Commentary Magazine


Posts For: June 9, 2010

Report: “Free Gaza” Flotilla Organizers Linked to Terrorists

Though the Palestinian propaganda machine continues to dominate much of the mainstream media’s depiction of the “Free Gaza” flotilla as a group of humanitarians, the truth about this organization and its goals is gradually becoming better known. While the weapons on board and the bloody attacks on Israeli soldiers belied the claim that those on board were helpless victims, the Investigative Project on Terrorism offers an instructive report on the Turkish-based organization behind the flotilla. According to the report, the IHH has “deep, longstanding ties” to Hamas and has also been linked to Islamist terrorists in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Chechnya. The fact that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a supporter of the group is all the more reason to worry about Turkey’s shift toward the Islamists and away from the West.

This week Sen. Charles Schumer wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and asked the State Department to investigate the ties between the IHH, al-Qaeda, and other terrorist groups. Other members of Congress should second this call. The only reasonable conclusion that could be drawn from such an investigation is that the IHH should be placed on the United States list of known terrorist organizations.

Though the Palestinian propaganda machine continues to dominate much of the mainstream media’s depiction of the “Free Gaza” flotilla as a group of humanitarians, the truth about this organization and its goals is gradually becoming better known. While the weapons on board and the bloody attacks on Israeli soldiers belied the claim that those on board were helpless victims, the Investigative Project on Terrorism offers an instructive report on the Turkish-based organization behind the flotilla. According to the report, the IHH has “deep, longstanding ties” to Hamas and has also been linked to Islamist terrorists in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Chechnya. The fact that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a supporter of the group is all the more reason to worry about Turkey’s shift toward the Islamists and away from the West.

This week Sen. Charles Schumer wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and asked the State Department to investigate the ties between the IHH, al-Qaeda, and other terrorist groups. Other members of Congress should second this call. The only reasonable conclusion that could be drawn from such an investigation is that the IHH should be placed on the United States list of known terrorist organizations.

Read Less

How Can Obama Boost Abbas While Appeasing Hamas on the Blockade?

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas trooped to the White House for his promised photo op and received presidential promise of a new $400 million aid package for the West Bank and Gaza that will, the White House hopes, go to pay for improving the Palestinians’ health and infrastructure needs.

The point of the visit is clearly to give a boost to Abbas, whom both Israel and the United States consider their preferred Palestinian negotiating partner. Washington touts Abbas’s credentials as a potential peacemaker but, like his predecessor and longtime boss, arch-terrorist Yasir Arafat, the PA president has repeatedly turned down Israeli offers of statehood and peace. But because the alternative is Hamas, the radical Islamist terrorist group that controls Gaza, Abbas must be propped up as much as possible.

But by joining those pushing to have Israel weaken its blockade of Abbas’s Hamas rivals, it’s not clear that Obama is doing much to help the Fatah party leader. As the Washington Post reported, with Abbas beside him, Obama declared, “The situation in Gaza is unsustainable.” While stopping short of expressing U.S. support for lifting the blockade, Obama said that arms should be kept out while food and building materials are let in. Of course, food is already let in, and Hamas’s desire for more construction materials has more to do with a desire to rebuild and strengthen its fortifications and tunnel networks than the needs of ordinary Gazans. And Obama said nothing about how the aid he promised the Palestinians or the goods he’d like to see pass through the weakened Israeli blockade will be delivered to the people there without Hamas taking what it likes.

Though the bulk of the administration’s focus on the peace process has been on pressuring Israel, to his credit President Obama did mention that he wanted more progress from the Palestinians on both security and incitement issues. The latter is a reference to the fact that the official Palestinian media, which is under Abbas’s control, continue to incite hatred against Israel and Jews.

In reply, Abbas made the usual pleasant noises in English about peace, coexistence, and a denial that his government and media have “anything to do with that,” referring to the incitement. However, a visit to the website of Palestine Media Watch quickly illustrates the mendacity of Abbas’s White House statement.

Abbas feels he must speak out about the blockade because his constituency demands that he do so. But he knows that any substantial lifting of the sanctions on Gaza will be seen as a huge victory for Hamas. Abbas’s term as PA president expired more than a year ago, an inconvenient fact that is never mentioned by either American or Israeli officials. But there is a reason why he doesn’t dare call a new election. If he did, Hamas might soon be in control of both the West Bank and Gaza. While Washington knows this, by paying lip service to the Palestinian propaganda campaign that has sought to demonize Israel’s legal and justifiable efforts to isolate Hamas in Gaza, the president may be doing more to help Hamas than to help Abbas.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas trooped to the White House for his promised photo op and received presidential promise of a new $400 million aid package for the West Bank and Gaza that will, the White House hopes, go to pay for improving the Palestinians’ health and infrastructure needs.

The point of the visit is clearly to give a boost to Abbas, whom both Israel and the United States consider their preferred Palestinian negotiating partner. Washington touts Abbas’s credentials as a potential peacemaker but, like his predecessor and longtime boss, arch-terrorist Yasir Arafat, the PA president has repeatedly turned down Israeli offers of statehood and peace. But because the alternative is Hamas, the radical Islamist terrorist group that controls Gaza, Abbas must be propped up as much as possible.

But by joining those pushing to have Israel weaken its blockade of Abbas’s Hamas rivals, it’s not clear that Obama is doing much to help the Fatah party leader. As the Washington Post reported, with Abbas beside him, Obama declared, “The situation in Gaza is unsustainable.” While stopping short of expressing U.S. support for lifting the blockade, Obama said that arms should be kept out while food and building materials are let in. Of course, food is already let in, and Hamas’s desire for more construction materials has more to do with a desire to rebuild and strengthen its fortifications and tunnel networks than the needs of ordinary Gazans. And Obama said nothing about how the aid he promised the Palestinians or the goods he’d like to see pass through the weakened Israeli blockade will be delivered to the people there without Hamas taking what it likes.

Though the bulk of the administration’s focus on the peace process has been on pressuring Israel, to his credit President Obama did mention that he wanted more progress from the Palestinians on both security and incitement issues. The latter is a reference to the fact that the official Palestinian media, which is under Abbas’s control, continue to incite hatred against Israel and Jews.

In reply, Abbas made the usual pleasant noises in English about peace, coexistence, and a denial that his government and media have “anything to do with that,” referring to the incitement. However, a visit to the website of Palestine Media Watch quickly illustrates the mendacity of Abbas’s White House statement.

Abbas feels he must speak out about the blockade because his constituency demands that he do so. But he knows that any substantial lifting of the sanctions on Gaza will be seen as a huge victory for Hamas. Abbas’s term as PA president expired more than a year ago, an inconvenient fact that is never mentioned by either American or Israeli officials. But there is a reason why he doesn’t dare call a new election. If he did, Hamas might soon be in control of both the West Bank and Gaza. While Washington knows this, by paying lip service to the Palestinian propaganda campaign that has sought to demonize Israel’s legal and justifiable efforts to isolate Hamas in Gaza, the president may be doing more to help Hamas than to help Abbas.

Read Less

Reaction to UN Sanctions

Various lawmakers and groups  are weighing in on passage of the pitifully ineffective UN sanctions to which Brazil and Turkey refused to agree. Eric Cantor’s statement is among the better ones:

After months of delay and foot-dragging only bought time for Iran to advance its nuclear program, it is encouraging that the United Nations finally mustered the will to act. While the sanctions are a step in the right direction, they represent the lowest common denominator and are too weak to bring about a change in Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Moving forward, these sanctions must serve as a floor — not as a ceiling. It’s now time for Congress to swiftly pass sanctions legislation with real teeth, and President Obama must follow suit by imposing these sanctions upon the Iranian regime. We encourage our EU allies as well as Russia and China to follow our lead by passing stronger sanctions on the Iranian regime before it is too late.

And it might be helpful to point out that for all our bowing and scraping before Russia and China, we got a UN sanctions agreement that is unlikely to do anything other than stem the calls for military action.

