Commentary Magazine


Posts For: June 13, 2010

Why Are We Making It Harder for Our Military to Win in Afghanistan?

In a clip played on Fox News Sunday, General Stanley McChrystal explained that the effort to force the Taliban out of Kandahar is slow going: “I do think that it will happen more slowly than we had originally anticipated, and so I think it will take a number of months for this to play out.  And I think it’s more important we get it right than we get it fast.”

It turns out this has much to do with our civilian officials. Bill Kristol reveals the time line that Obama imposed on our troops and that conservative critics loudly panned is, indeed, part of the problem:

KRISTOL:  I was at a dinner this week with about a dozen experts on Afghanistan, most of whom have been there for quite some time and quite recently, bipartisan group, all of them supportive of the effort, but many very close to the Obama administration, and the non- governmental organizations and the like, and I was amazed by the consensus on two things. One, the time line.  We are paying a much bigger price for the time line over there than a lot of us thought we would when Obama announced…

WALLACE:  The time when we begin pulling troops out in July of 2011.

KRISTOL:  We understand that we could pull them out very slowly, and Secretary Gates and Secretary Clinton sort of walked it back after President Obama announced it.  Over there it sounded like the U.S. is getting out, and everyone’s got to hedge and cut their deals.

I think the single best thing the president personally could do now is explicitly say, “Look, we hope to begin drawing down then, but we are here to stay.”

The next problem is that our State Department, specifically special envoy Richard Holbrooke and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, is hindering the effort:

The second thing is diplomatically, politically, we’re not doing our job over there.  The military is doing a good job.  General McChrystal’s right to say let’s get it right rather than doing it quickly.  And I think on the whole that General McChrystal certainly knows what he’s doing.

The diplomatic effort — and this is coming from people who are sympathetic, who are on the soft power side of things, who are, you know, from liberal non-governmental organizations — is that our effort has been bad.  It’s not just that we lack a reliable partner there.

Richard Holbrooke, the senior diplomat who’s in charge of it — everyone agrees that it’s been a fiasco.  He’s not — he can’t set foot there because Karzai doesn’t get along with him.  Ambassador Eikenberry doesn’t get along with General McChrystal.  He doesn’t get along either — Eikenberry, that is — with Karzai.  All the burden has fallen on the military.

This is unconscionable. Why, if there is widespread consensus, do Holbrooke and Eikenberry remain? Is Obama’s relationship with the military so bad that he does not understand or appreciate that his own administration is undercutting the war effort?

When the time line was announced, I observed that we would have to win in Afghanistan despite our commander in chief. It is absurd that our military labors under such a handicap, made even more burdensome by incompetent and obnoxious emissaries of the president. It is time for the latter to go and for Obama to fix his errors. However, his political hacks insist on reiterating the president’s faulty and counterproductive strategy. On Meet the Press, David Axelrod had this to say:

Well, the president made it clear that we can’t make an open-ended commitment there, that the Afghan government and the Afghan people have to take responsibility themselves, and their army, their security.  And their civil institutions have to take responsibility.  We–he is committed to begin that process of withdrawal in July of, of next year, and that is–continues to be the plan, and we’re going to pursue that on that schedule.

The administration keeps this up, and Obama will bear the responsibility for losing a war he deemed critical.

In a clip played on Fox News Sunday, General Stanley McChrystal explained that the effort to force the Taliban out of Kandahar is slow going: “I do think that it will happen more slowly than we had originally anticipated, and so I think it will take a number of months for this to play out.  And I think it’s more important we get it right than we get it fast.”

It turns out this has much to do with our civilian officials. Bill Kristol reveals the time line that Obama imposed on our troops and that conservative critics loudly panned is, indeed, part of the problem:

KRISTOL:  I was at a dinner this week with about a dozen experts on Afghanistan, most of whom have been there for quite some time and quite recently, bipartisan group, all of them supportive of the effort, but many very close to the Obama administration, and the non- governmental organizations and the like, and I was amazed by the consensus on two things. One, the time line.  We are paying a much bigger price for the time line over there than a lot of us thought we would when Obama announced…

WALLACE:  The time when we begin pulling troops out in July of 2011.

KRISTOL:  We understand that we could pull them out very slowly, and Secretary Gates and Secretary Clinton sort of walked it back after President Obama announced it.  Over there it sounded like the U.S. is getting out, and everyone’s got to hedge and cut their deals.

I think the single best thing the president personally could do now is explicitly say, “Look, we hope to begin drawing down then, but we are here to stay.”

The next problem is that our State Department, specifically special envoy Richard Holbrooke and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, is hindering the effort:

The second thing is diplomatically, politically, we’re not doing our job over there.  The military is doing a good job.  General McChrystal’s right to say let’s get it right rather than doing it quickly.  And I think on the whole that General McChrystal certainly knows what he’s doing.

The diplomatic effort — and this is coming from people who are sympathetic, who are on the soft power side of things, who are, you know, from liberal non-governmental organizations — is that our effort has been bad.  It’s not just that we lack a reliable partner there.

Richard Holbrooke, the senior diplomat who’s in charge of it — everyone agrees that it’s been a fiasco.  He’s not — he can’t set foot there because Karzai doesn’t get along with him.  Ambassador Eikenberry doesn’t get along with General McChrystal.  He doesn’t get along either — Eikenberry, that is — with Karzai.  All the burden has fallen on the military.

This is unconscionable. Why, if there is widespread consensus, do Holbrooke and Eikenberry remain? Is Obama’s relationship with the military so bad that he does not understand or appreciate that his own administration is undercutting the war effort?

When the time line was announced, I observed that we would have to win in Afghanistan despite our commander in chief. It is absurd that our military labors under such a handicap, made even more burdensome by incompetent and obnoxious emissaries of the president. It is time for the latter to go and for Obama to fix his errors. However, his political hacks insist on reiterating the president’s faulty and counterproductive strategy. On Meet the Press, David Axelrod had this to say:

Well, the president made it clear that we can’t make an open-ended commitment there, that the Afghan government and the Afghan people have to take responsibility themselves, and their army, their security.  And their civil institutions have to take responsibility.  We–he is committed to begin that process of withdrawal in July of, of next year, and that is–continues to be the plan, and we’re going to pursue that on that schedule.

The administration keeps this up, and Obama will bear the responsibility for losing a war he deemed critical.

