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Posts For: May 30, 2010

RE: The National Security Strategy of 2010. Or 2006. Whatever.

If Max is with his former boss in being underwhelmed by the 2010 NSS, then I’m with Max. His comparison to Bush’s 2002 NSS is the first one that came to my mind: like it or loathe it, that NSS took the risk of actually saying something clear, bold, and controversial. Of course, Bush paid the price for that, which is why Obama — as every future administration will do — ensured that he fulfilled the legal requirement to produce an NSS in the most boring, committee-driven, toss-a-bone-to-everyone way.

Of course there is, to put it charitably, something a touch eccentric in the idea that we should publish our actual security strategy for enemy consumption. But the fashion is spreading. Britain, heaven help us, now produces an NSS too. And instead of updating it every four years, it is aiming for annual updates, which will turn an increasingly pointless quadrennial marathon into a continuous plod. The really painful thing is that Britain’s 2009 strategy is even more obviously an omnibus than Obama’s: it weighs in at 112 pages, almost double the size of its 2008 edition. A strategy of 60 pages is no strategy. A strategy of 112 is even less of one.

But I will disagree, just slightly, with Max’s take that this is Bush 2006 redux, said more nicely. There is more to it than that. First, this is the third major strategy document the administration has published in recent months: first there was the Quadrennial Defense Review, then the Nuclear Posture Review, and now the NSS. What stands out for me is that none of these documents did what it promised to do on the front cover. The QDR was crafted to justify policies that had already been selected before the review process concluded. The NPR was designed not as a serious assessment of the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. strategy but rather as an essay in nonproliferation by public diplomacy.

And while the NSS may in substance have a lot in common with Bush 2006, it tries very hard to avoid admitting that, which means the strategy is ultimately at war with itself. Perhaps this is what we have to expect when an engagement- and soft-power-minded administration comes up against the realities of the world and the legal requirement to produce strategic reviews, but that does not make the results any more impressive.

Second, in its more forthright areas, the NSS has almost nothing to do with the administration’s actual policies. There is a promise of “seamless coordination among Federal, state, and local govern­ments to prevent, protect against, and respond to threats and natural disasters.” Seamless coordination, meet the Gulf oil spill. There is the inevitable nod toward creating an international system where “nations have incentives to act responsibly, while facing consequences when they do not.” Consequences, meet Iran, Venezuela, Burma, and Sudan. And there is the “if it wasn’t so serious I’d be laughing” claim that “our commitment to deficit reduction will discipline us to make hard choices, and to avoid overreach.” Deficit reduction, meet President Obama.

And third — and to me most troubling — while the NSS lists a great many problems, it is a good deal less adept at explaining why they exist. Al-Qaeda “are not religious leaders, they are killers.” Fine: but Islamism is an ideology, and simply denying that it has any religious content at all achieves nothing. “For decades, the Islamic Republic of Iran has endangered the security of the region and the United States and failed to live up to its international responsibilities.” True: but this is not because its leaders are dense, or have had no opportunities to change their ways. It’s because they have both an ideology and an interest in preserving their regime. In Russia, “We support efforts … to promote the rule of law, accountable government, and universal values.” Great: but that has nothing at all to do with Vladimir Putin’s vision for Russia.

The fundamental problem with the NSS isn’t that it’s warmed-over Bush. It’s that at its core it has an incoherent model of the world, and especially of the state system and the international order built on it. For the NSS, problems exist, but they are not caused by ideologies. They are caused by governments that for some reason will not cooperate, or movements that mysteriously want to kill people, or global forces that for some reason have sprung into being. Indeed, the NSS’s only mention of ideology is to claim that it is an irrelevant, old-fashioned concept that no longer causes wars. This is ridiculous. Ideology — and the regime interests the hostile ideologies define — is what makes engagement a fallacy and the NSS’s vision of a renewed international order a non-starter: if every state really wanted the existing order to work, it would do so.