But the best assessment so far comes from Senate candidate Dan Coats:

The sanctions resolution passed today is too little, too late. Proactive measures such as this should have been taken years ago. Instead, with no real incentive for the Iranians to comply, we have only bought them more time to develop a nuclear weapon which they could potentially achieve yet this year. While we have been flailing away with a combination of diplomacy and weak sanctions, Iran’s centrifuges have been rapidly spinning. Real meaningful comprehensive steps must be taken immediately to address this growing threat. Iran has already ignored three sanctions — I don’t see why the fourth will make any difference.

But alas, AIPAC is cheering wildly. (“AIPAC strongly applauds today’s U.N. Security Council passage of new sanctions against Iran –  the sixth Security Council resolution demanding that Tehran immediately suspend all nuclear work and open up to full inspection. We commend the Obama administration’s strong leadership effort to secure passage of this important measure.”) AIPAC also calls for more sanctions, but it’s ludicrous to claim, “This latest Security Council action provides yet another indication of Iran’s deepening isolation.” Even the Washington Post knows this is laughable.

It’s time for Congress to man up: pass those exacting sanctions with no carve-outs. And as candidates, it’s time to distinguish the Obama cheerleaders (Great job on sanctions!) from the savvy observers.

Various lawmakers and groups  are weighing in on passage of the pitifully ineffective UN sanctions to which Brazil and Turkey refused to agree. Eric Cantor’s statement is among the better ones:

After months of delay and foot-dragging only bought time for Iran to advance its nuclear program, it is encouraging that the United Nations finally mustered the will to act. While the sanctions are a step in the right direction, they represent the lowest common denominator and are too weak to bring about a change in Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Moving forward, these sanctions must serve as a floor — not as a ceiling. It’s now time for Congress to swiftly pass sanctions legislation with real teeth, and President Obama must follow suit by imposing these sanctions upon the Iranian regime. We encourage our EU allies as well as Russia and China to follow our lead by passing stronger sanctions on the Iranian regime before it is too late.

And it might be helpful to point out that for all our bowing and scraping before Russia and China, we got a UN sanctions agreement that is unlikely to do anything other than stem the calls for military action.

But the best assessment so far comes from Senate candidate Dan Coats:

The sanctions resolution passed today is too little, too late. Proactive measures such as this should have been taken years ago. Instead, with no real incentive for the Iranians to comply, we have only bought them more time to develop a nuclear weapon which they could potentially achieve yet this year. While we have been flailing away with a combination of diplomacy and weak sanctions, Iran’s centrifuges have been rapidly spinning. Real meaningful comprehensive steps must be taken immediately to address this growing threat. Iran has already ignored three sanctions — I don’t see why the fourth will make any difference.

But alas, AIPAC is cheering wildly. (“AIPAC strongly applauds today’s U.N. Security Council passage of new sanctions against Iran –  the sixth Security Council resolution demanding that Tehran immediately suspend all nuclear work and open up to full inspection. We commend the Obama administration’s strong leadership effort to secure passage of this important measure.”) AIPAC also calls for more sanctions, but it’s ludicrous to claim, “This latest Security Council action provides yet another indication of Iran’s deepening isolation.” Even the Washington Post knows this is laughable.

It’s time for Congress to man up: pass those exacting sanctions with no carve-outs. And as candidates, it’s time to distinguish the Obama cheerleaders (Great job on sanctions!) from the savvy observers.

Read Less

New Sanctions Give Iran Nothing to Worry About

Now that the United Nations Security Council has passed a new round of sanctions against Iran, we can expect a degree of self-congratulation from the Obama administration, which has been working toward this goal for many months. But it is no secret that the package passed by a vote of 12-to-2 with one abstention (Brazil and Turkey voted no while Lebanon abstained) and does little to make life more difficult for Iran or to hamper its ongoing quest for nuclear capability.

The sanctions make life a bit more difficult for 40 Iranians involved in the nuclear program, who had been mentioned in previous resolutions, by freezing their assets and banning their travel. Only one name was added to the list, Javad Rahiqi, the head of the Isfahan Nuclear Technology Center. There is also language about requiring countries to inspect ships or planes headed to or from Iran if they suspect that banned cargo is aboard, but there is no authorization to board ships by force at sea. Iran is now also not allowed to invest in nuclear-enrichment plants, uranium mines, and related technology. The sale of heavy weapons to Iran is also now banned.

But as a result of many months of haggling with Russia and China, who gave only reluctant backing to these sanctions, Iran’s oil, financial, and insurance industries — which are all highly vulnerable to international pressure — were left untouched. As the New York Times noted today, the European Union — America’s supposed ally in the campaign to restrain Tehran’s nuclear plans — alone does more than $35 billion in business with Iran. The amount of trade between Iran and China — whose vote in favor of the mild measure just passed was bought by American concessions that watered down the same sanctions — exceeds that amount. China gets 11 percent of its oil from the Islamist regime. And as the Times reported in a feature last week, Iran’s ability to evade sanctions with shell companies and by having their ships registered under foreign flags has made a mockery of the world body’s previous attempts to sanction it.

So, like the three previous rounds of UN sanctions on Iran, we can expect this latest one to have no impact on either Iran’s willingness to buck global displeasure over the nuclear issue or its ability to proceed with its plans.

All of which leaves us asking the Obama administration, what now?

In theory, the new UN sanctions could prompt the United States and other Western powers to unilaterally impose far harsher sanctions by themselves. But that move will take even more months of negotiations and would almost certainly not include Russia and China, countries that have played a major role in enabling the Iranians to avoid paying the price for their nuclear ambitions. With force off the table and little hope of a truly crippling round of international sanctions, what does Iran have to worry about?

Though the administration is busily spinning recent developments as proof that the year they wasted trying to engage Iran helped build support for sanctions, the fact remains that Iran is not only a year closer to its nuclear goal but also in a stronger political and diplomatic position today than it was 12 months ago. Having completely suppressed domestic opponents in the wake of their stolen presidential election, the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad regime can also now point to the acquisition of two important foreign allies: Brazil and Turkey, both of whom are now firmly in Iran’s camp. And those two countries can say that the mischief they are making on Iran’s behalf is no different from what President Obama tried to do himself during his long unsuccessful attempt to appease Tehran.

Just as bad is the fact that over the past year, Obama has allowed the Iranians and their friends to establish a false moral equivalence between their nuclear program and that of the State of Israel, a country whose very existence requires a nuclear deterrent that Iran’s does not. The United States’s vote last week in favor of a resolution at the UN nonproliferation conference, which called on Israel to open up its nuclear facilities, is a clear signal that the Obama administration’s faltering resolve on Iran is matched by its ambivalence about the Jewish state and its security needs.

The bottom line is that far from today’s UN vote being a cause for celebration or even satisfaction over the fact that the world is finally paying attention to the threat of a nuclear Iran, it may well be a better indication of the West’s slide toward ultimate acquiescence to Iran’s goals.

Now that the United Nations Security Council has passed a new round of sanctions against Iran, we can expect a degree of self-congratulation from the Obama administration, which has been working toward this goal for many months. But it is no secret that the package passed by a vote of 12-to-2 with one abstention (Brazil and Turkey voted no while Lebanon abstained) and does little to make life more difficult for Iran or to hamper its ongoing quest for nuclear capability.

The sanctions make life a bit more difficult for 40 Iranians involved in the nuclear program, who had been mentioned in previous resolutions, by freezing their assets and banning their travel. Only one name was added to the list, Javad Rahiqi, the head of the Isfahan Nuclear Technology Center. There is also language about requiring countries to inspect ships or planes headed to or from Iran if they suspect that banned cargo is aboard, but there is no authorization to board ships by force at sea. Iran is now also not allowed to invest in nuclear-enrichment plants, uranium mines, and related technology. The sale of heavy weapons to Iran is also now banned.