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The Reviews Are in

On the op-ed page of a certain famous mass-circulation newspaper, the editors declare:

The country is frustrated and apprehensive and still waiting for Mr. Obama to put his vision into action.The president cannot plug the leak or magically clean up the fouled Gulf of Mexico. But he and his administration need to do a lot more to show they are on top of this mess, and not perpetually behind the curve. …

Americans need to know that Mr. Obama, whose coolness can seem like detachment, is engaged. This is not a mere question of presentation or stagecraft, although the White House could do better at both. (We cringed when he told the “Today” show that he had spent important time figuring out “whose ass to kick” about the spill. Everyone knew that answer on Day 2.)

One of the paper’s top columnist’s writes:

The former constitutional lawyer now in the White House understands that the press has a role in the democracy. But he is an elitist, too, as well as thin-skinned and controlling. So he ends up regarding scribes as intrusive, conveying a distaste for what he sees as the fundamental unseriousness of a press driven by blog-around-the-clock deadlines. … It hurts Obama to be a crybaby about it, and to blame the press and the “old Washington game” for his own communication failures. . . Now that Obama has been hit with negative press, he’s even more contemptuous. “He’s never needed to woo the press,” says the NBC White House reporter Chuck Todd. “He’s never really needed us.” So, as The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz writes, the more press-friendly, emotionally accessible, if gaffe-prone Biden has become “the administration’s top on-air spokesman.”

The Wall Street Journal and William McGurn? The Washington Examiner and Michael Barone? No, the New York Times and Maureen Dowd. It’s one more sign that the bottom is dropping out of Obama’s support, and the unraveling of his presidency is picking up steam. Unless he gets a grip and finds some grown-ups from whom he is willing to take advice, this is not going to improve.

On the op-ed page of a certain famous mass-circulation newspaper, the editors declare:

The country is frustrated and apprehensive and still waiting for Mr. Obama to put his vision into action.The president cannot plug the leak or magically clean up the fouled Gulf of Mexico. But he and his administration need to do a lot more to show they are on top of this mess, and not perpetually behind the curve. …

Americans need to know that Mr. Obama, whose coolness can seem like detachment, is engaged. This is not a mere question of presentation or stagecraft, although the White House could do better at both. (We cringed when he told the “Today” show that he had spent important time figuring out “whose ass to kick” about the spill. Everyone knew that answer on Day 2.)

One of the paper’s top columnist’s writes:

The former constitutional lawyer now in the White House understands that the press has a role in the democracy. But he is an elitist, too, as well as thin-skinned and controlling. So he ends up regarding scribes as intrusive, conveying a distaste for what he sees as the fundamental unseriousness of a press driven by blog-around-the-clock deadlines. … It hurts Obama to be a crybaby about it, and to blame the press and the “old Washington game” for his own communication failures. . . Now that Obama has been hit with negative press, he’s even more contemptuous. “He’s never needed to woo the press,” says the NBC White House reporter Chuck Todd. “He’s never really needed us.” So, as The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz writes, the more press-friendly, emotionally accessible, if gaffe-prone Biden has become “the administration’s top on-air spokesman.”

The Wall Street Journal and William McGurn? The Washington Examiner and Michael Barone? No, the New York Times and Maureen Dowd. It’s one more sign that the bottom is dropping out of Obama’s support, and the unraveling of his presidency is picking up steam. Unless he gets a grip and finds some grown-ups from whom he is willing to take advice, this is not going to improve.

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The Incoherent Response to the Flotilla

As I previously noted, it made no sense for Mahmoud Abbas to root for a relaxation of the Gaza blockade. In the furor of the moment and with Obama refusing to give Israel a robust vote of confidence, he no doubt felt compelled to throw his lot in with the Israel-bashers. But as David points out, we now know that privately he was singing a different tune:

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is opposed to lifting the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip because this would bolster Hamas, according to what he told United States President Barack Obama during their meeting at the White House Wednesday. Egypt also supports this position. …

The issue of the Gaza flotilla and lifting the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip was the main topic of discussion between Obama and Abbas last Wednesday night.

European diplomats updated by the White House on the talks said that Abbas had stressed to Obama the need of opening the border crossings into the Gaza Strip and the easing of the siege, but only in ways that do not bolster Hamas.

One of the points that Abbas raised is that the naval blockade imposed by Israel on the Strip should not be lifted at this stage. The European diplomats said Egypt has made it clear to Israel, the U.S and the European Union that it is also opposes the lifting of the naval blockade because of the difficulty in inspecting the ships that would enter and leave the Gaza port.

Yet Obama has remained virtually mute on this point, allowing the anti-blockade furor to grow at the UN and among Israel’s enemies. Now we know that only Hamas — and 54 liberal congressmen, including Joe Sestak – wants the blockade lifted. But still, the “international community” criticizes Israel for enforcing the blockade if force is needed.

Meanwhile, Bibi has announced an inquiry into the flotilla incident:

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced Sunday that a retired high court judge, Jacob Turkel, will head the committee of inquiry into the raid on the Turkish aid ship Mavi Marmara.At a meeting of Likud ministers, the prime minister said he had notified US President Barack Obama of the plans.

So far, we’ve heard no endorsement of the Israel-only inquiry from Obama, nor does it appear that the U.S. is inclined to participate formally or provide assistance to it. Obama was merely informed.

So where are we? Obama continues to hedge and equivocate, unwilling to publicly endorse the blockade that his Fatah clients desperately need to remain in place. Obama continues to search for an international element to the investigation — trying, as he always does, to show his bona fides to the Arab world (“See, America doesn’t trust Israel to investigate itself!”) without unleashing a furious backlash by Congress and Jewish groups, who are continually assured that of course we won’t single out Israel or allow a Goldstone-type inquest. But what do those assurances actually mean? Obama broke new ground with the UN statement, refused to insist that Turkey and the terrorists be the subject of an inquest, and signaled to Iran once again that there is distance between the U.S. and Israel.

We have, for the upteenth time, demonstrated incoherence and uncertainty on the Middle East. In the void left by an assertive U.S. and a warm U.S.-Israel relationship, in steps Iran and its soul mates, Turkey and Syria. As a result of all this “smart diplomacy,” the Middle East is spinning out of control and edging closer to conflagration.

As I previously noted, it made no sense for Mahmoud Abbas to root for a relaxation of the Gaza blockade. In the furor of the moment and with Obama refusing to give Israel a robust vote of confidence, he no doubt felt compelled to throw his lot in with the Israel-bashers. But as David points out, we now know that privately he was singing a different tune:

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is opposed to lifting the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip because this would bolster Hamas, according to what he told United States President Barack Obama during their meeting at the White House Wednesday. Egypt also supports this position. …

The issue of the Gaza flotilla and lifting the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip was the main topic of discussion between Obama and Abbas last Wednesday night.

