Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 23, 2010

WEB EXCLUSIVE: A Sidelight on the ICJ’s Kosovo Decision

Yesterday, the International Court of Justice, in a nonbinding opinion that resulted from a referral from the UN General Assembly at Serbia’s behest, ruled that Kosovo’s breakaway from Serbia was not illegal because “general international law contains no applicable prohibition on declarations of independence.” Well, that’s a relief.

On its merits, the opinion was correct. But this is exactly the kind of fundamentally political question that cannot be settled by the courts – especially not an international court. If the ICJ had decided that Kosovo’s independence was illegal, it would in theory have committed itself and the UN to reversing it. That could only be done by force applied by the so-called international community against Kosovo. There was and is not the slightest chance of that. The ICJ would have done better to refuse to accept the referral on the grounds that the matter was outside its competence.

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

Yesterday, the International Court of Justice, in a nonbinding opinion that resulted from a referral from the UN General Assembly at Serbia’s behest, ruled that Kosovo’s breakaway from Serbia was not illegal because “general international law contains no applicable prohibition on declarations of independence.” Well, that’s a relief.

On its merits, the opinion was correct. But this is exactly the kind of fundamentally political question that cannot be settled by the courts – especially not an international court. If the ICJ had decided that Kosovo’s independence was illegal, it would in theory have committed itself and the UN to reversing it. That could only be done by force applied by the so-called international community against Kosovo. There was and is not the slightest chance of that. The ICJ would have done better to refuse to accept the referral on the grounds that the matter was outside its competence.

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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Hillary vs. China

Throwing your weight around is a time-honored tool in the diplomatic toolbox. Some circumstances call for it, but in others, it is cringe-inducingly inappropriate. With an oddly overt poke in China’s eye at the Asean conference this week, the Obama administration has unfortunately chosen to engage in weight-throwing under the latter conditions.

Almost every relevant headline in the mainstream media is some variation on that of the New York Times: “U.S. Challenges China on Island Chain.” Hillary Clinton, speaking at an Asean meeting in Hanoi, reportedly “said [the U.S. was] ready to step into a tangled dispute between China and its smaller Asian neighbors over a string of strategically sensitive islands in the South China Sea.” The islands in question make up the Spratly archipelago, claims to which confer tremendous undersea mineral resources on those who can enforce them. Clinton properly identified the U.S. interest as relating to freedom of navigation for world shipping, but her method of offering U.S. intervention in the regional dispute – one that China calls a “core interest” of its own national security – could hardly have been less diplomatic.

Nor could the timing have been worse. As Jillian wrote yesterday, the U.S. and South Korea are launching a naval exercise series that is planned to involve major operations in the Yellow Sea, obviously a sensitive area for Beijing. (The Chinese were unamused by USS George Washington’s foray into the Yellow Sea in October 2009, as discussed here.) Moreover, Bloomberg reports that the American delegation to the Asean conference got some very pointed additional business done on the side, inaugurating discussions on military cooperation with conference host Vietnam and restoring ties between the special forces of the U.S. and Indonesian militaries. Both nations border the South China Sea and have island claims in competition with China’s.

The point here is not that the U.S. doesn’t have a security interest in the South China Sea, nor is it that we can’t play a constructive role in fostering a peaceful and equitable settlement of the Spratly Islands dispute. But an offer of mediation is a departure from our decades-old policy of tacitly enforcing regional stability and promoting our own primary interest – freedom of maritime navigation – while respecting the sovereign concerns of the Spratly claimants as a matter for them to work out among themselves. This week’s policy departure has the appearance of being blurted out without prior diplomatic spade work.

Such an Obama initiative, introduced less pointedly and with less of the appearance of challenging China, might well have achieved a productive effect. We do want all the nations of the region to know that the U.S. will act to prevent the imbalance of power that China tends to seek. But conveying that quietly, through dedicated military presence and assiduous bilateral diplomacy – and without dramatic announcements and provocative headlines – is worth every minute of the tongue-biting patience necessary to operating with greater foresight. There is no strategic payoff from issuing gratuitous and public challenges to China, which is what the Obama administration has effectively done.

Throwing your weight around is a time-honored tool in the diplomatic toolbox. Some circumstances call for it, but in others, it is cringe-inducingly inappropriate. With an oddly overt poke in China’s eye at the Asean conference this week, the Obama administration has unfortunately chosen to engage in weight-throwing under the latter conditions.