But as a result of many months of haggling with Russia and China, who gave only reluctant backing to these sanctions, Iran’s oil, financial, and insurance industries — which are all highly vulnerable to international pressure — were left untouched. As the New York Times noted today, the European Union — America’s supposed ally in the campaign to restrain Tehran’s nuclear plans — alone does more than $35 billion in business with Iran. The amount of trade between Iran and China — whose vote in favor of the mild measure just passed was bought by American concessions that watered down the same sanctions — exceeds that amount. China gets 11 percent of its oil from the Islamist regime. And as the Times reported in a feature last week, Iran’s ability to evade sanctions with shell companies and by having their ships registered under foreign flags has made a mockery of the world body’s previous attempts to sanction it.

So, like the three previous rounds of UN sanctions on Iran, we can expect this latest one to have no impact on either Iran’s willingness to buck global displeasure over the nuclear issue or its ability to proceed with its plans.

All of which leaves us asking the Obama administration, what now?

In theory, the new UN sanctions could prompt the United States and other Western powers to unilaterally impose far harsher sanctions by themselves. But that move will take even more months of negotiations and would almost certainly not include Russia and China, countries that have played a major role in enabling the Iranians to avoid paying the price for their nuclear ambitions. With force off the table and little hope of a truly crippling round of international sanctions, what does Iran have to worry about?

Though the administration is busily spinning recent developments as proof that the year they wasted trying to engage Iran helped build support for sanctions, the fact remains that Iran is not only a year closer to its nuclear goal but also in a stronger political and diplomatic position today than it was 12 months ago. Having completely suppressed domestic opponents in the wake of their stolen presidential election, the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad regime can also now point to the acquisition of two important foreign allies: Brazil and Turkey, both of whom are now firmly in Iran’s camp. And those two countries can say that the mischief they are making on Iran’s behalf is no different from what President Obama tried to do himself during his long unsuccessful attempt to appease Tehran.

Just as bad is the fact that over the past year, Obama has allowed the Iranians and their friends to establish a false moral equivalence between their nuclear program and that of the State of Israel, a country whose very existence requires a nuclear deterrent that Iran’s does not. The United States’s vote last week in favor of a resolution at the UN nonproliferation conference, which called on Israel to open up its nuclear facilities, is a clear signal that the Obama administration’s faltering resolve on Iran is matched by its ambivalence about the Jewish state and its security needs.

The bottom line is that far from today’s UN vote being a cause for celebration or even satisfaction over the fact that the world is finally paying attention to the threat of a nuclear Iran, it may well be a better indication of the West’s slide toward ultimate acquiescence to Iran’s goals.

Read Less

Mike Pence on Flotilla

Rep. Mike Pence isn’t confused about whether to side with Turkey or Israel. He took to the House floor and his comments included this straightforward  assessment:

The complicity of Turkey in launching a flotilla to challenge the blockade in Gaza, the ensuing violence that occurred, the grievous loss of life, is deeply troubling to those of us who have supported the U.S.-Turkish alliance in the past. A few things need to be said. We grieve the loss of life but Israel has a right to defend itself. And Turkey must know that America will stand with Israel in her inviolate right to defend herself. There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Ten thousand tons of food and medical supplies are transferred into Gaza every single week. And the blockade has saved lives. Hamas used the Gaza strip to launch vicious and brutal attacks, thousands of rockets on civilians. It cost lives in Gaza, it cost lives in Israel. Turkey needs to count the cost. Turkey needs to decide whether its present course is in its long-term interest. But America will stand with Israel.

It’s impossible to imagine the administration doing anything remotely like this — either in public or private. The administration wants to gin up an international inquest to go after Israel but has said virtually nothing about Turkey’s complicity in this.

It is not that the administration is being “evenhanded.” That would be a vast improvement over where we are now. Instead, by egging on international bodies and by withholding unqualified support for our ally, Obama has thrown his lot in with Turkey, and by extension the patron and new puppeteer of the Middle East — Iran, of course. What’s next, cozying up to its junior partner in Syria? Oh, well, yes. Warning Israel not to strike Iran’s nuclear facility? Oh, yes. Only the most deluded or those willing to carry water for the administration while knowing full well the consequences of its policies (yes, that’s you, Mr. Ross) can fail to recognize what is going on here.

Rep. Mike Pence isn’t confused about whether to side with Turkey or Israel. He took to the House floor and his comments included this straightforward  assessment:

The complicity of Turkey in launching a flotilla to challenge the blockade in Gaza, the ensuing violence that occurred, the grievous loss of life, is deeply troubling to those of us who have supported the U.S.-Turkish alliance in the past. A few things need to be said. We grieve the loss of life but Israel has a right to defend itself. And Turkey must know that America will stand with Israel in her inviolate right to defend herself. There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Ten thousand tons of food and medical supplies are transferred into Gaza every single week. And the blockade has saved lives. Hamas used the Gaza strip to launch vicious and brutal attacks, thousands of rockets on civilians. It cost lives in Gaza, it cost lives in Israel. Turkey needs to count the cost. Turkey needs to decide whether its present course is in its long-term interest. But America will stand with Israel.

It’s impossible to imagine the administration doing anything remotely like this — either in public or private. The administration wants to gin up an international inquest to go after Israel but has said virtually nothing about Turkey’s complicity in this.

It is not that the administration is being “evenhanded.” That would be a vast improvement over where we are now. Instead, by egging on international bodies and by withholding unqualified support for our ally, Obama has thrown his lot in with Turkey, and by extension the patron and new puppeteer of the Middle East — Iran, of course. What’s next, cozying up to its junior partner in Syria? Oh, well, yes. Warning Israel not to strike Iran’s nuclear facility? Oh, yes. Only the most deluded or those willing to carry water for the administration while knowing full well the consequences of its policies (yes, that’s you, Mr. Ross) can fail to recognize what is going on here.

Read Less

British Dhimmitude Has Come to This

What do you get when you mix British elitism, self-hatred, multiculturalism, leftism, and environmentalism? Well, this, naturally:

“Follow the Islamic way to save the world,” Prince Charles urges environmentalists.

Prince Charles yesterday urged the world to follow Islamic “spiritual principles” in order to save the environment.

In a high-profile speech, the heir to the throne argued that man’s destruction of the world was contrary to the scriptures of all religions — but particularly those of the Islamic faith.

What do you get when you mix British elitism, self-hatred, multiculturalism, leftism, and environmentalism? Well, this, naturally:

“Follow the Islamic way to save the world,” Prince Charles urges environmentalists.

Prince Charles yesterday urged the world to follow Islamic “spiritual principles” in order to save the environment.

In a high-profile speech, the heir to the throne argued that man’s destruction of the world was contrary to the scriptures of all religions — but particularly those of the Islamic faith.

Read Less

Jim Wallis and the Echo Chamber

Michael Kruse is the vice-chair of the Presbyterian Church USA General Assembly Mission Council. He is certainly no right-winger. But on his blog, Kruse’s critique of the liberal Christian political activist and Obama confidant Jim Wallis and his Orwellian hypocrisy is powerful. Kruse writes:

What is the surest sign you have encountered someone living in an echo chamber? When they say, “My side is so reasonable and civil, but see how mean and hateful the other side is.”

The fact is that hyperbolic rhetoric is part and parcel of American politics. It ebbs and flows in intensity but there never was some golden age of nonpartisan government from which we have fallen. So I expect hyperbolic rhetoric from all sides. What I do take exception to is people engaging in hyperbolic partisan rhetoric while purporting to speak with a moral Christian authority. I don’t care if you name is Jim Dobson or Jim Wallis.

To which I can only say: Amen.

Michael Kruse is the vice-chair of the Presbyterian Church USA General Assembly Mission Council. He is certainly no right-winger. But on his blog, Kruse’s critique of the liberal Christian political activist and Obama confidant Jim Wallis and his Orwellian hypocrisy is powerful. Kruse writes:

What is the surest sign you have encountered someone living in an echo chamber? When they say, “My side is so reasonable and civil, but see how mean and hateful the other side is.”