European diplomats updated by the White House on the talks said that Abbas had stressed to Obama the need of opening the border crossings into the Gaza Strip and the easing of the siege, but only in ways that do not bolster Hamas.

One of the points that Abbas raised is that the naval blockade imposed by Israel on the Strip should not be lifted at this stage. The European diplomats said Egypt has made it clear to Israel, the U.S and the European Union that it is also opposes the lifting of the naval blockade because of the difficulty in inspecting the ships that would enter and leave the Gaza port.

Yet Obama has remained virtually mute on this point, allowing the anti-blockade furor to grow at the UN and among Israel’s enemies. Now we know that only Hamas — and 54 liberal congressmen, including Joe Sestak – wants the blockade lifted. But still, the “international community” criticizes Israel for enforcing the blockade if force is needed.

Meanwhile, Bibi has announced an inquiry into the flotilla incident:

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced Sunday that a retired high court judge, Jacob Turkel, will head the committee of inquiry into the raid on the Turkish aid ship Mavi Marmara.At a meeting of Likud ministers, the prime minister said he had notified US President Barack Obama of the plans.

So far, we’ve heard no endorsement of the Israel-only inquiry from Obama, nor does it appear that the U.S. is inclined to participate formally or provide assistance to it. Obama was merely informed.

So where are we? Obama continues to hedge and equivocate, unwilling to publicly endorse the blockade that his Fatah clients desperately need to remain in place. Obama continues to search for an international element to the investigation — trying, as he always does, to show his bona fides to the Arab world (“See, America doesn’t trust Israel to investigate itself!”) without unleashing a furious backlash by Congress and Jewish groups, who are continually assured that of course we won’t single out Israel or allow a Goldstone-type inquest. But what do those assurances actually mean? Obama broke new ground with the UN statement, refused to insist that Turkey and the terrorists be the subject of an inquest, and signaled to Iran once again that there is distance between the U.S. and Israel.

We have, for the upteenth time, demonstrated incoherence and uncertainty on the Middle East. In the void left by an assertive U.S. and a warm U.S.-Israel relationship, in steps Iran and its soul mates, Turkey and Syria. As a result of all this “smart diplomacy,” the Middle East is spinning out of control and edging closer to conflagration.

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A New Abbas?

Mahmoud Abbas, the chairman of the Palestinian Authority and presumptive world representative of the Palestinian cause, has been making life difficult for those who make attacking Israel an axiom for their activism. The Jerusalem Post reported that, at a luncheon at Washington’s Brookings Institution last week, Abbas crossed a number of rhetorical red lines that have become the foundations of the anti-Israel narrative.

One: “Nobody denies the Jewish history in the Middle East. A third of our holy Koran talks about the Jews in the Middle East, in this area. Nobody from our side at least denies that the Jews were in Palestine.” Nobody, of course, except for Helen Thomas, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, and countless activists who speak of the entire state of Israel, not just the post-1967 territories, as an “occupation.”

Two: he recognizes “West Jerusalem” as the “capital of Israel.” This is rather bold, considering that even the U.S. State Department doesn’t recognize Western Jerusalem as a part of Israel at all, much less its capital.

Three: Abbas stated that the goal of negotiations would be an absolute end to the conflict, so that there would be “no more demands” — something that sounds obvious but has forever eluded the public Palestinian discourse, keeping Israeli suspicions high that the Palestinians are not remotely interested in ending the conflict.

Four: he conceded that there is anti-Israel incitement on the Palestinian side and that such could be resolved through an agreed-upon monitoring committee.

Five: he allowed for the possibility of an agreed solution that included an international force, even NATO, occupying the Palestinian territories, at least for a few years — opening the door, perhaps, for meeting Israel’s demand that the Palestinian state be demilitarized.

Yet the biggest zinger from Abbas appears in today’s Haaretz. According to the report, he told President Barack Obama that he opposes lifting Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip — a position shared with the Egyptian government, as well. This, of course, not only justifies Israel’s enforcement of the blockade during the flotilla mess (regardless of whether the tactics were prudent) but it also implies that the blockade itself is precisely right. This is truly remarkable, for it drastically undermines the justification for the entire flotilla and puts Turkey and other supporters in the awkward position of having to explain why, exactly, they have been so excited about it in the first place. (It would have been nice if Abbas had said so before the boats launched, but I suppose you can’t have everything.)

Certainly many people will dismiss his comments as the sudden spin of a politician worried about losing his place in the international arena. And obviously his concessions here, assuming he holds on to them, do not mean an immediate breakthrough to peace: you still have the massive problem of dismantling the Hamas government in Gaza (without which there cannot be peace) and coming to agreements on the refugees and Jerusalem. Yet one wonders why these statements have largely been ignored by the major Western media. Is it because, perhaps, that it doesn’t fit well with the current climate of radically de-legitimizing the Jewish state and its right to defend itself?

Mahmoud Abbas, the chairman of the Palestinian Authority and presumptive world representative of the Palestinian cause, has been making life difficult for those who make attacking Israel an axiom for their activism. The Jerusalem Post reported that, at a luncheon at Washington’s Brookings Institution last week, Abbas crossed a number of rhetorical red lines that have become the foundations of the anti-Israel narrative.

One: “Nobody denies the Jewish history in the Middle East. A third of our holy Koran talks about the Jews in the Middle East, in this area. Nobody from our side at least denies that the Jews were in Palestine.” Nobody, of course, except for Helen Thomas, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, and countless activists who speak of the entire state of Israel, not just the post-1967 territories, as an “occupation.”

Two: he recognizes “West Jerusalem” as the “capital of Israel.” This is rather bold, considering that even the U.S. State Department doesn’t recognize Western Jerusalem as a part of Israel at all, much less its capital.

Three: Abbas stated that the goal of negotiations would be an absolute end to the conflict, so that there would be “no more demands” — something that sounds obvious but has forever eluded the public Palestinian discourse, keeping Israeli suspicions high that the Palestinians are not remotely interested in ending the conflict.

Four: he conceded that there is anti-Israel incitement on the Palestinian side and that such could be resolved through an agreed-upon monitoring committee.

Five: he allowed for the possibility of an agreed solution that included an international force, even NATO, occupying the Palestinian territories, at least for a few years — opening the door, perhaps, for meeting Israel’s demand that the Palestinian state be demilitarized.