The NSS’s approach is, in the end, both solipsistic and contradictory: by claiming that everyone has moved beyond ideology, it ignores reality and presents a vision that is actually deeply ideological. And that makes it a pretty fair summary of the Obama administration’s approach to the world.

If Max is with his former boss in being underwhelmed by the 2010 NSS, then I’m with Max. His comparison to Bush’s 2002 NSS is the first one that came to my mind: like it or loathe it, that NSS took the risk of actually saying something clear, bold, and controversial. Of course, Bush paid the price for that, which is why Obama — as every future administration will do — ensured that he fulfilled the legal requirement to produce an NSS in the most boring, committee-driven, toss-a-bone-to-everyone way.

Of course there is, to put it charitably, something a touch eccentric in the idea that we should publish our actual security strategy for enemy consumption. But the fashion is spreading. Britain, heaven help us, now produces an NSS too. And instead of updating it every four years, it is aiming for annual updates, which will turn an increasingly pointless quadrennial marathon into a continuous plod. The really painful thing is that Britain’s 2009 strategy is even more obviously an omnibus than Obama’s: it weighs in at 112 pages, almost double the size of its 2008 edition. A strategy of 60 pages is no strategy. A strategy of 112 is even less of one.

But I will disagree, just slightly, with Max’s take that this is Bush 2006 redux, said more nicely. There is more to it than that. First, this is the third major strategy document the administration has published in recent months: first there was the Quadrennial Defense Review, then the Nuclear Posture Review, and now the NSS. What stands out for me is that none of these documents did what it promised to do on the front cover. The QDR was crafted to justify policies that had already been selected before the review process concluded. The NPR was designed not as a serious assessment of the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. strategy but rather as an essay in nonproliferation by public diplomacy.

And while the NSS may in substance have a lot in common with Bush 2006, it tries very hard to avoid admitting that, which means the strategy is ultimately at war with itself. Perhaps this is what we have to expect when an engagement- and soft-power-minded administration comes up against the realities of the world and the legal requirement to produce strategic reviews, but that does not make the results any more impressive.

Second, in its more forthright areas, the NSS has almost nothing to do with the administration’s actual policies. There is a promise of “seamless coordination among Federal, state, and local govern­ments to prevent, protect against, and respond to threats and natural disasters.” Seamless coordination, meet the Gulf oil spill. There is the inevitable nod toward creating an international system where “nations have incentives to act responsibly, while facing consequences when they do not.” Consequences, meet Iran, Venezuela, Burma, and Sudan. And there is the “if it wasn’t so serious I’d be laughing” claim that “our commitment to deficit reduction will discipline us to make hard choices, and to avoid overreach.” Deficit reduction, meet President Obama.

And third — and to me most troubling — while the NSS lists a great many problems, it is a good deal less adept at explaining why they exist. Al-Qaeda “are not religious leaders, they are killers.” Fine: but Islamism is an ideology, and simply denying that it has any religious content at all achieves nothing. “For decades, the Islamic Republic of Iran has endangered the security of the region and the United States and failed to live up to its international responsibilities.” True: but this is not because its leaders are dense, or have had no opportunities to change their ways. It’s because they have both an ideology and an interest in preserving their regime. In Russia, “We support efforts … to promote the rule of law, accountable government, and universal values.” Great: but that has nothing at all to do with Vladimir Putin’s vision for Russia.

The fundamental problem with the NSS isn’t that it’s warmed-over Bush. It’s that at its core it has an incoherent model of the world, and especially of the state system and the international order built on it. For the NSS, problems exist, but they are not caused by ideologies. They are caused by governments that for some reason will not cooperate, or movements that mysteriously want to kill people, or global forces that for some reason have sprung into being. Indeed, the NSS’s only mention of ideology is to claim that it is an irrelevant, old-fashioned concept that no longer causes wars. This is ridiculous. Ideology — and the regime interests the hostile ideologies define — is what makes engagement a fallacy and the NSS’s vision of a renewed international order a non-starter: if every state really wanted the existing order to work, it would do so.