The fact is that hyperbolic rhetoric is part and parcel of American politics. It ebbs and flows in intensity but there never was some golden age of nonpartisan government from which we have fallen. So I expect hyperbolic rhetoric from all sides. What I do take exception to is people engaging in hyperbolic partisan rhetoric while purporting to speak with a moral Christian authority. I don’t care if you name is Jim Dobson or Jim Wallis.

To which I can only say: Amen.

Read Less

We Already Know Where This Leads

Walter Russell Mead’s blog at the American Interest has been unfailingly fascinating. His most recent post on history’s peace-loving enablers of genocide is his best to date. Here’s but a fraction:

The American peace and disarmament movement almost destroyed human freedom.  The peace movement gave intellectual and moral respectability to the cause of isolationism: the belief that the United States could safely ignore the unraveling of the world’s fragile economic and political order as British power waned after World War I.  But these idealistic professors, students, preachers and general all-around-good-guys were naive, self-righteous, and smugly sure that arms cause war.

If this doesn’t sound vital, it’s time you stopped watching the BP spill-cam. Mead brings it all around to Barack Obama and Iran, as he should. One of the most astounding things about the current administration is its resistance to history’s lessons, even as history swallows its intentions whole.

Walter Russell Mead’s blog at the American Interest has been unfailingly fascinating. His most recent post on history’s peace-loving enablers of genocide is his best to date. Here’s but a fraction:

The American peace and disarmament movement almost destroyed human freedom.  The peace movement gave intellectual and moral respectability to the cause of isolationism: the belief that the United States could safely ignore the unraveling of the world’s fragile economic and political order as British power waned after World War I.  But these idealistic professors, students, preachers and general all-around-good-guys were naive, self-righteous, and smugly sure that arms cause war.

If this doesn’t sound vital, it’s time you stopped watching the BP spill-cam. Mead brings it all around to Barack Obama and Iran, as he should. One of the most astounding things about the current administration is its resistance to history’s lessons, even as history swallows its intentions whole.

Read Less

Annals of Useful Idiocy, Circa 2010

As a service to future historians (if they can just find this post) seeking to understand how the moral outrage of the world focused in 2010 on Israel rather than Iran, I offer this excerpt from a Spiegel interview with the well-known Swedish author Henning Mankell, a passenger on one of the smaller boats in the Gaza flotilla:

SPIEGEL: This [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict is complicated enough, but it probably doesn’t even constitute the biggest threat to peace in the region at the moment. That is posed by Iran, with its controversial nuclear program and its prediction that Israel will disappear from the map.

Mankell: I am very concerned, because I don’t trust this president (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) and the mullahs. They want to have any weapon that can be used to destroy Israel. Naturally we cannot accept that.

SPIEGEL: But what do you want to do? Campaigns like this one can be directed against a democratic country like Israel. The Iranian government wouldn’t even let things get that far.

Mankell: I had an invitation to a literature festival in Tehran, which I turned down.

SPIEGEL: Why?

Mankell: Because Iran puts writers and intellectuals in prison and makes some of them disappear. I can’t go to a country like that.

SPIEGEL: Why don’t you go there and make the repression public?

Mankell: I wouldn’t be able to do what I would like to do. They would misuse me for propaganda purposes.

SPIEGEL: And you didn’t have this concern with the Gaza campaign?

Mankell: I saw what I saw. I felt what I felt. I thought what I thought. I saw what happened to people, and that’s what I want to report on.

Earlier in the interview, Spiegel asked Mankell whether he had ever been to Gaza (“no”), whether he knows the IHH and the Free Gaza movement that organized the flotilla (“not well enough to be able to form an opinion”), whether Hamas was a source of hope for him (“I don’t know enough about the issue”), and why he ignored multiple Israeli warnings that the ship could not proceed to Gaza (“At least they should have let us continue for another two hours, until we were just off the coast”).

In other words, he declined the invitation to go to Iran and speak truth to power, but a safe boat trip to just-off-the-coast of Gaza, in the service of organizations he failed to investigate, to assist an Iranian proxy about whom he is agnostic, appealed to his moral sense. No one, of course, will ever surpass the concision of Woody Allen’s statement of moral idiocy on being asked to explain his affair with Mia Farrow’s daughter: “The heart wants what it wants.” But Henning Mankell’s “I felt what I felt, I thought what I thought” deserves the same place of honor in the literature of useful idiocy. Historians take note.

As a service to future historians (if they can just find this post) seeking to understand how the moral outrage of the world focused in 2010 on Israel rather than Iran, I offer this excerpt from a Spiegel interview with the well-known Swedish author Henning Mankell, a passenger on one of the smaller boats in the Gaza flotilla:

SPIEGEL: This [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict is complicated enough, but it probably doesn’t even constitute the biggest threat to peace in the region at the moment. That is posed by Iran, with its controversial nuclear program and its prediction that Israel will disappear from the map.

Mankell: I am very concerned, because I don’t trust this president (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) and the mullahs. They want to have any weapon that can be used to destroy Israel. Naturally we cannot accept that.

SPIEGEL: But what do you want to do? Campaigns like this one can be directed against a democratic country like Israel. The Iranian government wouldn’t even let things get that far.

Mankell: I had an invitation to a literature festival in Tehran, which I turned down.

SPIEGEL: Why?

Mankell: Because Iran puts writers and intellectuals in prison and makes some of them disappear. I can’t go to a country like that.

SPIEGEL: Why don’t you go there and make the repression public?

Mankell: I wouldn’t be able to do what I would like to do. They would misuse me for propaganda purposes.

SPIEGEL: And you didn’t have this concern with the Gaza campaign?

Mankell: I saw what I saw. I felt what I felt. I thought what I thought. I saw what happened to people, and that’s what I want to report on.

Earlier in the interview, Spiegel asked Mankell whether he had ever been to Gaza (“no”), whether he knows the IHH and the Free Gaza movement that organized the flotilla (“not well enough to be able to form an opinion”), whether Hamas was a source of hope for him (“I don’t know enough about the issue”), and why he ignored multiple Israeli warnings that the ship could not proceed to Gaza (“At least they should have let us continue for another two hours, until we were just off the coast”).

In other words, he declined the invitation to go to Iran and speak truth to power, but a safe boat trip to just-off-the-coast of Gaza, in the service of organizations he failed to investigate, to assist an Iranian proxy about whom he is agnostic, appealed to his moral sense. No one, of course, will ever surpass the concision of Woody Allen’s statement of moral idiocy on being asked to explain his affair with Mia Farrow’s daughter: “The heart wants what it wants.” But Henning Mankell’s “I felt what I felt, I thought what I thought” deserves the same place of honor in the literature of useful idiocy. Historians take note.

Read Less

ObamaCare Watch

My Ethics and Public Policy colleague James Capretta, one of the nation’s foremost health-care experts, is overseeing an important and timely new website: ObamaCareWatch.org. This is the place to go if you want facts and serious analysis about the effects of ObamaCare on our country. Jim performed heroically during the health-care debate; now that the legislation has become law, his work is at least as important as it was then.

If there is one person and one website that can effectively push back against the Obama administration’s $125 million propaganda campaign in behalf of ObamaCare, they are Capretta and ObamCareWatch.org. Take a look for yourself.

My Ethics and Public Policy colleague James Capretta, one of the nation’s foremost health-care experts, is overseeing an important and timely new website: ObamaCareWatch.org. This is the place to go if you want facts and serious analysis about the effects of ObamaCare on our country. Jim performed heroically during the health-care debate; now that the legislation has become law, his work is at least as important as it was then.

If there is one person and one website that can effectively push back against the Obama administration’s $125 million propaganda campaign in behalf of ObamaCare, they are Capretta and ObamCareWatch.org. Take a look for yourself.

Read Less

Obama: Beyond Mocking No More

On yesterday’s The Daily Show, Jon Stewart has some fun at the expense of Barack Obama, announcing A** Quest 2010. Go to the three-minute mark to see Stewart aim his wit and humor at Obama (though the entire bit is worth watching).