Yet the biggest zinger from Abbas appears in today’s Haaretz. According to the report, he told President Barack Obama that he opposes lifting Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip — a position shared with the Egyptian government, as well. This, of course, not only justifies Israel’s enforcement of the blockade during the flotilla mess (regardless of whether the tactics were prudent) but it also implies that the blockade itself is precisely right. This is truly remarkable, for it drastically undermines the justification for the entire flotilla and puts Turkey and other supporters in the awkward position of having to explain why, exactly, they have been so excited about it in the first place. (It would have been nice if Abbas had said so before the boats launched, but I suppose you can’t have everything.)

Certainly many people will dismiss his comments as the sudden spin of a politician worried about losing his place in the international arena. And obviously his concessions here, assuming he holds on to them, do not mean an immediate breakthrough to peace: you still have the massive problem of dismantling the Hamas government in Gaza (without which there cannot be peace) and coming to agreements on the refugees and Jerusalem. Yet one wonders why these statements have largely been ignored by the major Western media. Is it because, perhaps, that it doesn’t fit well with the current climate of radically de-legitimizing the Jewish state and its right to defend itself?

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U.S. Defense Merits Spending

Big surprise. Reason magazine, the libertarian Bible, favors cutting defense spending. But it would be hard to come up with a more unpersuasive argument if they tried. Contributor Veronica de Rugy of George Mason University, a bastion of free-market economics, writes:

Liberals often view the Pentagon as an item that should be cut but can’t for political reasons. … Yet such cuts have been achieved in the past. … During the last 70 years, the defense budget was cut 26 times by an average rate of 10 percent. … The biggest cuts followed World War II, with a 72 percent reduction in 1947. The last cut was in 1998. … Most of the cuts have taken place after the end of a war. But cuts were also achieved in the late 1960s and early ’70s, despite the ongoing conflict in Vietnam. Politicians explicitly debated how to cut spending without cutting security, and they still managed to get re-elected.

So let me see if I have this straight: de Rugy thinks that defense cuts in the late 1940s, early 1970s, and early 1990s are a good model to follow? In all three instances, major wars were winding down (World War II, Vietnam, and the Cold War, respectively), and the political class was eager to spend a “peace dividend.” Ms. de Rugy is an economist, not a historian, but she would be well advised to study the historical record for what happened next.

In all three cases, the result was to make America less secure and to embolden our adversaries. The precipitous decline in defense spending after World War II left us ill-prepared to confront Communist aggression in Korea. The drawdown after the end of the Vietnam War led to a “hollow army” that could not stand up to Soviet aggression or the Iranian hostage crisis in the 1970s. And the 1990s drawdown, which included slashing a third of the Army’s active-duty strength, left the armed forces overstretched and ill-prepared to deal with a host of low-intensity conflicts, from Somalia to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Since 9/11, the trend has reversed, with a big increase in defense budgets, but most of the money has gone for current operations and personnel costs (including health care and pensions) – the latter line item consuming an ever-larger share of the budget since the abolition of the draft in 1973. The U.S. armed forces have not been able to acquire enough big-ticket items to replace weapons designed and bought during the Reagan years or even earlier. (B-52 bombers and KC-135 tankers date back to the Eisenhower administration.) The Army has grown slightly, but it is still far below its strength at the end of the Cold War, when it had 710,000 active-duty soldiers. (Today the figure is 560,000.)

It’s true that we spend as much on defense as the rest of the world combined, but our commitments are also greater because the U.S. armed forces have to maintain peace and security across the globe – something that is increasingly hard to do when the Navy, for example, has just 286 ships (down from almost 600 ships in the Reagan years). We can certainly afford to keep spending as much on defense as we do today – or even spend more. As de Rugy notes in passing, defense spending is hardly a crippling burden, insofar as it accounts for less than 20 percent of the federal budget and 4.6 percent of GDP (down from 6.2 percent in the 1980s).

She seems enamored of studies that claim that great efficiencies can be achieved “by eliminating a few controversial weapons systems or by reforming the Pentagon’s supply chain, I.T., and personnel management practices.” There is little doubt that the Pentagon – one of the world’s largest bureaucracies – can be more efficiently run. But, to refer once again to the historical record, every secretary of defense since the post was created in 1947 has tried to cut “waste, fraud, and abuse.” This may have saved a few bucks at the margins, but at the end of the day, no green-eye-shade legerdemain can produce a budgetary miracle of less spending and more defense capabilities.

The bottom line is: either we keep spending a lot for defense, or we will watch our strategic position decline. And the consequences of such a decline – as we learned in the 1950s, 1970s, and 1990s – will be far more costly in the end than maintaining a robust deterrent capacity to begin with.

Big surprise. Reason magazine, the libertarian Bible, favors cutting defense spending. But it would be hard to come up with a more unpersuasive argument if they tried. Contributor Veronica de Rugy of George Mason University, a bastion of free-market economics, writes:

Liberals often view the Pentagon as an item that should be cut but can’t for political reasons. … Yet such cuts have been achieved in the past. … During the last 70 years, the defense budget was cut 26 times by an average rate of 10 percent. … The biggest cuts followed World War II, with a 72 percent reduction in 1947. The last cut was in 1998. … Most of the cuts have taken place after the end of a war. But cuts were also achieved in the late 1960s and early ’70s, despite the ongoing conflict in Vietnam. Politicians explicitly debated how to cut spending without cutting security, and they still managed to get re-elected.

So let me see if I have this straight: de Rugy thinks that defense cuts in the late 1940s, early 1970s, and early 1990s are a good model to follow? In all three instances, major wars were winding down (World War II, Vietnam, and the Cold War, respectively), and the political class was eager to spend a “peace dividend.” Ms. de Rugy is an economist, not a historian, but she would be well advised to study the historical record for what happened next.

In all three cases, the result was to make America less secure and to embolden our adversaries. The precipitous decline in defense spending after World War II left us ill-prepared to confront Communist aggression in Korea. The drawdown after the end of the Vietnam War led to a “hollow army” that could not stand up to Soviet aggression or the Iranian hostage crisis in the 1970s. And the 1990s drawdown, which included slashing a third of the Army’s active-duty strength, left the armed forces overstretched and ill-prepared to deal with a host of low-intensity conflicts, from Somalia to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Since 9/11, the trend has reversed, with a big increase in defense budgets, but most of the money has gone for current operations and personnel costs (including health care and pensions) – the latter line item consuming an ever-larger share of the budget since the abolition of the draft in 1973. The U.S. armed forces have not been able to acquire enough big-ticket items to replace weapons designed and bought during the Reagan years or even earlier. (B-52 bombers and KC-135 tankers date back to the Eisenhower administration.) The Army has grown slightly, but it is still far below its strength at the end of the Cold War, when it had 710,000 active-duty soldiers. (Today the figure is 560,000.)

