clones of Timothy McVeigh will only add kindling wood and kerosene to this bonfire.

Liberals and the Democratic Party are losing virtually every substantive debate on the issues. It is blowing their circuits. And so they are left to resort to libel, to portray Tea Party participants as Timothy McVeighs in waiting. There will be a high price to pay for this ugly and petty tactic, beginning with the first Tuesday in November.

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The Real Demographic Threat

As Israel celebrates its 62nd Independence Day this evening, is the country actually independent? Judging by the remarks of some of its leading politicians, one would have to conclude that the answer is no.

Speaking at a Memorial Day ceremony yesterday, for instance, Defense Minister and Labor-party chairman Ehud Barak declared that only by signing a peace agreement with the Palestinians could Israel preserve its Jewish majority. Ehud Olmert made this claim even more bluntly in 2007, when he was prime minister, declaring that if “the two-state solution collapses … the State of Israel is finished.” Olmert’s successor as head of the Kadima party, opposition leader Tzipi Livni, has made similar remarks.

In other words, Israel has no control over its own fate; its continued existence depends entirely on the goodwill of a nation that would like nothing better than to see it disappear. Moreover, all the Palestinians have to do to secure this outcome is to continue doing exactly what they have done for the past 17 years: say “no” to every peace offer Israel makes. If that is true, Israel really is finished.

In reality, of course, the Barak-Olmert-Livni conclusion is ridiculous even if one believes the demographic doomsayers (there are grounds for skepticism, but that’s another story). Should Israel someday decide the status quo is untenable, it doesn’t need a peace agreement to leave; it can always quit the West Bank unilaterally, just as it did Gaza. After decades of condemning Israel’s “illegal occupation” and demanding its end, the world could hardly object if Israel complied.

Unfortunately, “ridiculous” is not the same as “harmless.” This credo is actually deadly dangerous, on at least four levels.

First, it encourages Palestinian intransigence: if Palestinians can destroy the Jewish state just by saying no, they have no incentive to ever say yes.

Second, it could lead Israeli leaders to make concessions that truly do endanger the state’s survival.

Third, it encourages world leaders to pressure Israel into such concessions, by enabling them to claim they’re really doing it for Israel’s own good. After all, if Israel’s own leaders say the state can’t survive without a peace deal, isn’t any concession that might appease the Palestinians, however dangerous, better than the alternative of certain death?

Finally, it demoralizes Israel’s own citizens, most of whom know perfectly well that no peace agreement is attainable in the foreseeable future. If Israel’s continued existence really depends on an unachievable peace, then Israelis have no reason to remain here and no reason to continue sending their sons to fight and die in the state’s defense. And should enough Israelis reach that conclusion, the state really will collapse.

Thus if Israel is to survive another 62 years, it desperately needs its leaders to relearn the wisdom that guided its founders in 1948, when the demographic situation was much worse: that the purpose of independence is precisely to enable the Jewish people to shape Israel’s fate, rather than being the helpless hostages of a hostile nation. The “demographic threat” cannot destroy Israel. But its leaders’ own folly can.

As Israel celebrates its 62nd Independence Day this evening, is the country actually independent? Judging by the remarks of some of its leading politicians, one would have to conclude that the answer is no.

Speaking at a Memorial Day ceremony yesterday, for instance, Defense Minister and Labor-party chairman Ehud Barak declared that only by signing a peace agreement with the Palestinians could Israel preserve its Jewish majority. Ehud Olmert made this claim even more bluntly in 2007, when he was prime minister, declaring that if “the two-state solution collapses … the State of Israel is finished.” Olmert’s successor as head of the Kadima party, opposition leader Tzipi Livni, has made similar remarks.

In other words, Israel has no control over its own fate; its continued existence depends entirely on the goodwill of a nation that would like nothing better than to see it disappear. Moreover, all the Palestinians have to do to secure this outcome is to continue doing exactly what they have done for the past 17 years: say “no” to every peace offer Israel makes. If that is true, Israel really is finished.

In reality, of course, the Barak-Olmert-Livni conclusion is ridiculous even if one believes the demographic doomsayers (there are grounds for skepticism, but that’s another story). Should Israel someday decide the status quo is untenable, it doesn’t need a peace agreement to leave; it can always quit the West Bank unilaterally, just as it did Gaza. After decades of condemning Israel’s “illegal occupation” and demanding its end, the world could hardly object if Israel complied.

Unfortunately, “ridiculous” is not the same as “harmless.” This credo is actually deadly dangerous, on at least four levels.

First, it encourages Palestinian intransigence: if Palestinians can destroy the Jewish state just by saying no, they have no incentive to ever say yes.