Stewart, who is liberal, is one of the great satirists and comedians in the world today. (He is also more intellectually honest than many of the liberal commentators who continue to make comically stupid excuses on behalf of their “sort of God.”) When Stewart goes after President Obama in the manner he does, it tells you how much things are changing. Once upon a time, Barack Obama was thought to be beyond mocking. No more. (h/t: Ed Morrissey/HotAir)

On yesterday’s The Daily Show, Jon Stewart has some fun at the expense of Barack Obama, announcing A** Quest 2010. Go to the three-minute mark to see Stewart aim his wit and humor at Obama (though the entire bit is worth watching).

Stewart, who is liberal, is one of the great satirists and comedians in the world today. (He is also more intellectually honest than many of the liberal commentators who continue to make comically stupid excuses on behalf of their “sort of God.”) When Stewart goes after President Obama in the manner he does, it tells you how much things are changing. Once upon a time, Barack Obama was thought to be beyond mocking. No more. (h/t: Ed Morrissey/HotAir)

Read Less

Obama’s Ideas

Dorothy Rabinowitz’s brilliant piece today in the Wall Street Journal makes the important point that the genuine innovation of Barack Obama’s presidency is that it has imported much of its sense of the United States and its role in the world straight from the precincts of the post-1960s academy:

The beliefs and attitudes that this president has internalized are to be found everywhere—in the salons of the left the world over—and, above all, in the academic establishment, stuffed with tenured radicals and their political progeny. The places where it is held as revealed truth that the United States is now, and has been throughout its history, the chief engine of injustice and oppression in the world. They are attitudes to be found everywhere, but never before in a president of the United States. Mr. Obama may not hold all, or the more extreme, of these views. But there can be no doubt by now of the influences that have shaped him.

Dorothy Rabinowitz’s brilliant piece today in the Wall Street Journal makes the important point that the genuine innovation of Barack Obama’s presidency is that it has imported much of its sense of the United States and its role in the world straight from the precincts of the post-1960s academy:

The beliefs and attitudes that this president has internalized are to be found everywhere—in the salons of the left the world over—and, above all, in the academic establishment, stuffed with tenured radicals and their political progeny. The places where it is held as revealed truth that the United States is now, and has been throughout its history, the chief engine of injustice and oppression in the world. They are attitudes to be found everywhere, but never before in a president of the United States. Mr. Obama may not hold all, or the more extreme, of these views. But there can be no doubt by now of the influences that have shaped him.

Read Less

RE: Virginia’s 11th

If you needed any reminder of the Washington Post‘s egregious cheerleading for Democrats in Virginia (which results in comical reporting and flawed analysis, as Gov. Bob McDonnell, a survivor of Post-attack syndrome, can attest), along comes this take on the contest in Virginia’s 11th:

The 11th District’s recent history suggests it is favorable to centrists. [Gerry] Connolly and his predecessor, GOP Rep. Tom Davis, lean toward the middle ideologically, and Connolly beat [Keith] Fimian in 2008 partly by arguing that the Republican was too conservative. Without explicitly calling himself a moderate, Herrity said he was the only Republican who could beat Connolly. Many national party strategists privately agreed with that assessment, although some worried about the effectiveness of [Pat] Herrity’s campaign. On Tuesday, Herrity barely scratched out a win in his home base of Fairfax County and lost by a huge margin in Prince William County.

Let’s count the ways in which this is ridiculous and misleading to voters. First, the key problem for Connolly, which the Post conceals, is that he has departed from Tom Davis’s moderate approach and aligned himself with Nancy Pelosi and the president on taxes, health care, cap-and-trade, and spending. But the Post has its narrative — Fimian is too extreme, Connolly is suited to the district — and it is not going to let facts get in the way. Second, which national party strategists are we talking about? None are named. The ones I’ve talked to knew all along that Herrity was a weak candidate, unimpressive on the stump, and unlikely to fire up the troops. That’s why Eric Cantor, among others, endorsed Fimian.

This is just one more example of why the Post‘s Virginia political reporting is routinely ignored by readers and politicians alike.

If you needed any reminder of the Washington Post‘s egregious cheerleading for Democrats in Virginia (which results in comical reporting and flawed analysis, as Gov. Bob McDonnell, a survivor of Post-attack syndrome, can attest), along comes this take on the contest in Virginia’s 11th:

The 11th District’s recent history suggests it is favorable to centrists. [Gerry] Connolly and his predecessor, GOP Rep. Tom Davis, lean toward the middle ideologically, and Connolly beat [Keith] Fimian in 2008 partly by arguing that the Republican was too conservative. Without explicitly calling himself a moderate, Herrity said he was the only Republican who could beat Connolly. Many national party strategists privately agreed with that assessment, although some worried about the effectiveness of [Pat] Herrity’s campaign. On Tuesday, Herrity barely scratched out a win in his home base of Fairfax County and lost by a huge margin in Prince William County.

Let’s count the ways in which this is ridiculous and misleading to voters. First, the key problem for Connolly, which the Post conceals, is that he has departed from Tom Davis’s moderate approach and aligned himself with Nancy Pelosi and the president on taxes, health care, cap-and-trade, and spending. But the Post has its narrative — Fimian is too extreme, Connolly is suited to the district — and it is not going to let facts get in the way. Second, which national party strategists are we talking about? None are named. The ones I’ve talked to knew all along that Herrity was a weak candidate, unimpressive on the stump, and unlikely to fire up the troops. That’s why Eric Cantor, among others, endorsed Fimian.

This is just one more example of why the Post‘s Virginia political reporting is routinely ignored by readers and politicians alike.

Read Less

Iran: Obama Makes It Easy for Us

An interesting report in the Washington Post about Iran’s defiance of Western sanctions contains this remarkable nugget:

“We are very proud of our diplomacy, although we are mainly benefiting from mistakes made by the United States and its allies,” said Kazem Jalali, a key member of the Iranian parliament’s commission on national security and foreign policy. “We are using all our resources to exploit these weaknesses.”

The new sanctions have been advertised by the Obama administration as a demonstration of world unity against the Iranian nuclear program. In reality, they are so weak and so lacking in international support that they do nothing more than showcase the fecklessness of Obama’s “smart diplomacy”:

The new U.S.-backed measures have been watered down enough that Tehran’s crucial oil sector will probably be spared, and Russia’s and China’s business dealings with Iran will go largely untouched.

Let’s review how we got here: The “reset” with Russia that was supposed to earn cooperation on Security Council sanctions merely taught Russia that Obama can be defied, cost-free. China noticed, and has joined the hands-off-Iran coalition. The “daylight” policy of being rude to the Israelis as a way of unifying the Arabs behind the peace process and against Iran has only left Israel isolated and the Arabs in disarray. Obama’s review conference for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and his calls for a nuclear-free Middle East have been easily manipulated to deflect attention from the threat to American interests — Iran — to the threat to Iranian interests, Israel.

The world has noticed Obama’s inability to get serious: Russia and China are now joined by Brazil and Turkey in openly thwarting the president’s meek effort to confront Iran. You know your enemy has lost respect for you when he admits, as Jalali does above, that you’re not even making it hard for him anymore.

An interesting report in the Washington Post about Iran’s defiance of Western sanctions contains this remarkable nugget:

“We are very proud of our diplomacy, although we are mainly benefiting from mistakes made by the United States and its allies,” said Kazem Jalali, a key member of the Iranian parliament’s commission on national security and foreign policy. “We are using all our resources to exploit these weaknesses.”

The new sanctions have been advertised by the Obama administration as a demonstration of world unity against the Iranian nuclear program. In reality, they are so weak and so lacking in international support that they do nothing more than showcase the fecklessness of Obama’s “smart diplomacy”:

The new U.S.-backed measures have been watered down enough that Tehran’s crucial oil sector will probably be spared, and Russia’s and China’s business dealings with Iran will go largely untouched.