Almost every relevant headline in the mainstream media is some variation on that of the New York Times: “U.S. Challenges China on Island Chain.” Hillary Clinton, speaking at an Asean meeting in Hanoi, reportedly “said [the U.S. was] ready to step into a tangled dispute between China and its smaller Asian neighbors over a string of strategically sensitive islands in the South China Sea.” The islands in question make up the Spratly archipelago, claims to which confer tremendous undersea mineral resources on those who can enforce them. Clinton properly identified the U.S. interest as relating to freedom of navigation for world shipping, but her method of offering U.S. intervention in the regional dispute – one that China calls a “core interest” of its own national security – could hardly have been less diplomatic.

Nor could the timing have been worse. As Jillian wrote yesterday, the U.S. and South Korea are launching a naval exercise series that is planned to involve major operations in the Yellow Sea, obviously a sensitive area for Beijing. (The Chinese were unamused by USS George Washington’s foray into the Yellow Sea in October 2009, as discussed here.) Moreover, Bloomberg reports that the American delegation to the Asean conference got some very pointed additional business done on the side, inaugurating discussions on military cooperation with conference host Vietnam and restoring ties between the special forces of the U.S. and Indonesian militaries. Both nations border the South China Sea and have island claims in competition with China’s.

The point here is not that the U.S. doesn’t have a security interest in the South China Sea, nor is it that we can’t play a constructive role in fostering a peaceful and equitable settlement of the Spratly Islands dispute. But an offer of mediation is a departure from our decades-old policy of tacitly enforcing regional stability and promoting our own primary interest – freedom of maritime navigation – while respecting the sovereign concerns of the Spratly claimants as a matter for them to work out among themselves. This week’s policy departure has the appearance of being blurted out without prior diplomatic spade work.

Such an Obama initiative, introduced less pointedly and with less of the appearance of challenging China, might well have achieved a productive effect. We do want all the nations of the region to know that the U.S. will act to prevent the imbalance of power that China tends to seek. But conveying that quietly, through dedicated military presence and assiduous bilateral diplomacy – and without dramatic announcements and provocative headlines – is worth every minute of the tongue-biting patience necessary to operating with greater foresight. There is no strategic payoff from issuing gratuitous and public challenges to China, which is what the Obama administration has effectively done.

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Upgrade What?

The headline reads, “US Upgrades PA Diplomatic Recognition“:

The US State Department announced that the diplomatic recognition of the Palestinian Authority in the US will be upgraded to the status of “delegation general” Israel Radio reported Friday.

This will allow the Palestinian envoys in Washington to display the Palestinian flag and provide social benefits for their employees.

Palestinian representative to the US in Washington Maen Areikat said that the step equates Palestinian diplomatic status in the US to that of Canada and many other countries in western Europe.

Officials in Jerusalem have not responded officially to the US decision. Senior officials at the Prime Minister’s Office said that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was aware of the decision in advance and that the move was apparently intended to strengthen Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

For those who think this is a fruitless exercise and inapt timing (given Abbas’s recent indifference to halting incitement), this news is not welcome. (“Diplomatic officials in Jerusalem have expressed some disappointment that the US government has not emphasized the end of Palestinian incitement towards Israel.”) A knowledgable Israel hand e-mails:

The news stories that say the United States has upgraded the Palestinian Authority office in Washington are wrong, for there is no PA office.  There is a PLO office, one that requires a waiver twice each year to exist because of the PLO’s past links to terrorism.  The PLO is, according to the United Nations, the “sole legitimate voice of the Palestinian people,” but everyone knows that’s false; the PLO represents the ghost of Yasser Arafat, plus a whole bunch of his cronies. It would be far better to end the farce of having a PLO office — after all, who elected them? — and to try to establish a PA office, for any current and future Palestinian political development will take place through the PA.

But a peace deal and a PA government won’t be happening anytime soon unless Abbas and other Palestinian leaders stop inciting violence, give up the dream of a one-state solution (i.e., a demographic swamping of the Jewish state), and build some civil institutions capable of managing the Palestinians’ own affairs. Then maybe we can have a peace deal and can talk about flags.

The headline reads, “US Upgrades PA Diplomatic Recognition“:

The US State Department announced that the diplomatic recognition of the Palestinian Authority in the US will be upgraded to the status of “delegation general” Israel Radio reported Friday.

This will allow the Palestinian envoys in Washington to display the Palestinian flag and provide social benefits for their employees.

Palestinian representative to the US in Washington Maen Areikat said that the step equates Palestinian diplomatic status in the US to that of Canada and many other countries in western Europe.