Second, it could lead Israeli leaders to make concessions that truly do endanger the state’s survival.

Third, it encourages world leaders to pressure Israel into such concessions, by enabling them to claim they’re really doing it for Israel’s own good. After all, if Israel’s own leaders say the state can’t survive without a peace deal, isn’t any concession that might appease the Palestinians, however dangerous, better than the alternative of certain death?

Finally, it demoralizes Israel’s own citizens, most of whom know perfectly well that no peace agreement is attainable in the foreseeable future. If Israel’s continued existence really depends on an unachievable peace, then Israelis have no reason to remain here and no reason to continue sending their sons to fight and die in the state’s defense. And should enough Israelis reach that conclusion, the state really will collapse.

Thus if Israel is to survive another 62 years, it desperately needs its leaders to relearn the wisdom that guided its founders in 1948, when the demographic situation was much worse: that the purpose of independence is precisely to enable the Jewish people to shape Israel’s fate, rather than being the helpless hostages of a hostile nation. The “demographic threat” cannot destroy Israel. But its leaders’ own folly can.

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Obama’s Lonely Nuclear-Free-World Fantasy

Washington Post reporter Mary Beth Sheridan reports that no one is much interested in Obama’s nuclear-free-world fantasy. She writes:

George Perkovich, a prominent nuclear expert, noted in a recent report that nuclear powers such as Russia, China and France had not rallied behind the idea of moving toward global disarmament.

“The result is a talented president ready to lead a long-term campaign to remove the existential threats posed by nuclear weapons, but as yet lacking sufficient colleagues and followers to make it happen,” wrote Perkovich, who is at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

In other words, Obama’s wasting his time on something not likely to bear any fruit. Next up on the agenda is another summit — “200 countries are to gather at the United Nations to review the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).” But alas that seems to be a time waster, too (the same 200 are not, of course, scheduled to consider “crippling sanctions” against Iran):

The NPT is a bargain that gives all signatories the right to nuclear power while barring them from getting a bomb; the original five nuclear powers could keep their weapons but were to take steps toward disarming. India, Pakistan and Israel, all nuclear weapons states, did not sign the treaty and North Korea quit it in 2003.

But it will be difficult to get tougher penalties because the NPT conference operates by consensus. Iran, which is a signatory and maintains that its nuclear program is peaceful, could block changes. To critics, the forum often becomes a place where nuclear have-nots bash the nuclear haves, no matter what they do.

And then at home, the response to the START treaty — another Obama nuclear “accomplishment” — has been underwhelming. The agreement is not likely to be ratified absent confirmation that the treaty doesn’t actually do what it apparently claims to do — namely, put restrictions on U.S. development of missile defense systems.

It wouldn’t be such a source of concern to have a president spinning his wheels if we weren’t experiencing serious threats to our national security. So one can’t help but think that our foes perceive this as confirmation that Obama is indifferent to real provocations and can be diverted into focusing instead on these sorts of largely useless endeavors. An aura of fecklessness, if not foolishness, surrounds this administration. And foes can’t help but take notice — and take advantage.

Washington Post reporter Mary Beth Sheridan reports that no one is much interested in Obama’s nuclear-free-world fantasy. She writes:

George Perkovich, a prominent nuclear expert, noted in a recent report that nuclear powers such as Russia, China and France had not rallied behind the idea of moving toward global disarmament.

“The result is a talented president ready to lead a long-term campaign to remove the existential threats posed by nuclear weapons, but as yet lacking sufficient colleagues and followers to make it happen,” wrote Perkovich, who is at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

In other words, Obama’s wasting his time on something not likely to bear any fruit. Next up on the agenda is another summit — “200 countries are to gather at the United Nations to review the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).” But alas that seems to be a time waster, too (the same 200 are not, of course, scheduled to consider “crippling sanctions” against Iran):

The NPT is a bargain that gives all signatories the right to nuclear power while barring them from getting a bomb; the original five nuclear powers could keep their weapons but were to take steps toward disarming. India, Pakistan and Israel, all nuclear weapons states, did not sign the treaty and North Korea quit it in 2003.

But it will be difficult to get tougher penalties because the NPT conference operates by consensus. Iran, which is a signatory and maintains that its nuclear program is peaceful, could block changes. To critics, the forum often becomes a place where nuclear have-nots bash the nuclear haves, no matter what they do.

And then at home, the response to the START treaty — another Obama nuclear “accomplishment” — has been underwhelming. The agreement is not likely to be ratified absent confirmation that the treaty doesn’t actually do what it apparently claims to do — namely, put restrictions on U.S. development of missile defense systems.