The NSS’s approach is, in the end, both solipsistic and contradictory: by claiming that everyone has moved beyond ideology, it ignores reality and presents a vision that is actually deeply ideological. And that makes it a pretty fair summary of the Obama administration’s approach to the world.

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Follow the CUFI Example

The “sick addiction” to the Democratic Party prevents the majority of American Jewry from recognizing who their true pro-Israel allies are. RedState reports:

Congressional candidate Pamela Gorman today signed the “Israel Pledge” sponsored by Christians United for Israel today. Gorman said, “Too many politicians are afraid to offend someone by speaking the truth about what is going on in this country with our Israel relations under this administration. I am unapologetically pro-Israel and am not afraid to publicly say it.”

Two things are noteworthy here. First, a conservative Christian is vocally opposing Obama in Arizona (not exactly the center of American Jewry):

Gorman’s publicly stated position on U.S. relations with Israel is that the Obama administration’s treatment of Israel and possible future policies are unacceptable. Israel has been our closest ally in the Middle East for many years and a key stabilizing nation as well as key partner in the war on terror. But, the U.S. Congress can, and must, do all it can to mitigate his mistakes. Gorman explains, “I feel the relationship with Israel is vital to our national security, but also that we have a moral obligation to provide protection. As an evangelical Christian, my concern for how our nation provides for Israel’s protection also reflects my firmly held belief in the Holy Scriptures where Israel is concerned. As such, my positions is both a strategic and personal.”

Second, CUFI, but no mainstream Jewish organization, has an Israel pledge. It’s not all that controversial, nor does it reference Christianity:

We believe that the Jewish people have a right to live in their ancient land of Israel, and that the modern State of Israel is the fulfillment of this historic right.

We maintain that there is no excuse for acts of terrorism against Israel and that Israel has the same right as every other nation to defend her citizens from such violent attacks.

We pledge to stand with our brothers and sisters in Israel and to speak out on their behalf whenever and wherever necessary until the attacks stop and they are finally living in peace and security with their neighbors.

Perhaps some Jewish group should do the same: issue a pledge that would truly separate the pro-Israel candidates and those who proclaim their devotion to Israel but seek to hobble the Jewish state. How about it? Or would the pledge be too “controversial” and too “divisive” in the Jewish community? If so, it is a powerful and disturbing sign of the state of American Jewry.

The “sick addiction” to the Democratic Party prevents the majority of American Jewry from recognizing who their true pro-Israel allies are. RedState reports:

Congressional candidate Pamela Gorman today signed the “Israel Pledge” sponsored by Christians United for Israel today. Gorman said, “Too many politicians are afraid to offend someone by speaking the truth about what is going on in this country with our Israel relations under this administration. I am unapologetically pro-Israel and am not afraid to publicly say it.”

Two things are noteworthy here. First, a conservative Christian is vocally opposing Obama in Arizona (not exactly the center of American Jewry):

Gorman’s publicly stated position on U.S. relations with Israel is that the Obama administration’s treatment of Israel and possible future policies are unacceptable. Israel has been our closest ally in the Middle East for many years and a key stabilizing nation as well as key partner in the war on terror. But, the U.S. Congress can, and must, do all it can to mitigate his mistakes. Gorman explains, “I feel the relationship with Israel is vital to our national security, but also that we have a moral obligation to provide protection. As an evangelical Christian, my concern for how our nation provides for Israel’s protection also reflects my firmly held belief in the Holy Scriptures where Israel is concerned. As such, my positions is both a strategic and personal.”

Second, CUFI, but no mainstream Jewish organization, has an Israel pledge. It’s not all that controversial, nor does it reference Christianity:

We believe that the Jewish people have a right to live in their ancient land of Israel, and that the modern State of Israel is the fulfillment of this historic right.

We maintain that there is no excuse for acts of terrorism against Israel and that Israel has the same right as every other nation to defend her citizens from such violent attacks.