Officials in Jerusalem have not responded officially to the US decision. Senior officials at the Prime Minister’s Office said that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was aware of the decision in advance and that the move was apparently intended to strengthen Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

For those who think this is a fruitless exercise and inapt timing (given Abbas’s recent indifference to halting incitement), this news is not welcome. (“Diplomatic officials in Jerusalem have expressed some disappointment that the US government has not emphasized the end of Palestinian incitement towards Israel.”) A knowledgable Israel hand e-mails:

The news stories that say the United States has upgraded the Palestinian Authority office in Washington are wrong, for there is no PA office.  There is a PLO office, one that requires a waiver twice each year to exist because of the PLO’s past links to terrorism.  The PLO is, according to the United Nations, the “sole legitimate voice of the Palestinian people,” but everyone knows that’s false; the PLO represents the ghost of Yasser Arafat, plus a whole bunch of his cronies. It would be far better to end the farce of having a PLO office — after all, who elected them? — and to try to establish a PA office, for any current and future Palestinian political development will take place through the PA.

But a peace deal and a PA government won’t be happening anytime soon unless Abbas and other Palestinian leaders stop inciting violence, give up the dream of a one-state solution (i.e., a demographic swamping of the Jewish state), and build some civil institutions capable of managing the Palestinians’ own affairs. Then maybe we can have a peace deal and can talk about flags.

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Big Questions About Being a Parent

Coincident with the arrival of my third child, I am astonished to see, once again, the topic of just how horribly awful it is to be a parent popping up again in the navel-gazer media — New York magazine and the like. The self-righteously straight-talking journalism that reveals the ways in which having children don’t make an upper-middle-class Brooklynite “happy” tends to be far more revelatory about the conflicts between the present-day obsession with the narrowest aspect of self-fulfillment than it does about the nature of being a mother or a father and how being one not only changes you but fulfills the most basic hunger/obligation of any earthly creature — to keep life itself alive.

The most affecting riposte to this sort of talk I’ve read recently comes from my old friend Rod Dreher, with whom I have many disagreements ideologically but few on the most fundamental matters. Dreher is now editing a truly wonderful new website at the John Templeton Foundation called Big Questions Online under the supervision of Gary Rosen, who was a senior editor at COMMENTARY for more than a decade. It’s worth taking half an hour this weekend to look around Big Questions and see the way its writers are grappling with fundamental issues of reason and faith, science and religion — the very subjects about which the Templeton Foundation has distinguished itself through its support and consideration over the years.

Coincident with the arrival of my third child, I am astonished to see, once again, the topic of just how horribly awful it is to be a parent popping up again in the navel-gazer media — New York magazine and the like. The self-righteously straight-talking journalism that reveals the ways in which having children don’t make an upper-middle-class Brooklynite “happy” tends to be far more revelatory about the conflicts between the present-day obsession with the narrowest aspect of self-fulfillment than it does about the nature of being a mother or a father and how being one not only changes you but fulfills the most basic hunger/obligation of any earthly creature — to keep life itself alive.

The most affecting riposte to this sort of talk I’ve read recently comes from my old friend Rod Dreher, with whom I have many disagreements ideologically but few on the most fundamental matters. Dreher is now editing a truly wonderful new website at the John Templeton Foundation called Big Questions Online under the supervision of Gary Rosen, who was a senior editor at COMMENTARY for more than a decade. It’s worth taking half an hour this weekend to look around Big Questions and see the way its writers are grappling with fundamental issues of reason and faith, science and religion — the very subjects about which the Templeton Foundation has distinguished itself through its support and consideration over the years.

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Sestak Did It for Israel

The Pennsylvania media is on to Joe Sestak’s strategic gaffe:

U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak frequently tells supporters at campaign events that he would rather risk his job than shirk a principle. The Delaware County Democrat says it is for that reason that his campaign has been demanding that television stations across the state, and Comcast here in Philadelphia, pull ads created and funded by private groups attacking his run for the U.S. Senate.

But by attacking his attackers, does Sestak help draw attention to their claims?

That seemed to be the case with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is running an ad on 21 TV stations in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Scranton and Johnstown that says that Sestak voted 100 percent of the time with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on “job-killing” legislation on health care and energy.

Two stations in Pittsburgh pulled the ad for one day, but the resulting media coverage only helped spread the message.