It wouldn’t be such a source of concern to have a president spinning his wheels if we weren’t experiencing serious threats to our national security. So one can’t help but think that our foes perceive this as confirmation that Obama is indifferent to real provocations and can be diverted into focusing instead on these sorts of largely useless endeavors. An aura of fecklessness, if not foolishness, surrounds this administration. And foes can’t help but take notice — and take advantage.

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Lobbying for the Impossible

David Cole, writing in the May 3, 2010, edition of the Nation, notices a curious silence about the Obama administration’s recent decision to green-light the targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen hiding in Yemen who has allegedly encouraged and even planned terrorist attacks against Americans. “In our peculiar post-9/11 world,” he writes, “it is apparently less controversial to kill a suspect in cold blood than to hold him in preventive detention.”

It almost (but not quite) looks like an inversion of our World War II–era policy. Some American soldiers at the time thought it less of a hassle, and no doubt more satisfying, to shoot captured Germans than to herd them off battlefields into prisons. That was not, however, what they were ordered to do. Captured enemy combatants were to be treated decently and held until the war ended. It was the right thing to do, even in a war against Nazi Germany. So that’s what they did, at least most of the time.

Yet here we are, more than 60 years later, with a liberal Democrat in the White House, and a broad swathe of the American public seems more comfortable having a man shot or vaporized by a Predator drone than given three square meals and a mattress for an undefined period.

I agree with Cole that it’s strange, but there’s another way to look at this that he might consider.

“The argument for preventive detention during armed conflicts,” he writes, “has always been that since the army is authorized to kill an enemy combatant, it must be permitted to take the lesser step of detaining him for the duration of the conflict. If so, shouldn’t we be at least as concerned about executive killing as we are about executive detention?”

That’s one way to frame it. Here is another: if killing enemy combatants in the field is okay, why shouldn’t we be able to take the lesser step of detaining them until the end of the conflict?

Cole is quite right that detaining an enemy combatant for the duration is a lesser step than zotting him from the heavens. That would be true no matter how long the conflict grinds on. Even life imprisonment beats the pants off the battlefield equivalent of capital punishment, at least for most people. Imprisonment with the real possibility of being set free beats both.

Maybe I’m reading him wrong, but he seems to be suggesting the U.S. should restrict, if not outright ban, both the targeted killing and indefinite detention of terrorists. There are reasonable suggestions out there for how we could do both slightly differently and a little more ethically, and citizens in democratic societies should always debate these kinds of questions, but a sharp curtailment or prohibition of both would be ludicrous, especially while tens of thousands of our soldiers are deployed in war zones and some unknown but appreciable number of terrorists still plan to wreak havoc.

Some of President George W. Bush’s loudest critics hounded him for years that he hadn’t yet killed Osama bin Laden while also lambasting his administration over the Guantanamo Bay prison facility, the water-boarding of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and so on. Amnesty International even described Guantanamo Bay as the “gulag of our times,” a hysterical overreaction that trivialized the real Soviet gulag and the still existing slave-labor camps in North Korea.

The campaign against the detention and treatment of enemy combatants was so relentless for so many years that Barack Obama announced he would order the prison closed straightaway if the American people elected him president. Actually closing it has proved more difficult than he expected, and he’s getting grief from both the Left and the Right as he struggles to figure out how to proceed. His administration still doesn’t know what to do with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, nor with some of the prisoners his supporters would like to see sprung but who still might be dangerous. It’s no wonder he decided, then, after all this and in part because of all this, that it’s less of a hassle to just have people shot.

Virtually no one but our Left-most intellectuals thinks we should neither kill nor detain terrorists. Barack Obama is the Left-most president we’re likely to have for a while; so if he finds their views unrealistic, they are lobbying for the impossible.

There have been more targeted killings so far during his presidency than there were during all the Bush years combined. Critics like Cole may find, if they think about it, that this is partly their fault, as they’ve spent so much time and energy discrediting the alternative.

David Cole, writing in the May 3, 2010, edition of the Nation, notices a curious silence about the Obama administration’s recent decision to green-light the targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen hiding in Yemen who has allegedly encouraged and even planned terrorist attacks against Americans. “In our peculiar post-9/11 world,” he writes, “it is apparently less controversial to kill a suspect in cold blood than to hold him in preventive detention.”

It almost (but not quite) looks like an inversion of our World War II–era policy. Some American soldiers at the time thought it less of a hassle, and no doubt more satisfying, to shoot captured Germans than to herd them off battlefields into prisons. That was not, however, what they were ordered to do. Captured enemy combatants were to be treated decently and held until the war ended. It was the right thing to do, even in a war against Nazi Germany. So that’s what they did, at least most of the time.