Let’s review how we got here: The “reset” with Russia that was supposed to earn cooperation on Security Council sanctions merely taught Russia that Obama can be defied, cost-free. China noticed, and has joined the hands-off-Iran coalition. The “daylight” policy of being rude to the Israelis as a way of unifying the Arabs behind the peace process and against Iran has only left Israel isolated and the Arabs in disarray. Obama’s review conference for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and his calls for a nuclear-free Middle East have been easily manipulated to deflect attention from the threat to American interests — Iran — to the threat to Iranian interests, Israel.

The world has noticed Obama’s inability to get serious: Russia and China are now joined by Brazil and Turkey in openly thwarting the president’s meek effort to confront Iran. You know your enemy has lost respect for you when he admits, as Jalali does above, that you’re not even making it hard for him anymore.

Read Less

RE: Mitch Daniels Makes the Rounds

Reihan Salam writes that although he understands that I “am  troubled by the idea of nickel-and-diming national security,” he believes “we need to give serious thought to paring back our commitments, to the extent doing so is consonant with our long-term interests.  … [Like] a growing number of conservatives, including Sen. Tom Coburn, I’m concerned about profligacy in the defense budget.” This is an important debate, which candidates and office holders will have to address.

There are two issues. First, is our defense budget “profligate”? Certainly, there are excesses, and lawmakers such as Rep. John Murtha did a fine job of gumming up the budget with goodies for their constituents. But let’s put this in perspective: our defense budget, thanks to Obama, is below its 45-year average as a percentage of GDP. Gary Schmitt and Tom Donnelly write:

Compare for a moment the size of the Obama stimulus package in 2009 — nearly $800 billion — with the more than $300 billion Gates has already cut from the Pentagon’s budget and the planned “flat-lining” of defense expenditures in the years ahead. … Defense spending has gone up. But never in our history have we fought wars of this magnitude as cheaply. Take, for example, the percentage of the federal budget allocated to defense: In 1994, two years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Pentagon spending amounted to slightly more than 19 percent of the budget; in 2010, it is the same. And if the administration has its way, that figure will drop to 15.6 percent by 2015. Is any other part of the federal budget getting similarly whacked?

But there is a broader, philosophical question here: do we face one or two threats to our civilization? Conservatives and a great many others agree that there is at least one, the economic: the unsustainable debt burden, the decline in “dynamic destruction,” which is essential to a vibrant economy, the crushing weight of entitlements on future generations, and the resulting atrophying of growth and job creation. If that is the sole emergency, then everything else takes second place — a remote second.

But if you believe there are two threats to America and to the West, a second even more grievous than the first, then it is a different story. The other threat is, of course, that of Islamic jihadism — the actual war on the West. We are witnessing the expansion of that war from conventional battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan and from serial bombing runs, sponsored and inspired by jihadist networks, to a nuclear standoff against an Iran. That foe’s influence is increasing and its terrorist agents and allies are capable of inciting violence and instability from Indonesia to Lebanon to the western Sahara.

It would be grand to stand down from our commitments, take a “peace dividend.” But alas, there is no peace. The spending on defense is not optional if we and our allies are to survive. While it is true that our economic vitality is essential to maintain a robust defense, it is equally true that economic prosperity cannot exist in a world torn asunder by Islamic terror and war.

This is an important discussion, and the temptation to recede and husband our resources is strong. It was so after WWI and it was so in the Clinton years. We need to think carefully about what that means and whether we can take a holiday from history.

Reihan Salam writes that although he understands that I “am  troubled by the idea of nickel-and-diming national security,” he believes “we need to give serious thought to paring back our commitments, to the extent doing so is consonant with our long-term interests.  … [Like] a growing number of conservatives, including Sen. Tom Coburn, I’m concerned about profligacy in the defense budget.” This is an important debate, which candidates and office holders will have to address.

There are two issues. First, is our defense budget “profligate”? Certainly, there are excesses, and lawmakers such as Rep. John Murtha did a fine job of gumming up the budget with goodies for their constituents. But let’s put this in perspective: our defense budget, thanks to Obama, is below its 45-year average as a percentage of GDP. Gary Schmitt and Tom Donnelly write:

Compare for a moment the size of the Obama stimulus package in 2009 — nearly $800 billion — with the more than $300 billion Gates has already cut from the Pentagon’s budget and the planned “flat-lining” of defense expenditures in the years ahead. … Defense spending has gone up. But never in our history have we fought wars of this magnitude as cheaply. Take, for example, the percentage of the federal budget allocated to defense: In 1994, two years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Pentagon spending amounted to slightly more than 19 percent of the budget; in 2010, it is the same. And if the administration has its way, that figure will drop to 15.6 percent by 2015. Is any other part of the federal budget getting similarly whacked?

But there is a broader, philosophical question here: do we face one or two threats to our civilization? Conservatives and a great many others agree that there is at least one, the economic: the unsustainable debt burden, the decline in “dynamic destruction,” which is essential to a vibrant economy, the crushing weight of entitlements on future generations, and the resulting atrophying of growth and job creation. If that is the sole emergency, then everything else takes second place — a remote second.

But if you believe there are two threats to America and to the West, a second even more grievous than the first, then it is a different story. The other threat is, of course, that of Islamic jihadism — the actual war on the West. We are witnessing the expansion of that war from conventional battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan and from serial bombing runs, sponsored and inspired by jihadist networks, to a nuclear standoff against an Iran. That foe’s influence is increasing and its terrorist agents and allies are capable of inciting violence and instability from Indonesia to Lebanon to the western Sahara.

It would be grand to stand down from our commitments, take a “peace dividend.” But alas, there is no peace. The spending on defense is not optional if we and our allies are to survive. While it is true that our economic vitality is essential to maintain a robust defense, it is equally true that economic prosperity cannot exist in a world torn asunder by Islamic terror and war.

This is an important discussion, and the temptation to recede and husband our resources is strong. It was so after WWI and it was so in the Clinton years. We need to think carefully about what that means and whether we can take a holiday from history.

Read Less

A Plausible Theory Concerning Karzai’s Behavior

Elizabeth Rubin, a former colleague at the Council on Foreign Relations and one of the savviest press observers of Hamid Karzai, floats a theory about what’s behind the resignations of Afghanistan’s minister of the interior and intelligence chief. She quotes a letter she received from a “well-placed Afghan insider,” who claims:

You are not going to believe this but Karzai believes that ISAF [NATO] was trying to scare or warn him by lobbing rockets at the Jirga tent on June 2. He believes that once ISAF was assured of him not making an anti-Western statement the rocketing stopped. He then went on to accuse his two security chiefs (Amrullah Saleh and Hanif Attmar) of colluding with ISAF.

Amrullah rejected this outright, arguing that if they wanted to get Karzai they would not have used an old rocket! He also declared that he could no longer work for him (the President).

He then walked out and resigned in a press conference later in the afternoon. Atmar followed suit an hour later.

This story is so bizarre that it just might be true. If so, it actually reinforces a point I made in my earlier posting on this subject: to wit, the dangers of letting Karzai feel isolated and alienated. If he has truly gotten to the point of thinking the U.S. may be trying to kill him, that is all the more reason for him to seek out unsavory alliances elsewhere to assure his survival. This confirms my impression that the key to handling Karzai is making him feel secure — something that the Obama administration has badly bungled.

Elizabeth Rubin, a former colleague at the Council on Foreign Relations and one of the savviest press observers of Hamid Karzai, floats a theory about what’s behind the resignations of Afghanistan’s minister of the interior and intelligence chief. She quotes a letter she received from a “well-placed Afghan insider,” who claims:

You are not going to believe this but Karzai believes that ISAF [NATO] was trying to scare or warn him by lobbing rockets at the Jirga tent on June 2. He believes that once ISAF was assured of him not making an anti-Western statement the rocketing stopped. He then went on to accuse his two security chiefs (Amrullah Saleh and Hanif Attmar) of colluding with ISAF.

Amrullah rejected this outright, arguing that if they wanted to get Karzai they would not have used an old rocket! He also declared that he could no longer work for him (the President).