It’s true that we spend as much on defense as the rest of the world combined, but our commitments are also greater because the U.S. armed forces have to maintain peace and security across the globe – something that is increasingly hard to do when the Navy, for example, has just 286 ships (down from almost 600 ships in the Reagan years). We can certainly afford to keep spending as much on defense as we do today – or even spend more. As de Rugy notes in passing, defense spending is hardly a crippling burden, insofar as it accounts for less than 20 percent of the federal budget and 4.6 percent of GDP (down from 6.2 percent in the 1980s).

She seems enamored of studies that claim that great efficiencies can be achieved “by eliminating a few controversial weapons systems or by reforming the Pentagon’s supply chain, I.T., and personnel management practices.” There is little doubt that the Pentagon – one of the world’s largest bureaucracies – can be more efficiently run. But, to refer once again to the historical record, every secretary of defense since the post was created in 1947 has tried to cut “waste, fraud, and abuse.” This may have saved a few bucks at the margins, but at the end of the day, no green-eye-shade legerdemain can produce a budgetary miracle of less spending and more defense capabilities.

The bottom line is: either we keep spending a lot for defense, or we will watch our strategic position decline. And the consequences of such a decline – as we learned in the 1950s, 1970s, and 1990s – will be far more costly in the end than maintaining a robust deterrent capacity to begin with.

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Riyadh Votes No-Confidence in Iran Sanctions

The report that Saudi Arabia has agreed to let Israeli jets transit its airspace to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities indeed shows, as Jennifer noted, that progress in the “peace process” is not necessary to secure Israeli-Arab cooperation on a grave mutual threat. But it also constitutes a vote of no-confidence — by both Saudi Arabia and at least someone in the U.S. administration — in the anti-Iran sanctions that the UN Security Council approved last week.

At a time when the Muslim world is still seething over Israel’s botched raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, nothing could be more embarrassing for Saudi Arabia than a report that it is cooperating with the hated Zionist entity in planning an attack on another Muslim country. Under these circumstances, only one thing could motivate a Saudi official to actually confirm this cooperation to the London Times: sheer terror.

And the report’s timing — just days after U.S. President Barack Obama proclaimed the new round of toothless sanctions a great achievement, even as he openly acknowledged that they will not stop Iran’s nuclear program — makes the source of this terror clear: Saudi Arabia is now convinced that the West, in general, and Americans, in particular, will do nothing substantive to stop Iran’s nuclear program. Saudi Arabia has thus concluded that the only hope of making Tehran rethink the program’s wisdom is a credible threat of force. By agreeing to let Israeli jets transit its airspace, thus shortening the distance they would have to fly, Riyadh has greatly increased the credibility of this threat by making an Israeli strike more feasible.

The same logic applies to the U.S. The Obama administration has repeatedly and publicly trumpeted its efforts to thwart an Israeli strike; indeed, the Times reported that Washington still refuses to let Israeli jets transit Iraqi airspace, which the U.S. controls. Moreover, Obama continues to invest great efforts in outreach to the Muslim world. That a U.S. “defense source” confirmed this story to the Times and even asserted that the deal was concocted “with the agreement of the [U.S.] State Department” is deeply embarrassing to the administration, depicting it as downright hypocritical: publicly voicing full-throated opposition to an Israeli raid even as it secretly brokers a deal with Riyadh to facilitate such a raid.

And here, too, the motive is clear: at least someone in the administration has concluded that truly painful sanctions — the kind that might actually affect Tehran’s behavior — are never going to be enacted, so the only hope is a credible threat of military force.

It is, of course, encouraging to learn that both Riyadh and at least some parts of Washington still have a grasp of reality. Yet given the almost unanimous agreement among Western leaders that a military strike on Iran would be disastrous, it is deeply discouraging that they nevertheless remain incapable of mustering the will to enact the kind of sanctions that are the only alternative to such a strike — other than a nuclear Iran.

The report that Saudi Arabia has agreed to let Israeli jets transit its airspace to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities indeed shows, as Jennifer noted, that progress in the “peace process” is not necessary to secure Israeli-Arab cooperation on a grave mutual threat. But it also constitutes a vote of no-confidence — by both Saudi Arabia and at least someone in the U.S. administration — in the anti-Iran sanctions that the UN Security Council approved last week.

At a time when the Muslim world is still seething over Israel’s botched raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, nothing could be more embarrassing for Saudi Arabia than a report that it is cooperating with the hated Zionist entity in planning an attack on another Muslim country. Under these circumstances, only one thing could motivate a Saudi official to actually confirm this cooperation to the London Times: sheer terror.

And the report’s timing — just days after U.S. President Barack Obama proclaimed the new round of toothless sanctions a great achievement, even as he openly acknowledged that they will not stop Iran’s nuclear program — makes the source of this terror clear: Saudi Arabia is now convinced that the West, in general, and Americans, in particular, will do nothing substantive to stop Iran’s nuclear program. Saudi Arabia has thus concluded that the only hope of making Tehran rethink the program’s wisdom is a credible threat of force. By agreeing to let Israeli jets transit its airspace, thus shortening the distance they would have to fly, Riyadh has greatly increased the credibility of this threat by making an Israeli strike more feasible.

The same logic applies to the U.S. The Obama administration has repeatedly and publicly trumpeted its efforts to thwart an Israeli strike; indeed, the Times reported that Washington still refuses to let Israeli jets transit Iraqi airspace, which the U.S. controls. Moreover, Obama continues to invest great efforts in outreach to the Muslim world. That a U.S. “defense source” confirmed this story to the Times and even asserted that the deal was concocted “with the agreement of the [U.S.] State Department” is deeply embarrassing to the administration, depicting it as downright hypocritical: publicly voicing full-throated opposition to an Israeli raid even as it secretly brokers a deal with Riyadh to facilitate such a raid.

And here, too, the motive is clear: at least someone in the administration has concluded that truly painful sanctions — the kind that might actually affect Tehran’s behavior — are never going to be enacted, so the only hope is a credible threat of military force.

It is, of course, encouraging to learn that both Riyadh and at least some parts of Washington still have a grasp of reality. Yet given the almost unanimous agreement among Western leaders that a military strike on Iran would be disastrous, it is deeply discouraging that they nevertheless remain incapable of mustering the will to enact the kind of sanctions that are the only alternative to such a strike — other than a nuclear Iran.

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Who’s Angry Now? Brown Compares Whitman to Goebbels

California Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown was once known as “Governor Moonbeam” because of his eccentric manner way back in the 1970s, when he served two terms in the same office he’s trying for now. But you would think that after four decades in public life, Brown, who has always fancied himself an advocate of a purer brand of politics than the average lifetime politician, would have learned that calling your opponent a Nazi isn’t so smart.