Yet here we are, more than 60 years later, with a liberal Democrat in the White House, and a broad swathe of the American public seems more comfortable having a man shot or vaporized by a Predator drone than given three square meals and a mattress for an undefined period.

I agree with Cole that it’s strange, but there’s another way to look at this that he might consider.

“The argument for preventive detention during armed conflicts,” he writes, “has always been that since the army is authorized to kill an enemy combatant, it must be permitted to take the lesser step of detaining him for the duration of the conflict. If so, shouldn’t we be at least as concerned about executive killing as we are about executive detention?”

That’s one way to frame it. Here is another: if killing enemy combatants in the field is okay, why shouldn’t we be able to take the lesser step of detaining them until the end of the conflict?

Cole is quite right that detaining an enemy combatant for the duration is a lesser step than zotting him from the heavens. That would be true no matter how long the conflict grinds on. Even life imprisonment beats the pants off the battlefield equivalent of capital punishment, at least for most people. Imprisonment with the real possibility of being set free beats both.

Maybe I’m reading him wrong, but he seems to be suggesting the U.S. should restrict, if not outright ban, both the targeted killing and indefinite detention of terrorists. There are reasonable suggestions out there for how we could do both slightly differently and a little more ethically, and citizens in democratic societies should always debate these kinds of questions, but a sharp curtailment or prohibition of both would be ludicrous, especially while tens of thousands of our soldiers are deployed in war zones and some unknown but appreciable number of terrorists still plan to wreak havoc.

Some of President George W. Bush’s loudest critics hounded him for years that he hadn’t yet killed Osama bin Laden while also lambasting his administration over the Guantanamo Bay prison facility, the water-boarding of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and so on. Amnesty International even described Guantanamo Bay as the “gulag of our times,” a hysterical overreaction that trivialized the real Soviet gulag and the still existing slave-labor camps in North Korea.

The campaign against the detention and treatment of enemy combatants was so relentless for so many years that Barack Obama announced he would order the prison closed straightaway if the American people elected him president. Actually closing it has proved more difficult than he expected, and he’s getting grief from both the Left and the Right as he struggles to figure out how to proceed. His administration still doesn’t know what to do with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, nor with some of the prisoners his supporters would like to see sprung but who still might be dangerous. It’s no wonder he decided, then, after all this and in part because of all this, that it’s less of a hassle to just have people shot.

Virtually no one but our Left-most intellectuals thinks we should neither kill nor detain terrorists. Barack Obama is the Left-most president we’re likely to have for a while; so if he finds their views unrealistic, they are lobbying for the impossible.

There have been more targeted killings so far during his presidency than there were during all the Bush years combined. Critics like Cole may find, if they think about it, that this is partly their fault, as they’ve spent so much time and energy discrediting the alternative.

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Spinning the Gates Memo

You knew this was coming: “[Defense Secretary Robert] Gates said that a New York Times article that revealed the existence of the memo ‘mischaracterized its purpose and content’ when it suggested Gates has despaired that the administration lacked a strategy for dealing with Iran’s nuclear program.”

Really, they do have an Iran policy, honest. And the Gates memo didn’t wake up anyone or change anything. A White House spokesman insisted, “It is absolutely false that any memo touched off a reassessment of our options.”

Well, that part is believable. In short, the rush was on to have Gates reassure everyone that the president’s got everything under control:

[T]he administration apparently believed Gates had to address the issue. “There should be no confusion by our allies and adversaries that the United States is properly and energetically focused on this question and prepared to act across a broad range of contingencies in support of our interests,” Gates said.

Feel reassured? Believe the damage control? No, of course not. The Gates memo created a firestorm not because this was news to anyone following the Obami’s unserious Iran strategy but precisely because everyone understands there is no viable plan that Obama seems willing to employ to halt the mullahs’ nuclear program. The Obami’s solution to each and every foreign policy debacle is misdirection (Look — a nonproliferation summit!), misrepresentation (The Chinese are on board!), delay (Maybe in June we’ll have sanctions), and resignation to American feebleness (Well, who’s to say if sanctions will work?).

In the meantime, perhaps Congress should exercise its oversight responsibilities and get Gates up to the Hill to testify. I’m sure it would prove enlightening as he explains what the Obami intend to do if the itty-bitty sanctions don’t work.

You knew this was coming: “[Defense Secretary Robert] Gates said that a New York Times article that revealed the existence of the memo ‘mischaracterized its purpose and content’ when it suggested Gates has despaired that the administration lacked a strategy for dealing with Iran’s nuclear program.”

Really, they do have an Iran policy, honest. And the Gates memo didn’t wake up anyone or change anything. A White House spokesman insisted, “It is absolutely false that any memo touched off a reassessment of our options.”