He then walked out and resigned in a press conference later in the afternoon. Atmar followed suit an hour later.

This story is so bizarre that it just might be true. If so, it actually reinforces a point I made in my earlier posting on this subject: to wit, the dangers of letting Karzai feel isolated and alienated. If he has truly gotten to the point of thinking the U.S. may be trying to kill him, that is all the more reason for him to seek out unsavory alliances elsewhere to assure his survival. This confirms my impression that the key to handling Karzai is making him feel secure — something that the Obama administration has badly bungled.

Read Less

Obama’s Iran Policy in Shambles

The Obama team keeps telling us that its foreign-policy gurus have successfully “isolated” Iran and are proceeding with serious sanctions. Neither is true. The Washington Post reports:

A year ago, Iran was on its way to becoming a pariah state. Dozens of governments accused Iranian leaders of stealing the presidential election and condemned the brutal crackdown on protesters that followed. The country faced sanctions and international scorn over its controversial nuclear program.

Now, even as the U.N. Security Council prepares to impose its fourth round of sanctions on Iran with a vote slated for Wednesday, Tehran is demonstrating remarkable resilience, insulating some of its most crucial industries from U.S.-backed financial restrictions and building a formidable diplomatic network that should help it withstand some of the pressure from the West. Iranian leaders are meeting politicians in world capitals from Tokyo to Brussels. They are also signing game-changing energy deals, increasing their economic self-sufficiency and even gaining seats on international bodies.

As for those sanctions, the Post reveals just how ineffective they are:

But in another sign of the fragile nature of Washington’s anti-Iran alliance, the leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran convened a regional security summit Tuesday to emphasize the realignment of military power in the region. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who backs U.N. sanctions, said the measures should not “be excessive” or impose undue hardship on the Iranian leadership or the Iranian people.

The new U.S.-backed measures have been watered down enough that Tehran’s crucial oil sector will probably be spared, and Russia’s and China’s business dealings with Iran will go largely untouched.

Meanwhile, members of Congress shuffle their collective feet, Jewish groups remain mum, and the Obama administration congratulates itself on its “success.” Gal Luft, executive director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, says the administration’s moves won’t hobble Iran’s nuclear ambitions. (“The horse is out of the stable.”) At every turn — engagement, “reset” with Russia, quietude on the June 12 uprising, downplaying the Qom revelation, fashioning anemic sanctions, and abusing our ally Israel — the Obama team has made fundamental errors. This leaves two options: Israeli military action or a nuclear-armed Iran. The former is undesirable, but the latter is catastrophic. That we face this dilemma is solely the result of Obama’s grievous errors. History will not be kind.

The Obama team keeps telling us that its foreign-policy gurus have successfully “isolated” Iran and are proceeding with serious sanctions. Neither is true. The Washington Post reports:

A year ago, Iran was on its way to becoming a pariah state. Dozens of governments accused Iranian leaders of stealing the presidential election and condemned the brutal crackdown on protesters that followed. The country faced sanctions and international scorn over its controversial nuclear program.

Now, even as the U.N. Security Council prepares to impose its fourth round of sanctions on Iran with a vote slated for Wednesday, Tehran is demonstrating remarkable resilience, insulating some of its most crucial industries from U.S.-backed financial restrictions and building a formidable diplomatic network that should help it withstand some of the pressure from the West. Iranian leaders are meeting politicians in world capitals from Tokyo to Brussels. They are also signing game-changing energy deals, increasing their economic self-sufficiency and even gaining seats on international bodies.

As for those sanctions, the Post reveals just how ineffective they are:

But in another sign of the fragile nature of Washington’s anti-Iran alliance, the leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran convened a regional security summit Tuesday to emphasize the realignment of military power in the region. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who backs U.N. sanctions, said the measures should not “be excessive” or impose undue hardship on the Iranian leadership or the Iranian people.

The new U.S.-backed measures have been watered down enough that Tehran’s crucial oil sector will probably be spared, and Russia’s and China’s business dealings with Iran will go largely untouched.

Meanwhile, members of Congress shuffle their collective feet, Jewish groups remain mum, and the Obama administration congratulates itself on its “success.” Gal Luft, executive director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, says the administration’s moves won’t hobble Iran’s nuclear ambitions. (“The horse is out of the stable.”) At every turn — engagement, “reset” with Russia, quietude on the June 12 uprising, downplaying the Qom revelation, fashioning anemic sanctions, and abusing our ally Israel — the Obama team has made fundamental errors. This leaves two options: Israeli military action or a nuclear-armed Iran. The former is undesirable, but the latter is catastrophic. That we face this dilemma is solely the result of Obama’s grievous errors. History will not be kind.

Read Less

The Obama Administration Bullies Business Again

Obama and congressional Democrats have become accustomed to badgering, bullying, and berating business. They see nothing wrong with suing and excoriating Goldman Sachs for shorting the housing market. They thought it was fine to force AIG to take away bonuses from executives who were contractually entitled to receive them. And now this:

BP faced demands Tuesday that it withhold its first-quarter dividend, which it committed to pay in April, in the early days of the Deepwater Horizon crisis. A confirmation of the payment date Tuesday drew a letter of condemnation from 32 members of Congress. … The dilemma comes as BP faces tremendous heat over the issue. Last week, President Barack Obama warned the company against “nickel and diming” people affected by the spill and said BP had “moral and legal obligations” to Gulf Coast residents that may supersede its obligations to shareholders.

You do wonder whether any of these politicians understand that stock price reflects expected cash flow — including dividends. Are they trying to crash BP’s stock? Surely investors will start dumping the stock if the dividend is taken away.

The larger point, however, is this: what gives lawmakers the right to boss around a private company (one that never took a bailout) and pull the rug out from shareholders, who are entitled to and may be financial dependent on dividend checks? It’s not as if there were any economic justification for nixing the dividend:

Today, analysts say there is no reason from a business standpoint for the company to cut the dividend, as few people are questioning BP’s financial strength despite the crisis brought on by the Deepwater Horizon disaster. “If they do something with the dividend, they’re not doing it for financial reasons … it’s because of the political battle of wills,” said [former BP CEO Bob] Morton.

It is one more instance of liberals attempting  to blur the distinction between the public and private and to force businesses to make economic decisions based on political considerations. Politicians with little economic expertise and no respect for the rule of law are systematically distorting business decisions and thereby forcing executives to become political operatives and lobbying gurus rather than expert wealth creators. It is what comes from electing people with zero experience in or respect for profiting-making ventures.

Obama and congressional Democrats have become accustomed to badgering, bullying, and berating business. They see nothing wrong with suing and excoriating Goldman Sachs for shorting the housing market. They thought it was fine to force AIG to take away bonuses from executives who were contractually entitled to receive them. And now this:

BP faced demands Tuesday that it withhold its first-quarter dividend, which it committed to pay in April, in the early days of the Deepwater Horizon crisis. A confirmation of the payment date Tuesday drew a letter of condemnation from 32 members of Congress. … The dilemma comes as BP faces tremendous heat over the issue. Last week, President Barack Obama warned the company against “nickel and diming” people affected by the spill and said BP had “moral and legal obligations” to Gulf Coast residents that may supersede its obligations to shareholders.

You do wonder whether any of these politicians understand that stock price reflects expected cash flow — including dividends. Are they trying to crash BP’s stock? Surely investors will start dumping the stock if the dividend is taken away.

The larger point, however, is this: what gives lawmakers the right to boss around a private company (one that never took a bailout) and pull the rug out from shareholders, who are entitled to and may be financial dependent on dividend checks? It’s not as if there were any economic justification for nixing the dividend:

Today, analysts say there is no reason from a business standpoint for the company to cut the dividend, as few people are questioning BP’s financial strength despite the crisis brought on by the Deepwater Horizon disaster. “If they do something with the dividend, they’re not doing it for financial reasons … it’s because of the political battle of wills,” said [former BP CEO Bob] Morton.