Politico reports that, in a conversation with a reporter, Brown compared his Republican opponent, Meg Whitman, the former eBay chief who triumphed in this week’s GOP primary, to Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda. According to KCBS’s Doug Sovern, Brown claimed that:

She’ll have people believing whatever she wants about me. It’s like Goebbels. … Goebbels invented this kind of propaganda. He took control of the whole world. She wants to be president. That’s her ambition, the first woman president. That’s what this is all about.

Brown’s over-the-top paranoia about his opponent speaks volumes about his own view of the world, in which any opponent who brings up the details from his own long and not terribly successful record while holding numerous public offices is a Nazi. And because inappropriate Nazi analogies are one of the few political sins that can guarantee a liberal Democrat like Brown criticism from mainstream liberal Jewish organizations, he should be expecting a call (accompanied by a news release) from the Anti-Defamation League’s Abe Foxman sometime in the next day or two, in which he will be instructed that it is not appropriate behavior to compare a former business executive to the regime that slaughtered six million Jews just because she takes Jerry Brown’s name in vain.

We can expect Brown — who hasn’t denied the slur but instead had his office issue the usual weasel-worded claim that his words were “taken out of context” — to eventually apologize. But in a year in which the liberal media have seized every opportunity to brand Republicans and the Tea Party movement as extremists and as a threat to democracy, it’s interesting to note that invariably, it is liberal Democrats like Brown who are coarsening the public square with attempts to demonize their opponents for having the temerity to question their bona fides. The ADL itself stepped into dangerous territory last fall with a report titled “Rage Grows in America: Anti-Government Conspiracies,” in which it speciously linked Republican critics of the Obama administration with militias and other far-right extremists.

But contrary to the ADL’s inappropriate and highly partisan report, most of the rage this year seems to come from Democrats and liberals like Brown who are willing to say anything to besmirch those who dare to oppose them. While I don’t doubt that the ADL will rightly take Brown to task for his loose talk about Goebbels, the group ought to think seriously about the fact that most of the anger we’re hearing lately is not from Tea Partiers heading to Washington with their pitchforks but from liberals who are crying in their beer about the imminent prospect of defeat at the hands of a re-energized GOP.

California Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown was once known as “Governor Moonbeam” because of his eccentric manner way back in the 1970s, when he served two terms in the same office he’s trying for now. But you would think that after four decades in public life, Brown, who has always fancied himself an advocate of a purer brand of politics than the average lifetime politician, would have learned that calling your opponent a Nazi isn’t so smart.

Politico reports that, in a conversation with a reporter, Brown compared his Republican opponent, Meg Whitman, the former eBay chief who triumphed in this week’s GOP primary, to Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda. According to KCBS’s Doug Sovern, Brown claimed that:

She’ll have people believing whatever she wants about me. It’s like Goebbels. … Goebbels invented this kind of propaganda. He took control of the whole world. She wants to be president. That’s her ambition, the first woman president. That’s what this is all about.

Brown’s over-the-top paranoia about his opponent speaks volumes about his own view of the world, in which any opponent who brings up the details from his own long and not terribly successful record while holding numerous public offices is a Nazi. And because inappropriate Nazi analogies are one of the few political sins that can guarantee a liberal Democrat like Brown criticism from mainstream liberal Jewish organizations, he should be expecting a call (accompanied by a news release) from the Anti-Defamation League’s Abe Foxman sometime in the next day or two, in which he will be instructed that it is not appropriate behavior to compare a former business executive to the regime that slaughtered six million Jews just because she takes Jerry Brown’s name in vain.

We can expect Brown — who hasn’t denied the slur but instead had his office issue the usual weasel-worded claim that his words were “taken out of context” — to eventually apologize. But in a year in which the liberal media have seized every opportunity to brand Republicans and the Tea Party movement as extremists and as a threat to democracy, it’s interesting to note that invariably, it is liberal Democrats like Brown who are coarsening the public square with attempts to demonize their opponents for having the temerity to question their bona fides. The ADL itself stepped into dangerous territory last fall with a report titled “Rage Grows in America: Anti-Government Conspiracies,” in which it speciously linked Republican critics of the Obama administration with militias and other far-right extremists.

But contrary to the ADL’s inappropriate and highly partisan report, most of the rage this year seems to come from Democrats and liberals like Brown who are willing to say anything to besmirch those who dare to oppose them. While I don’t doubt that the ADL will rightly take Brown to task for his loose talk about Goebbels, the group ought to think seriously about the fact that most of the anger we’re hearing lately is not from Tea Partiers heading to Washington with their pitchforks but from liberals who are crying in their beer about the imminent prospect of defeat at the hands of a re-energized GOP.

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Gaza Through Fresh Eyes Reveals Normality, Not Horror

The image of the Middle East in general and the Palestinian territories in particular is one of squalor and bloodshed. There has been plenty of the latter throughout the years, but anyone who visits the Palestinian areas knows how far from the truth is the commonly held assumption that the West Bank and Gaza in particular are awful places where the inhabitants are barely hanging on for dear life. There are plenty of poor Palestinians – and more than a few living in poverty across the border in Israel, too. But many of the towns and cities on the West Bank are bustling, prosperous, and largely middle-class. And while no one will mistake Gaza for the Cote d’Azure, the reality of even that unhappy place does not conform to the image of Israeli-imposed horror.

But don’t take my word for it; just read this week’s Sunday New York Times Week in Review section for a glimpse of “Gaza Through Fresh Eyes,” a photo essay by Katie Orlinsky with text by Ethan Bronner. What did Orlinsky find in Gaza? As Bronner writes:

For some, it’s the relative modernity — the jazzy cellphone stores and pricey restaurants. For others, it’s the endless beaches with children whooping it up. But for nearly everyone who visits Gaza, often with worry of danger and hostility, what’s surprising is the fact that daily life, while troubled, often has the staggering quality of the very ordinary.

The pictures show that life is going on in a very normal fashion. They depict a busy intersection in Rafah, a Gaza beach scene, shoppers in Gaza city where wedding dresses are on sale, and fishermen and farmers. Even the photos that show the less happy side of Gaza – a girl living in a tent, a crowded tenement, and a pregnant widow whose husband died of unspecified war-related injuries (had he been a truly innocent bystander who fell to Israeli fire, we probably would have been told as much, which means it’s just as likely as anything else that he was a Hamas terrorist who died in a “work accident” when explosives blew up prematurely or that he was killed while trying to kill Israelis) – show scenes that are not exactly depictions of the Israeli atrocities that so many around the world are so worked up about.