Well, that part is believable. In short, the rush was on to have Gates reassure everyone that the president’s got everything under control:

[T]he administration apparently believed Gates had to address the issue. “There should be no confusion by our allies and adversaries that the United States is properly and energetically focused on this question and prepared to act across a broad range of contingencies in support of our interests,” Gates said.

Feel reassured? Believe the damage control? No, of course not. The Gates memo created a firestorm not because this was news to anyone following the Obami’s unserious Iran strategy but precisely because everyone understands there is no viable plan that Obama seems willing to employ to halt the mullahs’ nuclear program. The Obami’s solution to each and every foreign policy debacle is misdirection (Look — a nonproliferation summit!), misrepresentation (The Chinese are on board!), delay (Maybe in June we’ll have sanctions), and resignation to American feebleness (Well, who’s to say if sanctions will work?).

In the meantime, perhaps Congress should exercise its oversight responsibilities and get Gates up to the Hill to testify. I’m sure it would prove enlightening as he explains what the Obami intend to do if the itty-bitty sanctions don’t work.

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Guess What: ObamaCare Will Make Insurance More Expensive

Ed Morrissey calls our attention to a New York Times article that makes the case that ObamaCare will likely send health-insurance premiums skyrocketing. The Times looks at New York’s state plan:

New York also became one of the few states that require insurers within each region of the state to charge the same rates for the same benefits, regardless of whether people are old or young, male or female, smokers or nonsmokers, high risk or low risk.

Healthy people, in effect, began to subsidize people who needed more health care. The healthier customers soon discovered that the high premiums were not worth it and dropped out of the plans. The pool of insured people shrank to the point where many of them had high health care needs. Without healthier people to spread the risk, their premiums skyrocketed, a phenomenon known in the trade as the “adverse selection death spiral.”

Hmm. Sounds like what happened in Massachusetts, where, lo and behold, insurance costs continued to climb, and, despite an individual mandate, many people chose to pay the fine rather than pay exorbitant insurance premiums. So in New York, the number of insured has dropped to 31,000 from 128,000 as costs soared to more than double the nation’s average.

As the Times explains, “The new federal health care law tries to avoid the death spiral by requiring everyone to have insurance and penalizing those who do not, as well as offering subsidies to low-income customers. But analysts say that provision could prove meaningless if the government does not vigorously enforce the penalties, as insurance companies fear, or if too many people decide it is cheaper to pay the penalty and opt out.”

So we’re going to force individuals to buy more-expensive plans than they might want (the issue Paul Ryan alluded to at the health-care summit), dump them into pools with high-risk patients, and then hope the costs don’t drive healthier customers out, hiking up the costs for the remaining individuals, who will look to the government for ever-increasing subsidies. Remarkable isn’t it, that the Democrats never looked, or cared to look, at the experience of Massachusetts and New York before jamming through their historic legislation? But then they didn’t much care in the end what was in it or how the CBO flimflam scoring was arrived at. What was important is that they had a “win.”

Now that we’re getting a good idea at what they’ve done, it certainly boosts the “repeal and replace” effort. It would seem the responsible thing to do before the entire country winds up like New York or Massachusetts — with sky-high insurance costs and a new budget-busting entitlement, and nothing approximating “universal coverage.”

Ed Morrissey calls our attention to a New York Times article that makes the case that ObamaCare will likely send health-insurance premiums skyrocketing. The Times looks at New York’s state plan:

New York also became one of the few states that require insurers within each region of the state to charge the same rates for the same benefits, regardless of whether people are old or young, male or female, smokers or nonsmokers, high risk or low risk.

Healthy people, in effect, began to subsidize people who needed more health care. The healthier customers soon discovered that the high premiums were not worth it and dropped out of the plans. The pool of insured people shrank to the point where many of them had high health care needs. Without healthier people to spread the risk, their premiums skyrocketed, a phenomenon known in the trade as the “adverse selection death spiral.”

Hmm. Sounds like what happened in Massachusetts, where, lo and behold, insurance costs continued to climb, and, despite an individual mandate, many people chose to pay the fine rather than pay exorbitant insurance premiums. So in New York, the number of insured has dropped to 31,000 from 128,000 as costs soared to more than double the nation’s average.

As the Times explains, “The new federal health care law tries to avoid the death spiral by requiring everyone to have insurance and penalizing those who do not, as well as offering subsidies to low-income customers. But analysts say that provision could prove meaningless if the government does not vigorously enforce the penalties, as insurance companies fear, or if too many people decide it is cheaper to pay the penalty and opt out.”