We pledge to stand with our brothers and sisters in Israel and to speak out on their behalf whenever and wherever necessary until the attacks stop and they are finally living in peace and security with their neighbors.

Perhaps some Jewish group should do the same: issue a pledge that would truly separate the pro-Israel candidates and those who proclaim their devotion to Israel but seek to hobble the Jewish state. How about it? Or would the pledge be too “controversial” and too “divisive” in the Jewish community? If so, it is a powerful and disturbing sign of the state of American Jewry.

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You Can Take the Pol Out of Chicago. . .

As he often does, Obama tried to distance himself from his own administration’s mess. He ducked a personal response and had his lawyer issue a memo on the Joe Sestak job-offer scandal on the Friday before Memorial Day. He thereby succeeded in revealing that Sestak is a fabulist, his own White House is little more than a Blago-like operation, an ex-president has been reduced to the the role of a “cut out,” and the whole lot of them practice the same sleazy-politics-as usual that Obama ran against (which, ironically, was symbolized in the primary by Hillary Clinton).

The White House counsel says it really wasn’t the secretary of the Navy post that was offered. It was an unpaid advisory-board position. A few problems there. You send a former president to offer that to avoid a primary fight? And more important, it doesn’t get over the legal hurdle. As Hans von Spakovsky explains:

[White House Counsel Robert] Bauer admits that Rahm Emanuel asked Bill Clinton to offer Sestak an appointment to a “Presidential or other Senior Executive Branch Advisory Board,” and that the appointment would be attractive, i.e., a benefit. The statute does not absolve you of liability if you are offering someone an uncompensated appointment. It also specifies that you are guilty of a violation if you make such an offer “directly or indirectly.” Moreover, since the executive branch may not spend money that is not appropriated by Congress, any such board would be authorized by or at least paid for by an “Act of Congress.”

And boy, did they pick the wrong election cycle to pull this. The underlying gambit is bad enough, but the roll out of the explanation is potentially worse and will be thrown in Sestak’s face in the election. The stall. The lawyer swooping in with the cover story. The process of getting everyone on the same page. It is precisely what the voters are screaming about: backroom deals, evasive pols, lack of transparency, and dishonesty. Obama has made perfect hash out of the race, first by pulling the weather vane Arlen Specter into the Democratic Party, then trying to unsuccessfully push the opponent out of the way, and finally by sullying everyone involved.

Obama has been compared to Jimmy Carter (in his misguided notions about the world), to Richard Nixon (in his sleazy backroom dealing and lack of transparency) and to LBJ (in his infatuation with government). Unfortunately, it appears that he embodies the worst of three unsuccessful presidents. And like all three, he may manage to drag his party down with him.

As he often does, Obama tried to distance himself from his own administration’s mess. He ducked a personal response and had his lawyer issue a memo on the Joe Sestak job-offer scandal on the Friday before Memorial Day. He thereby succeeded in revealing that Sestak is a fabulist, his own White House is little more than a Blago-like operation, an ex-president has been reduced to the the role of a “cut out,” and the whole lot of them practice the same sleazy-politics-as usual that Obama ran against (which, ironically, was symbolized in the primary by Hillary Clinton).

The White House counsel says it really wasn’t the secretary of the Navy post that was offered. It was an unpaid advisory-board position. A few problems there. You send a former president to offer that to avoid a primary fight? And more important, it doesn’t get over the legal hurdle. As Hans von Spakovsky explains:

[White House Counsel Robert] Bauer admits that Rahm Emanuel asked Bill Clinton to offer Sestak an appointment to a “Presidential or other Senior Executive Branch Advisory Board,” and that the appointment would be attractive, i.e., a benefit. The statute does not absolve you of liability if you are offering someone an uncompensated appointment. It also specifies that you are guilty of a violation if you make such an offer “directly or indirectly.” Moreover, since the executive branch may not spend money that is not appropriated by Congress, any such board would be authorized by or at least paid for by an “Act of Congress.”