The report points out that the same is true of his unsuccessful effort to stifle the Emergency Committee for Israel. And what does Sestak say, now that it’s apparent his “shut-up” strategy is a bust?

That ad claims that Sestak “raised money for an anti-Israel organization the FBI called a front group for Hamas,” the Palestinian group that funds terrorist attacks on Israel.

Sestak said his campaign asked Comcast to pull the ad because it is “harming Israel’s security.”

“This was not any kind of political calculation,” Sestak said. “For me, this was purely based on how I look at Israel, which is always about security and not politics.”

Groan. He tried to trample on the First Amendment rights of his opponents for Israel’s sake? Good grief. Shouldn’t he then have tried to take down J Street’s ad? I mean apparently debating Israel policy is somehow a threat to the Jewish state. But no, it’s actually a threat to Sestak, one so severe he’s tried to squash the entire discussion.

But if we want to talk about what is good for Israel, let’s ask Israelis. Only about 10 percent of them approve of Obama’s policy, which J Street tells us (most recently in its ad that features Obama quite prominently) is exactly what Sestak is supporting. Oh, Israelis don’t get to decide what is in their security interests, at least according to J Street.

One thing is certain: Sestak and the Democrats are petrified of making Israel a campaign issue. They simply want critics of their approach to pipe down and voters to accept on faith that their self-descriptions as pro-Israel are unassailable. If we weren’t a democracy where all issues of public policy are open to debate and where elected leaders must be accountable for their actions, it would make perfect sense.

The Pennsylvania media is on to Joe Sestak’s strategic gaffe:

U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak frequently tells supporters at campaign events that he would rather risk his job than shirk a principle. The Delaware County Democrat says it is for that reason that his campaign has been demanding that television stations across the state, and Comcast here in Philadelphia, pull ads created and funded by private groups attacking his run for the U.S. Senate.

But by attacking his attackers, does Sestak help draw attention to their claims?

That seemed to be the case with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is running an ad on 21 TV stations in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Scranton and Johnstown that says that Sestak voted 100 percent of the time with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on “job-killing” legislation on health care and energy.

Two stations in Pittsburgh pulled the ad for one day, but the resulting media coverage only helped spread the message.

The report points out that the same is true of his unsuccessful effort to stifle the Emergency Committee for Israel. And what does Sestak say, now that it’s apparent his “shut-up” strategy is a bust?

That ad claims that Sestak “raised money for an anti-Israel organization the FBI called a front group for Hamas,” the Palestinian group that funds terrorist attacks on Israel.

Sestak said his campaign asked Comcast to pull the ad because it is “harming Israel’s security.”

“This was not any kind of political calculation,” Sestak said. “For me, this was purely based on how I look at Israel, which is always about security and not politics.”

Groan. He tried to trample on the First Amendment rights of his opponents for Israel’s sake? Good grief. Shouldn’t he then have tried to take down J Street’s ad? I mean apparently debating Israel policy is somehow a threat to the Jewish state. But no, it’s actually a threat to Sestak, one so severe he’s tried to squash the entire discussion.

But if we want to talk about what is good for Israel, let’s ask Israelis. Only about 10 percent of them approve of Obama’s policy, which J Street tells us (most recently in its ad that features Obama quite prominently) is exactly what Sestak is supporting. Oh, Israelis don’t get to decide what is in their security interests, at least according to J Street.

One thing is certain: Sestak and the Democrats are petrified of making Israel a campaign issue. They simply want critics of their approach to pipe down and voters to accept on faith that their self-descriptions as pro-Israel are unassailable. If we weren’t a democracy where all issues of public policy are open to debate and where elected leaders must be accountable for their actions, it would make perfect sense.

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Re: Palestinian Democracy Requires Palestinian Democrats

Jonathan, you are undoubtedly correct that the current culture of Palestinian politics makes a peaceful Palestinian state highly unlikely. In the last 10 years, the peace-partner Palestinians have rejected three formal offers of a state – each of them on all of Gaza and substantially all of the West Bank, with a capital in Jerusalem. Call them the “Three Noes” – and it is not clear what part of them remains to be understood. A society without a single leader ready to endorse a two-state solution, if it requires recognition of a Jewish state with defensible borders, is not ready to live side by side in peace.