So we’re going to force individuals to buy more-expensive plans than they might want (the issue Paul Ryan alluded to at the health-care summit), dump them into pools with high-risk patients, and then hope the costs don’t drive healthier customers out, hiking up the costs for the remaining individuals, who will look to the government for ever-increasing subsidies. Remarkable isn’t it, that the Democrats never looked, or cared to look, at the experience of Massachusetts and New York before jamming through their historic legislation? But then they didn’t much care in the end what was in it or how the CBO flimflam scoring was arrived at. What was important is that they had a “win.”

Now that we’re getting a good idea at what they’ve done, it certainly boosts the “repeal and replace” effort. It would seem the responsible thing to do before the entire country winds up like New York or Massachusetts — with sky-high insurance costs and a new budget-busting entitlement, and nothing approximating “universal coverage.”

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The Backlash Against Obamism

Andrew Kohut, the president of Pew Research, confirms the trend that’s been developing since the 2008 election:

A desire for smaller government is particularly evident since Barack Obama took office. In four surveys over the past year, about half have consistently said they would rather have a smaller government with fewer services, while about 40% have consistently preferred a bigger government providing more services. In October 2008, shortly before the presidential election, the public was evenly split on this question.

The public is now divided over whether it is a good idea for the government to exert more control over the economy than it has in recent years. Just 40% say this is a good idea, while a 51% majority says it is not. Last March, by 54% to 37%, more people said it was a good idea for the government to exert more control over the economy. The exception here is the undiminished support for the government to more strictly regulate the way major financial companies do business. This is favored by a 61% to 31% margin.

And while anti-government sentiment in general is up, Democrats are the target of most of the public’s anger and “a more significant driver of possible turnout among Republicans and independents than among Democrats.” Independents, Kohut notes, “favor the Republican candidates in their districts by an overwhelming 66% to 13% margin.”

Kohut doesn’t delve into the motivation for this swing. One can, like the Democrats, chalk this up to random anger and misplaced anxiety. But that assumes that the electorate has not been paying attention or has been bamboozled by, well, by whom isn’t certain. Or one can give the voters some credit and see the connection between voter sentiment and what it is that the Democrats have done while in office. It seems logical that the enormous uptick in debt and spending, the massive health-care bill, the bailouts, and the car-company takeovers have sparked a significant voter backlash.

We will see in November whether voters are irrationally angry with everyone in office or whether their ire is directed at those who sought a huge expansion of the scope and power of the federal government. If it’s the latter case, I’m sure the Democrats will come up with some excuse. But by then it’ll be hard to miss the message: a vast overreach by the Democrats has sparked a revival of the public’s distaste for liberal statism.

Andrew Kohut, the president of Pew Research, confirms the trend that’s been developing since the 2008 election:

A desire for smaller government is particularly evident since Barack Obama took office. In four surveys over the past year, about half have consistently said they would rather have a smaller government with fewer services, while about 40% have consistently preferred a bigger government providing more services. In October 2008, shortly before the presidential election, the public was evenly split on this question.

The public is now divided over whether it is a good idea for the government to exert more control over the economy than it has in recent years. Just 40% say this is a good idea, while a 51% majority says it is not. Last March, by 54% to 37%, more people said it was a good idea for the government to exert more control over the economy. The exception here is the undiminished support for the government to more strictly regulate the way major financial companies do business. This is favored by a 61% to 31% margin.

And while anti-government sentiment in general is up, Democrats are the target of most of the public’s anger and “a more significant driver of possible turnout among Republicans and independents than among Democrats.” Independents, Kohut notes, “favor the Republican candidates in their districts by an overwhelming 66% to 13% margin.”

Kohut doesn’t delve into the motivation for this swing. One can, like the Democrats, chalk this up to random anger and misplaced anxiety. But that assumes that the electorate has not been paying attention or has been bamboozled by, well, by whom isn’t certain. Or one can give the voters some credit and see the connection between voter sentiment and what it is that the Democrats have done while in office. It seems logical that the enormous uptick in debt and spending, the massive health-care bill, the bailouts, and the car-company takeovers have sparked a significant voter backlash.

We will see in November whether voters are irrationally angry with everyone in office or whether their ire is directed at those who sought a huge expansion of the scope and power of the federal government. If it’s the latter case, I’m sure the Democrats will come up with some excuse. But by then it’ll be hard to miss the message: a vast overreach by the Democrats has sparked a revival of the public’s distaste for liberal statism.

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John McCain: Pull the Trigger

John McCain and Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday had the following exchange over the news that Defense Secretary Robert Gates sent up a warning flare that Obama doesn’t have a viable plan to prevent the mullahs from going nuclear:

MCCAIN: I didn’t need a secret memo from Mr. Gates to ascertain that. We do not have a coherent policy. I think that’s pretty obvious. We keep threatening sanctions. We keep, for well over a year now — in fact, including the previous administration — we keep threatening.