Even more interesting is what the pictures don’t show. None tell us about the Islamist government of the region, which is imposing on the people not only its vow of war to the death against Israel but also an extremist religion. None, not even the saddest picture, tells the reader the true context of life in Gaza: the refusal of the Palestinian leadership to make peace despite many offers of statehood and recognition from Israel. And none show the fact that the region was completely evacuated by Israel five years ago, but instead of using their independence to better their lives, the Palestinians have chosen more war.

While pictures can tell us a lot about Gaza and even make it plain that life there isn’t all that terrible, they can’t tell us why Hamas and its followers still prefer war to peace.

The image of the Middle East in general and the Palestinian territories in particular is one of squalor and bloodshed. There has been plenty of the latter throughout the years, but anyone who visits the Palestinian areas knows how far from the truth is the commonly held assumption that the West Bank and Gaza in particular are awful places where the inhabitants are barely hanging on for dear life. There are plenty of poor Palestinians – and more than a few living in poverty across the border in Israel, too. But many of the towns and cities on the West Bank are bustling, prosperous, and largely middle-class. And while no one will mistake Gaza for the Cote d’Azure, the reality of even that unhappy place does not conform to the image of Israeli-imposed horror.

But don’t take my word for it; just read this week’s Sunday New York Times Week in Review section for a glimpse of “Gaza Through Fresh Eyes,” a photo essay by Katie Orlinsky with text by Ethan Bronner. What did Orlinsky find in Gaza? As Bronner writes:

For some, it’s the relative modernity — the jazzy cellphone stores and pricey restaurants. For others, it’s the endless beaches with children whooping it up. But for nearly everyone who visits Gaza, often with worry of danger and hostility, what’s surprising is the fact that daily life, while troubled, often has the staggering quality of the very ordinary.

The pictures show that life is going on in a very normal fashion. They depict a busy intersection in Rafah, a Gaza beach scene, shoppers in Gaza city where wedding dresses are on sale, and fishermen and farmers. Even the photos that show the less happy side of Gaza – a girl living in a tent, a crowded tenement, and a pregnant widow whose husband died of unspecified war-related injuries (had he been a truly innocent bystander who fell to Israeli fire, we probably would have been told as much, which means it’s just as likely as anything else that he was a Hamas terrorist who died in a “work accident” when explosives blew up prematurely or that he was killed while trying to kill Israelis) – show scenes that are not exactly depictions of the Israeli atrocities that so many around the world are so worked up about.

Even more interesting is what the pictures don’t show. None tell us about the Islamist government of the region, which is imposing on the people not only its vow of war to the death against Israel but also an extremist religion. None, not even the saddest picture, tells the reader the true context of life in Gaza: the refusal of the Palestinian leadership to make peace despite many offers of statehood and recognition from Israel. And none show the fact that the region was completely evacuated by Israel five years ago, but instead of using their independence to better their lives, the Palestinians have chosen more war.

While pictures can tell us a lot about Gaza and even make it plain that life there isn’t all that terrible, they can’t tell us why Hamas and its followers still prefer war to peace.

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Israelis Rally Around Bibi

David Pollock of Foreign Policy writes:

A reliable new poll of Israeli public opinion shows that attitudes on the Gaza blockade are heavily hawkish — in diametric opposition not only to most international reactions, but also much of the Israeli media’s own commentary. This finding is the first detailed measurement of Israeli views following the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) violent boarding of the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara, which resulted in the deaths of nine people. The poll surveyed Israeli Jewish opinion and was conducted by telephone interviews on June 7 by Pechter Middle East Polls, a young, Princeton, N.J.-based survey research and analysis firm working with pollsters throughout the region.

In the aftermath of the recent ship-boarding incident, three-quarters of Jewish Israelis say Israel should not open the Gaza Strip to international aid shipments. Narrower, yet still solid, majorities also say Israel should not accept an international investigation, nor adjust its tactics to win favorable international consideration.

Yes, the media in Israeli is every bit as leftist and out of touch as the U.S. media. And yes, after their experience with the “international community,” Israelis have rightly come to view the UN and similar groups as hostile to their security and their country’s survival.

Pollack says that “more surprising” — was the above surprising? — Bibi’s approval rating has “climbed into positive territory: 53 percent of respondents were satisfied with his performance, while 40 percent were dissatisfied. By contrast, 71 percent voiced dissatisfaction with U.S. President Barack Obama, and a clear majority, 63 percent, are also dissatisfied with the overall U.S. reaction to the Gaza flotilla controversy so far.” And could it really be surprising that Israelis are “even more inclined to hawkish solutions when it comes to future attempts to breach the Gaza blockade”?

None of this should come as a shock. Only a neophyte — or a narcissist — would believe that by savaging the Jewish state, increasing the sense that America will not stand with the Jewish state, snubbing its prime minister, and threatening the nation that endured the Goldstone Report with another international kangaroo court  could he induce the Israeli people to side with an American president over their own government. It’s something political hacks and bullies — from Chicago, maybe — would come up with, not anyone who knows Israel, its internal politics, and the Middle East more generally.

David Pollock of Foreign Policy writes:

A reliable new poll of Israeli public opinion shows that attitudes on the Gaza blockade are heavily hawkish — in diametric opposition not only to most international reactions, but also much of the Israeli media’s own commentary. This finding is the first detailed measurement of Israeli views following the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) violent boarding of the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara, which resulted in the deaths of nine people. The poll surveyed Israeli Jewish opinion and was conducted by telephone interviews on June 7 by Pechter Middle East Polls, a young, Princeton, N.J.-based survey research and analysis firm working with pollsters throughout the region.

In the aftermath of the recent ship-boarding incident, three-quarters of Jewish Israelis say Israel should not open the Gaza Strip to international aid shipments. Narrower, yet still solid, majorities also say Israel should not accept an international investigation, nor adjust its tactics to win favorable international consideration.

Yes, the media in Israeli is every bit as leftist and out of touch as the U.S. media. And yes, after their experience with the “international community,” Israelis have rightly come to view the UN and similar groups as hostile to their security and their country’s survival.

Pollack says that “more surprising” — was the above surprising? — Bibi’s approval rating has “climbed into positive territory: 53 percent of respondents were satisfied with his performance, while 40 percent were dissatisfied. By contrast, 71 percent voiced dissatisfaction with U.S. President Barack Obama, and a clear majority, 63 percent, are also dissatisfied with the overall U.S. reaction to the Gaza flotilla controversy so far.” And could it really be surprising that Israelis are “even more inclined to hawkish solutions when it comes to future attempts to breach the Gaza blockade”?