You are correct that more than elections are required for a democratic state, but the inability of the Palestinian Authority to fulfill even the most elementary requirement of such a state is nevertheless noteworthy. The PA has managed only one presidential election in the last 14 years – in 2005, two months after Yasser Arafat’s death, in which the winner (Arafat’s second-in-command) ran essentially unopposed. The 2006 legislative election was won by Hamas — the terrorist group the PA committed in 2003 to dismantle immediately as part of the Roadmap. In 2009, the PA postponed the scheduled presidential election for a year – and then called it off altogether. This month’s local elections, already boycotted by Hamas, were called off because Fatah said it needed first to resolve which party members would run; in other words, before they could hold an election, they first needed to decide who would win it.

Reuters reported yesterday that the nominal Palestinian president, about to begin the 68th month of his 48-month term, criticized the latest electoral cancellation:

“If what happened is allowed to pass, I tell you that this movement must say goodbye,” [an official who attended the Fatah meeting] quoted Abbas as saying, in remarks which were omitted from a broadcast version of the speech. …

“Even with competition, we managed to fail,” said Abbas, who had been on an official visit to Washington at the time of the cancellation. He expressed anger at being woken up early so he could order his cabinet in Ramallah to postpone the vote.

It is a nearly perfect picture of the peace process: the unelected Palestinian president, at the White House to discuss a peace agreement he has no power to implement (even assuming there is one he would actually sign), cranky at being woken up early to cancel elections once again.

A recent poll shows increasing popularity of Hamas in the West Bank, and a Palestinian analyst reports that it “will be difficult if not impossible to hold any other legislative or presidential elections in the foreseeable future.”  When you cannot even schedule an election, you are not ready for a state.

Jonathan, you are undoubtedly correct that the current culture of Palestinian politics makes a peaceful Palestinian state highly unlikely. In the last 10 years, the peace-partner Palestinians have rejected three formal offers of a state – each of them on all of Gaza and substantially all of the West Bank, with a capital in Jerusalem. Call them the “Three Noes” – and it is not clear what part of them remains to be understood. A society without a single leader ready to endorse a two-state solution, if it requires recognition of a Jewish state with defensible borders, is not ready to live side by side in peace.

You are correct that more than elections are required for a democratic state, but the inability of the Palestinian Authority to fulfill even the most elementary requirement of such a state is nevertheless noteworthy. The PA has managed only one presidential election in the last 14 years – in 2005, two months after Yasser Arafat’s death, in which the winner (Arafat’s second-in-command) ran essentially unopposed. The 2006 legislative election was won by Hamas — the terrorist group the PA committed in 2003 to dismantle immediately as part of the Roadmap. In 2009, the PA postponed the scheduled presidential election for a year – and then called it off altogether. This month’s local elections, already boycotted by Hamas, were called off because Fatah said it needed first to resolve which party members would run; in other words, before they could hold an election, they first needed to decide who would win it.

Reuters reported yesterday that the nominal Palestinian president, about to begin the 68th month of his 48-month term, criticized the latest electoral cancellation:

“If what happened is allowed to pass, I tell you that this movement must say goodbye,” [an official who attended the Fatah meeting] quoted Abbas as saying, in remarks which were omitted from a broadcast version of the speech. …

“Even with competition, we managed to fail,” said Abbas, who had been on an official visit to Washington at the time of the cancellation. He expressed anger at being woken up early so he could order his cabinet in Ramallah to postpone the vote.

It is a nearly perfect picture of the peace process: the unelected Palestinian president, at the White House to discuss a peace agreement he has no power to implement (even assuming there is one he would actually sign), cranky at being woken up early to cancel elections once again.

A recent poll shows increasing popularity of Hamas in the West Bank, and a Palestinian analyst reports that it “will be difficult if not impossible to hold any other legislative or presidential elections in the foreseeable future.”  When you cannot even schedule an election, you are not ready for a state.

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It’s Not About Climate Change; It’s About National Security

That this particular climate bill is dead may indeed be good news. But it’s definitely not good news that Congress is doing nothing serious about energy at all — not because of global warming (about which I share my colleagues’ skepticism) but because of national security: the global addiction to fossil fuels finances all of America’s worst enemies.

Republicans shouldn’t need reminding that Iran’s natural-gas wealth funds both its drive for nuclear weapons and numerous terrorist organizations; that Saudi Arabia’s oil riches fund madrassas worldwide that indoctrinate young men in radical Islamism and produce people like the 9/11 bombers; that Hugo Chavez uses Venezuela’s oil wealth to undermine American interests in Latin America; that Russia (Obama’s “reset” notwithstanding) uses its oil and gas wealth to thwart American interests worldwide. This is not a minor problem.