And obviously, we have not done anything that would in any way be viewed effective. Former secretary of state George Shultz once told me — he said, My old Marine drill instructor said never point a gun at somebody unless you’re willing to pull the trigger.

We have to be willing to pull the trigger on significant sanctions. And then we have to make plans for whatever contingencies follow if those sanctions are not effective. … I believe that the Chinese and the Russians will not be particularly helpful.

So why don’t we get our European allies together and let’s impose sanctions from that aspect of it? Maybe that would embarrass somehow or force the Russians and Chinese to act in a more cooperative fashion.

WALLACE: So forget the U.N., just impose …

MCCAIN: Maybe not forget the U.N., but certainly go ahead and move forward with some serious, meaningful sanctions.

WALLACE: What are sanctions?

MCCAIN: Well, refined petroleum products is one. The other, I think, is stand up for the human rights of the people of Iran. Put the pictures of those people who were brutalizing and killing and torturing the demonstrators and the people who are standing up for their God-given rights. Make them famous. We did that in certain respects during the Cold War.

WALLACE: And what about military action?

MCCAIN: Well, I think, obviously, every contingency has to be on the table. I think that we — it’s pretty clear that the Israelis cannot live with a nuclear-armed Iran. We saw news reports that the Syrians have moved Scud missiles into southern Lebanon. That is a serious escalatory move. Now Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are within range of Scud missiles.

So I think that we have to have contingency plans. But I do agree with most experts. Let’s try to get the pressure on from all directions, tough, tough sanctions, and stand up for the people that want and obviously are demonstrating in the streets and are being brutalized in the prisons.

The fact that Gates’s January memo was leaked now — following Obama’s dog-and-pony nuclear summit show — suggests that someone in the administration is nervous that the Obami have made precious little progress in devising an alternative to its que sera, sera stance toward a nuclear-armed Iran. The choice comes down to this: Obama’s mini-sanctions (which increasingly seem to be a slow walk to containment) or the toughest unilateral sanctions we can muster with a credible threat of military force if those sanctions don’t succeed. Unfortunately, by downplaying the use of force (and let’s be candid, Gates contributed to this by contributing his fair share of the bad-mouthing), such a threat is going to be all the more difficult to muster.

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the Obami have done an extremely effective job of eliminating or hampering the most serious options for thwarting Iran’s nuclear ambitions. It may come as news to the Gray Lady’s readers, but for Obama’s conservative critics, it’s hardly surprising that when a president is reluctant to flex America’s “hard power,” the world becomes a more dangerous place.

John McCain and Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday had the following exchange over the news that Defense Secretary Robert Gates sent up a warning flare that Obama doesn’t have a viable plan to prevent the mullahs from going nuclear:

MCCAIN: I didn’t need a secret memo from Mr. Gates to ascertain that. We do not have a coherent policy. I think that’s pretty obvious. We keep threatening sanctions. We keep, for well over a year now — in fact, including the previous administration — we keep threatening.

And obviously, we have not done anything that would in any way be viewed effective. Former secretary of state George Shultz once told me — he said, My old Marine drill instructor said never point a gun at somebody unless you’re willing to pull the trigger.

We have to be willing to pull the trigger on significant sanctions. And then we have to make plans for whatever contingencies follow if those sanctions are not effective. … I believe that the Chinese and the Russians will not be particularly helpful.

So why don’t we get our European allies together and let’s impose sanctions from that aspect of it? Maybe that would embarrass somehow or force the Russians and Chinese to act in a more cooperative fashion.

WALLACE: So forget the U.N., just impose …

MCCAIN: Maybe not forget the U.N., but certainly go ahead and move forward with some serious, meaningful sanctions.

WALLACE: What are sanctions?

MCCAIN: Well, refined petroleum products is one. The other, I think, is stand up for the human rights of the people of Iran. Put the pictures of those people who were brutalizing and killing and torturing the demonstrators and the people who are standing up for their God-given rights. Make them famous. We did that in certain respects during the Cold War.

WALLACE: And what about military action?

MCCAIN: Well, I think, obviously, every contingency has to be on the table. I think that we — it’s pretty clear that the Israelis cannot live with a nuclear-armed Iran. We saw news reports that the Syrians have moved Scud missiles into southern Lebanon. That is a serious escalatory move. Now Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are within range of Scud missiles.

So I think that we have to have contingency plans. But I do agree with most experts. Let’s try to get the pressure on from all directions, tough, tough sanctions, and stand up for the people that want and obviously are demonstrating in the streets and are being brutalized in the prisons.