It is one more instance of liberals attempting  to blur the distinction between the public and private and to force businesses to make economic decisions based on political considerations. Politicians with little economic expertise and no respect for the rule of law are systematically distorting business decisions and thereby forcing executives to become political operatives and lobbying gurus rather than expert wealth creators. It is what comes from electing people with zero experience in or respect for profiting-making ventures.

Read Less

What Those Primary Results Mean

Blanche Lincoln narrowly beat her Democratic challenger Bill Halter. She is among the walking wounded stumbling into the November election and is unlikely to keep her seat. Ben Smith got the quote of the night: “A senior White House official just called me with a very pointed message for the administration’s sometime allies in organized labor, who invested heavily in beating Blanche Lincoln, Obama’s candidate, in Arkanas. ‘Organized labor just flushed $10 million of their members’ money down the toilet on a pointless exercise,’ the official said. ‘If even half that total had been well-targeted and applied in key House races across this country, that could have made a real difference in November.’” I’m sure the labor bosses — like President Karzai — will adore being dissed in public. Lesson: Mushy moderates who’ve boasted about their backroom deals have a hard road ahead.

Nikki Haley overcame an adultery smear campaign and won big but fell barely short of a majority. She will have a runoff against Rep. Gresham Barrett. If she couldn’t be knocked out by rumors of a sex scandal now, she has a good chance to prevail in the runoff and become the state’s first woman governor. Lesson: Voters have become skeptical if not hostile to nasty smears; those who think that’s a winning tactic risk an equally nasty backlash. And it doesn’t hurt when you have Sarah Palin at your side to stir up the base.

In Nevada, voters dumped the incumbent, the scandal-plagued Jim Gibbons, in favor of  Brian Sandoval, who would be the state’s first Hispanic governor (and who would confuse pundits who are certain Republicans have permanently offended Hispanics). In the Senate race, Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle beat the former state chairwoman and other candidates. Lesson: Throw the bums out. And the Tea Party movement still matters.

In California, both Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina (also Palin-endorsed) won big. In the Senate race, the lesson from Tom Campbell’s thumping is four-fold. First, anti-Israel votes and statements are losers with the GOP base (but can earn you a J Street endorsement, kudos from Peter Beinart, or a column in the Nation). Washington politicians are out of favor — honest. And the GOP has zero interest in mushy moderates with a mixed record on taxes (i.e., Charlie Crist isn’t the only one who missed the populist revolt). Finally, it matters how strong and creative a campaign you run — better ads, a more-engaging candidate, and sharper debating beat worse ads, a less-engaging candidate, and worse debating most of the time. And from the gubernatorial primary, we can only ponder why in the world Meg Whitman wants the job of governor of a state that most resembles Greece.

The overarching picture is a familiar one: Republicans want candidates who aren’t Democratic-lite, and incumbents are guilty until proven innocent in the minds of voters. Republican women — Haley, Fiorina, Angle, and Whitman — had a good night, so Democrats will have to find an insult other than “sexist” to hurl at the GOP.

Blanche Lincoln narrowly beat her Democratic challenger Bill Halter. She is among the walking wounded stumbling into the November election and is unlikely to keep her seat. Ben Smith got the quote of the night: “A senior White House official just called me with a very pointed message for the administration’s sometime allies in organized labor, who invested heavily in beating Blanche Lincoln, Obama’s candidate, in Arkanas. ‘Organized labor just flushed $10 million of their members’ money down the toilet on a pointless exercise,’ the official said. ‘If even half that total had been well-targeted and applied in key House races across this country, that could have made a real difference in November.’” I’m sure the labor bosses — like President Karzai — will adore being dissed in public. Lesson: Mushy moderates who’ve boasted about their backroom deals have a hard road ahead.

Nikki Haley overcame an adultery smear campaign and won big but fell barely short of a majority. She will have a runoff against Rep. Gresham Barrett. If she couldn’t be knocked out by rumors of a sex scandal now, she has a good chance to prevail in the runoff and become the state’s first woman governor. Lesson: Voters have become skeptical if not hostile to nasty smears; those who think that’s a winning tactic risk an equally nasty backlash. And it doesn’t hurt when you have Sarah Palin at your side to stir up the base.

In Nevada, voters dumped the incumbent, the scandal-plagued Jim Gibbons, in favor of  Brian Sandoval, who would be the state’s first Hispanic governor (and who would confuse pundits who are certain Republicans have permanently offended Hispanics). In the Senate race, Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle beat the former state chairwoman and other candidates. Lesson: Throw the bums out. And the Tea Party movement still matters.

In California, both Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina (also Palin-endorsed) won big. In the Senate race, the lesson from Tom Campbell’s thumping is four-fold. First, anti-Israel votes and statements are losers with the GOP base (but can earn you a J Street endorsement, kudos from Peter Beinart, or a column in the Nation). Washington politicians are out of favor — honest. And the GOP has zero interest in mushy moderates with a mixed record on taxes (i.e., Charlie Crist isn’t the only one who missed the populist revolt). Finally, it matters how strong and creative a campaign you run — better ads, a more-engaging candidate, and sharper debating beat worse ads, a less-engaging candidate, and worse debating most of the time. And from the gubernatorial primary, we can only ponder why in the world Meg Whitman wants the job of governor of a state that most resembles Greece.

The overarching picture is a familiar one: Republicans want candidates who aren’t Democratic-lite, and incumbents are guilty until proven innocent in the minds of voters. Republican women — Haley, Fiorina, Angle, and Whitman — had a good night, so Democrats will have to find an insult other than “sexist” to hurl at the GOP.

Read Less

Worst Human-Rights Violators Condemn Israel. Your Laugh Here.

The out-of-control international rage against Israel over the Mavi Marmara incident has now entered the realm of farce. It was bad enough to hear the prime minister of Turkey — a country notorious for human rights violations in its campaign against Kurdish rebels — denounce Israel for “state terrorism.” It’s simply ludicrous to have to listen to Vladimir Putin chime in.

The Russian prime minister says he is shocked by Israel’s “crude violation of the internationally recognized norms of international law.” Well Putin certainly knows about crude violations of international law. He’s committed plenty of them himself. This is the same Putin, after all, who has been responsible for Russia’s scorched-earth campaign in Chechnya, which has undoubtedly killed more people than all of Israel’s campaigns against the Palestinians combined. In the process, Russia has committed too many violations of international law to count. As Human Rights Watch reminds us:

In 83 rulings to date, the European Court of Human Rights has held Russia responsible for serious human rights violations in Chechnya, including torture, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial executions. In nearly every ruling, the court called the Russian government to account for failing to properly investigate these crimes.

What next? Will Kim Jung-il and Robert Mugabe also join the international chorus condemning Israel’s supposedly unconscionable conduct? Or perhaps they already have. When it comes to the Jewish state, no level of hypocrisy can be considered truly shocking anymore.

The out-of-control international rage against Israel over the Mavi Marmara incident has now entered the realm of farce. It was bad enough to hear the prime minister of Turkey — a country notorious for human rights violations in its campaign against Kurdish rebels — denounce Israel for “state terrorism.” It’s simply ludicrous to have to listen to Vladimir Putin chime in.

The Russian prime minister says he is shocked by Israel’s “crude violation of the internationally recognized norms of international law.” Well Putin certainly knows about crude violations of international law. He’s committed plenty of them himself. This is the same Putin, after all, who has been responsible for Russia’s scorched-earth campaign in Chechnya, which has undoubtedly killed more people than all of Israel’s campaigns against the Palestinians combined. In the process, Russia has committed too many violations of international law to count. As Human Rights Watch reminds us:

In 83 rulings to date, the European Court of Human Rights has held Russia responsible for serious human rights violations in Chechnya, including torture, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial executions. In nearly every ruling, the court called the Russian government to account for failing to properly investigate these crimes.

What next? Will Kim Jung-il and Robert Mugabe also join the international chorus condemning Israel’s supposedly unconscionable conduct? Or perhaps they already have. When it comes to the Jewish state, no level of hypocrisy can be considered truly shocking anymore.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.