None of this should come as a shock. Only a neophyte — or a narcissist — would believe that by savaging the Jewish state, increasing the sense that America will not stand with the Jewish state, snubbing its prime minister, and threatening the nation that endured the Goldstone Report with another international kangaroo court  could he induce the Israeli people to side with an American president over their own government. It’s something political hacks and bullies — from Chicago, maybe — would come up with, not anyone who knows Israel, its internal politics, and the Middle East more generally.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Elections have consequences: “The White House was slow to embrace the movement — so much so that protesters held up signs last year asking President Obama, ‘Are you with them or with us?’ Lately, Mr. Obama has made some stronger statements, including one on Thursday that was delivered in his name by an aide before the National Endowment for Democracy, which gave its annual award to the Green Movement. But as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) pointed out in a powerful speech before the group also on Thursday, the president has hesitated to ‘unleash America’s full moral power to support the Iranian people.’ Mr. Obama clings to the hope that the radical clique in Tehran will eventually agree to negotiate in good faith — ‘an assumption,’ Mr. McCain noted, that ‘seems totally at odds with the character of this Iranian regime.’”

The House Democrats have a shellacking coming their way. Realclearpolitics shows 201 “safe” or “leans Democratic” seats for Nancy Pelosi and company, 199 “safe” or “leans Republican” for the GOP, and 35 toss-ups.

Labor bosses have nothing to show — first, for their expensive efforts on card check, and now, in the Arkansas Democratic primary. On the latter, Chris Cillizza writes: “Organized labor, you had the Worst Week in Washington. Congrats, or something.” When do you think union members will insist their hard-earned dollars not be wasted on these political larks?

The EU countries have every reason to go after Israel if the U.S. isn’t standing up for the Jewish state: “Spain will propose the European Union exert strong diplomatic pressure on Israel to end its blockade of the Gaza Strip, the country’s Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said on Saturday. The Spanish prime minister said at a joint press conference with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that Spain wants to ‘forge a strong common position’ with EU countries in the face of the humanitarian situation in Gaza.”

Republican establishment types have none of the influence of Sarah Palin in a GOP primary: “[Nikki] Haley’s attacks on the party caught Palin’s attention last summer. A fan sent Palin a YouTube clip of the candidate speaking at a July 4 tea party rally. ‘Who is that?’ Palin asked, according to a Haley adviser. ‘I want to help her.’ Palin kept an eye on Haley’s progress and then flew last month to Columbia, where she appeared on the steps of the Capitol with Haley and gave the candidate her blessing. … Palin’s endorsement worked: Haley’s poll numbers jumped.”

We have a means of thwarting Iran’s nuclear ambitions: “Some in Washington seem resigned to letting Israel take action. But a U.S. failure to act in response to what is perhaps the greatest threat to American interests in decades would be irresponsible. Israel, moreover, lacks our full capabilities to do the job. Despite our global commitments and our engagement in two ongoing wars, the U.S. military is fully able to carry out such a mission. Indeed, the success of President Bush’s 2007 surge of forces into Iraq and of President Obama’s sending additional resources to Afghanistan means we are on better footing to deal with Iran’s nuclear program than we were a few years ago.” What we don’t have is a president with the will to do it.

The mainstream news outlets have standards, unlike the blogospheric riffraff, they keep telling us. From its own ombudsman: “Too often it seems The [Washington] Post grants anonymity at the drop of a hat. … By casually agreeing to conceal the identities of those who provide non-critical information, the Post erodes its credibility and perpetuates Washington’s insidious culture of anonymity.”

Elections have consequences: “The White House was slow to embrace the movement — so much so that protesters held up signs last year asking President Obama, ‘Are you with them or with us?’ Lately, Mr. Obama has made some stronger statements, including one on Thursday that was delivered in his name by an aide before the National Endowment for Democracy, which gave its annual award to the Green Movement. But as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) pointed out in a powerful speech before the group also on Thursday, the president has hesitated to ‘unleash America’s full moral power to support the Iranian people.’ Mr. Obama clings to the hope that the radical clique in Tehran will eventually agree to negotiate in good faith — ‘an assumption,’ Mr. McCain noted, that ‘seems totally at odds with the character of this Iranian regime.’”

The House Democrats have a shellacking coming their way. Realclearpolitics shows 201 “safe” or “leans Democratic” seats for Nancy Pelosi and company, 199 “safe” or “leans Republican” for the GOP, and 35 toss-ups.

Labor bosses have nothing to show — first, for their expensive efforts on card check, and now, in the Arkansas Democratic primary. On the latter, Chris Cillizza writes: “Organized labor, you had the Worst Week in Washington. Congrats, or something.” When do you think union members will insist their hard-earned dollars not be wasted on these political larks?

The EU countries have every reason to go after Israel if the U.S. isn’t standing up for the Jewish state: “Spain will propose the European Union exert strong diplomatic pressure on Israel to end its blockade of the Gaza Strip, the country’s Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said on Saturday. The Spanish prime minister said at a joint press conference with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that Spain wants to ‘forge a strong common position’ with EU countries in the face of the humanitarian situation in Gaza.”

Republican establishment types have none of the influence of Sarah Palin in a GOP primary: “[Nikki] Haley’s attacks on the party caught Palin’s attention last summer. A fan sent Palin a YouTube clip of the candidate speaking at a July 4 tea party rally. ‘Who is that?’ Palin asked, according to a Haley adviser. ‘I want to help her.’ Palin kept an eye on Haley’s progress and then flew last month to Columbia, where she appeared on the steps of the Capitol with Haley and gave the candidate her blessing. … Palin’s endorsement worked: Haley’s poll numbers jumped.”

We have a means of thwarting Iran’s nuclear ambitions: “Some in Washington seem resigned to letting Israel take action. But a U.S. failure to act in response to what is perhaps the greatest threat to American interests in decades would be irresponsible. Israel, moreover, lacks our full capabilities to do the job. Despite our global commitments and our engagement in two ongoing wars, the U.S. military is fully able to carry out such a mission. Indeed, the success of President Bush’s 2007 surge of forces into Iraq and of President Obama’s sending additional resources to Afghanistan means we are on better footing to deal with Iran’s nuclear program than we were a few years ago.” What we don’t have is a president with the will to do it.

The mainstream news outlets have standards, unlike the blogospheric riffraff, they keep telling us. From its own ombudsman: “Too often it seems The [Washington] Post grants anonymity at the drop of a hat. … By casually agreeing to conceal the identities of those who provide non-critical information, the Post erodes its credibility and perpetuates Washington’s insidious culture of anonymity.”

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