And boy, did they pick the wrong election cycle to pull this. The underlying gambit is bad enough, but the roll out of the explanation is potentially worse and will be thrown in Sestak’s face in the election. The stall. The lawyer swooping in with the cover story. The process of getting everyone on the same page. It is precisely what the voters are screaming about: backroom deals, evasive pols, lack of transparency, and dishonesty. Obama has made perfect hash out of the race, first by pulling the weather vane Arlen Specter into the Democratic Party, then trying to unsuccessfully push the opponent out of the way, and finally by sullying everyone involved.

Obama has been compared to Jimmy Carter (in his misguided notions about the world), to Richard Nixon (in his sleazy backroom dealing and lack of transparency) and to LBJ (in his infatuation with government). Unfortunately, it appears that he embodies the worst of three unsuccessful presidents. And like all three, he may manage to drag his party down with him.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

It took Barack Obama to turn an ex-president into a sleazy “bag man.”

What will it take for the left to break with the anti-Semites, racists, and Israel-bashers? “Democracy for America, the progressive group that grew out of Howard Dean’s campaign for president, is standing by its support for a House candidate who backs a radical single-state solution in the Middle East and suggested in an interview that Jewish Reps. Jane Harman and Henry Waxman should ‘pledge allegiance to this country as the country they represent.”

Will Obama take this opportunity to dump the witch hunt against CIA interrogators? Stephen Hayes recommends that he should: “The repercussions have been severe. CIA operators, already risk averse, are today far less willing to take risks in the field out of fear that a wrong decision, even a legal one that produced crucial intelligence, could send them to jail. Obama should also insist that the Justice Department aggressively investigate the alleged exposure of CIA officials by lawyers representing Guantánamo detainees. Photographs of officials were discovered in the cell of Mustafa Ahmed al Hawsawi and were reportedly provided by investigators working for the ACLU and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. John Rizzo, former CIA general counsel and a 30-year intelligence veteran, said that the breach was far graver than the leak of Valerie Plame’s name.”

It took a few weeks of criticism to reveal Peter Beinart’s vile attitudes toward his fellow Jews: Nathan Diament on Beinart’s latest outburst in the Israel-hating the New York Review of Books: “Peter goes way beyond debating substance and drifts into stereotyping and calumny, saying: ‘the same sort of settler fanatics who burn Palestinian olive groves also assassinated an Israeli prime minister. The same ultra-Orthodox hooligans who burn Christian holy books also attack Jewish women trying to pray at the Western Wall.’ He also slams Rav Ovadia Yosef and, apparently, anyone else in Israel who, we suppose, doesn’t agree with his view — or that of the editorial board of Ha’aretz — as to precisely what ought to happen.”

It took a year and a half of Obama’s presidency to ruin Blanche Lincoln’s career: “[Arkansas’s] larger bloc of conservative Democrats and independents upset over the perception that the incumbent is overly cozy with the unpopular President Obama, the Agriculture Committee chair and Delta farmer’s daughter finds her 18-year congressional career in grave jeopardy.”

It took a determined Jewish mom from Los Angeles to figure out it only took a $15 dollar solar cooker (made of cardboard and aluminum) to help protect “female [Darfur] refugees who were being ruthlessly subjected to physical and sexual brutality when they left the relative safety of their refugee camps.” She’s done more for human rights in Darfur — much more — than Obama and his embarrassingly ineffective special envoy have.

Have you noticed that Democrats aren’t so willing to take unpopular stands for this president on national security? “The Senate Armed Services Committee dealt a big setback to President Obama’s plans to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay when lawmakers stripped funding for a new prison in Illinois to hold the detainees. Committee Chairman Carl Levin on Friday told reporters the committee, in a voice vote, stripped $245 million that would have gone to buy and retrofit the Thomson prison in Illinois.”