The fact that Gates’s January memo was leaked now — following Obama’s dog-and-pony nuclear summit show — suggests that someone in the administration is nervous that the Obami have made precious little progress in devising an alternative to its que sera, sera stance toward a nuclear-armed Iran. The choice comes down to this: Obama’s mini-sanctions (which increasingly seem to be a slow walk to containment) or the toughest unilateral sanctions we can muster with a credible threat of military force if those sanctions don’t succeed. Unfortunately, by downplaying the use of force (and let’s be candid, Gates contributed to this by contributing his fair share of the bad-mouthing), such a threat is going to be all the more difficult to muster.

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the Obami have done an extremely effective job of eliminating or hampering the most serious options for thwarting Iran’s nuclear ambitions. It may come as news to the Gray Lady’s readers, but for Obama’s conservative critics, it’s hardly surprising that when a president is reluctant to flex America’s “hard power,” the world becomes a more dangerous place.

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Human Rights Under the Bus — Again

It’s no secret that Obama is not enamored of democracy promotion or human rights advocacy. He has done as little as possible to aid the Green Movement in Iran, and in fact has cut funding to groups promoting democracy and documenting human rights abuses. His Sudan envoy is reviled by human rights advocates. He has engaged despotic governments in Burma and Syria, been largely mute on the atrocities against women in the “Muslim World,” and shoved human rights aside in hopes China would agree to sanctions against Iran. He has shown no interest in promoting religious freedom. Now he’s giving the back of the hand to Egyptian and Jordanian democracy advocates:

President Barack Obama has dramatically cut funds to promote democracy in Egypt, a shift that could affect everything from anti-corruption programs to the monitoring of elections.

Washington’s cuts over the past year — amounting to around 50 percent — have drawn accusations that the Obama administration is easing off reform pressure on the autocratic government of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to ensure its support on Mideast policy, including the peace process with Israel.

“Obama wants change that won’t make the Egyptian government angry,” said Ahmed Samih, head of a Cairo-based organization that in 2005 used U.S. funds to monitor parliament elections. And in the Egyptian context, that means there will be no change. …

The administration has made similar cuts in democracy aid to Jordan, another U.S. ally.

It is not merely that “Obama has moved away from his predecessor George W. Bush’s aggressive push to democratize the regimes of the Middle East”; it is that Obama sees democracy and human rights as afterthoughts or, worse, impediments to his smooth dealings with the world’s despots. The erosion of America’s moral standing won’t easily be reversed, nor will despotic regimes be restrained in abusing their own people (at least not until there is a less-indifferent Oval Office occupant). Obama has not used his vaunted eloquence or his supposed international popularity to advocate for the repressed around the world. To the contrary, he has enabled and encouraged oppressors, who for now need not fear that they will suffer any adverse consequences from the American president.

It’s no secret that Obama is not enamored of democracy promotion or human rights advocacy. He has done as little as possible to aid the Green Movement in Iran, and in fact has cut funding to groups promoting democracy and documenting human rights abuses. His Sudan envoy is reviled by human rights advocates. He has engaged despotic governments in Burma and Syria, been largely mute on the atrocities against women in the “Muslim World,” and shoved human rights aside in hopes China would agree to sanctions against Iran. He has shown no interest in promoting religious freedom. Now he’s giving the back of the hand to Egyptian and Jordanian democracy advocates:

President Barack Obama has dramatically cut funds to promote democracy in Egypt, a shift that could affect everything from anti-corruption programs to the monitoring of elections.

Washington’s cuts over the past year — amounting to around 50 percent — have drawn accusations that the Obama administration is easing off reform pressure on the autocratic government of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to ensure its support on Mideast policy, including the peace process with Israel.

“Obama wants change that won’t make the Egyptian government angry,” said Ahmed Samih, head of a Cairo-based organization that in 2005 used U.S. funds to monitor parliament elections. And in the Egyptian context, that means there will be no change. …

The administration has made similar cuts in democracy aid to Jordan, another U.S. ally.

It is not merely that “Obama has moved away from his predecessor George W. Bush’s aggressive push to democratize the regimes of the Middle East”; it is that Obama sees democracy and human rights as afterthoughts or, worse, impediments to his smooth dealings with the world’s despots. The erosion of America’s moral standing won’t easily be reversed, nor will despotic regimes be restrained in abusing their own people (at least not until there is a less-indifferent Oval Office occupant). Obama has not used his vaunted eloquence or his supposed international popularity to advocate for the repressed around the world. To the contrary, he has enabled and encouraged oppressors, who for now need not fear that they will suffer any adverse consequences from the American president.

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