Charles Hurt catches Obama taking responsibility for “zilch” at his BP oil-spill press conference: “It was yet another performance of the ‘full responsibility’ flimflam. … President Obama repeatedly took ‘full responsibility’ for the blundering efforts to clog up the geyser of crude oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico coating everything in sight. At the same time, Obama repeatedly denied that his administration was complicit in allowing the catastrophe to happen in the first place, slow to realize the devastating nature of it, or ham-handed in the five-week effort to try to stem the toxic tide. In other words, Obama — as he often does — took ‘full responsibility’ for being awesome.”

It took Barack Obama to turn an ex-president into a sleazy “bag man.”

What will it take for the left to break with the anti-Semites, racists, and Israel-bashers? “Democracy for America, the progressive group that grew out of Howard Dean’s campaign for president, is standing by its support for a House candidate who backs a radical single-state solution in the Middle East and suggested in an interview that Jewish Reps. Jane Harman and Henry Waxman should ‘pledge allegiance to this country as the country they represent.”

Will Obama take this opportunity to dump the witch hunt against CIA interrogators? Stephen Hayes recommends that he should: “The repercussions have been severe. CIA operators, already risk averse, are today far less willing to take risks in the field out of fear that a wrong decision, even a legal one that produced crucial intelligence, could send them to jail. Obama should also insist that the Justice Department aggressively investigate the alleged exposure of CIA officials by lawyers representing Guantánamo detainees. Photographs of officials were discovered in the cell of Mustafa Ahmed al Hawsawi and were reportedly provided by investigators working for the ACLU and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. John Rizzo, former CIA general counsel and a 30-year intelligence veteran, said that the breach was far graver than the leak of Valerie Plame’s name.”

It took a few weeks of criticism to reveal Peter Beinart’s vile attitudes toward his fellow Jews: Nathan Diament on Beinart’s latest outburst in the Israel-hating the New York Review of Books: “Peter goes way beyond debating substance and drifts into stereotyping and calumny, saying: ‘the same sort of settler fanatics who burn Palestinian olive groves also assassinated an Israeli prime minister. The same ultra-Orthodox hooligans who burn Christian holy books also attack Jewish women trying to pray at the Western Wall.’ He also slams Rav Ovadia Yosef and, apparently, anyone else in Israel who, we suppose, doesn’t agree with his view — or that of the editorial board of Ha’aretz — as to precisely what ought to happen.”

It took a year and a half of Obama’s presidency to ruin Blanche Lincoln’s career: “[Arkansas’s] larger bloc of conservative Democrats and independents upset over the perception that the incumbent is overly cozy with the unpopular President Obama, the Agriculture Committee chair and Delta farmer’s daughter finds her 18-year congressional career in grave jeopardy.”

It took a determined Jewish mom from Los Angeles to figure out it only took a $15 dollar solar cooker (made of cardboard and aluminum) to help protect “female [Darfur] refugees who were being ruthlessly subjected to physical and sexual brutality when they left the relative safety of their refugee camps.” She’s done more for human rights in Darfur — much more — than Obama and his embarrassingly ineffective special envoy have.

Have you noticed that Democrats aren’t so willing to take unpopular stands for this president on national security? “The Senate Armed Services Committee dealt a big setback to President Obama’s plans to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay when lawmakers stripped funding for a new prison in Illinois to hold the detainees. Committee Chairman Carl Levin on Friday told reporters the committee, in a voice vote, stripped $245 million that would have gone to buy and retrofit the Thomson prison in Illinois.”

Charles Hurt catches Obama taking responsibility for “zilch” at his BP oil-spill press conference: “It was yet another performance of the ‘full responsibility’ flimflam. … President Obama repeatedly took ‘full responsibility’ for the blundering efforts to clog up the geyser of crude oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico coating everything in sight. At the same time, Obama repeatedly denied that his administration was complicit in allowing the catastrophe to happen in the first place, slow to realize the devastating nature of it, or ham-handed in the five-week effort to try to stem the toxic tide. In other words, Obama — as he often does — took ‘full responsibility’ for being awesome.”

Read Less




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