Clearly, that doesn’t mean Republicans have to accept Democrats’ ideas on how to solve it; there was indeed much to dislike in the now-defunct bill. But that doesn’t excuse Republicans’ failure to offer any ideas of their own beyond “drill, baby, drill.” More drilling would help the problem in the short term by lowering oil and gas prices and thus reducing our enemies’ revenues (and also helping the economy). But it’s not a long-term solution.

It’s true that no viable alternatives to fossil fuels currently exist. But that’s no reason not to at least put money into R&D aimed at trying to develop one. America has never hesitated to devote large-scale funding to R&D it deems vital to national security; the Manhattan Project and the moon shot are cases in point. Granted, Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy were Democrats. But do Republicans really want to argue that only Democrats are willing to invest in critical national-security R&D?

Moreover, while Republicans are obviously right that raising the price of a vital production input during a deep recession is a terrible idea, Democrats are right that both a carbon tax and (to a lesser extent) cap-and-trade are at least market-based solutions. Neither forces energy consumers to do anything in particular; they let consumers decide for themselves whether to conserve, invest in alternative technology, or live with the higher price. So if creative Republicans can’t devise a better idea, they might want to seriously consider these once the economy recovers.

Democrats have clearly handled the issue stupidly. Rather than vainly trying to persuade Republicans (and the public) to believe in global warming, they should have been trying to paint Republicans into a corner over national security. Instead, the only Democrat I’ve heard consistently making the security argument is Thomas Friedman (here, for instance), and even he treats it as secondary to the “real” issue of global warming.

But Democratic stupidity is no excuse for Republican stupidity. There’s no way to combat any terrorist movement without going after its funding sources, and fossil-fuel revenues are the lifeblood of radical Islamism — and of many other anti-American autocrats, like Chavez and Vladimir Putin. Ignoring the problem of fossil-fuel dependency won’t make it go away; it will only make America weaker.

That this particular climate bill is dead may indeed be good news. But it’s definitely not good news that Congress is doing nothing serious about energy at all — not because of global warming (about which I share my colleagues’ skepticism) but because of national security: the global addiction to fossil fuels finances all of America’s worst enemies.

Republicans shouldn’t need reminding that Iran’s natural-gas wealth funds both its drive for nuclear weapons and numerous terrorist organizations; that Saudi Arabia’s oil riches fund madrassas worldwide that indoctrinate young men in radical Islamism and produce people like the 9/11 bombers; that Hugo Chavez uses Venezuela’s oil wealth to undermine American interests in Latin America; that Russia (Obama’s “reset” notwithstanding) uses its oil and gas wealth to thwart American interests worldwide. This is not a minor problem.

Clearly, that doesn’t mean Republicans have to accept Democrats’ ideas on how to solve it; there was indeed much to dislike in the now-defunct bill. But that doesn’t excuse Republicans’ failure to offer any ideas of their own beyond “drill, baby, drill.” More drilling would help the problem in the short term by lowering oil and gas prices and thus reducing our enemies’ revenues (and also helping the economy). But it’s not a long-term solution.

It’s true that no viable alternatives to fossil fuels currently exist. But that’s no reason not to at least put money into R&D aimed at trying to develop one. America has never hesitated to devote large-scale funding to R&D it deems vital to national security; the Manhattan Project and the moon shot are cases in point. Granted, Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy were Democrats. But do Republicans really want to argue that only Democrats are willing to invest in critical national-security R&D?

Moreover, while Republicans are obviously right that raising the price of a vital production input during a deep recession is a terrible idea, Democrats are right that both a carbon tax and (to a lesser extent) cap-and-trade are at least market-based solutions. Neither forces energy consumers to do anything in particular; they let consumers decide for themselves whether to conserve, invest in alternative technology, or live with the higher price. So if creative Republicans can’t devise a better idea, they might want to seriously consider these once the economy recovers.

Democrats have clearly handled the issue stupidly. Rather than vainly trying to persuade Republicans (and the public) to believe in global warming, they should have been trying to paint Republicans into a corner over national security. Instead, the only Democrat I’ve heard consistently making the security argument is Thomas Friedman (here, for instance), and even he treats it as secondary to the “real” issue of global warming.

But Democratic stupidity is no excuse for Republican stupidity. There’s no way to combat any terrorist movement without going after its funding sources, and fossil-fuel revenues are the lifeblood of radical Islamism — and of many other anti-American autocrats, like Chavez and Vladimir Putin. Ignoring the problem of fossil-fuel dependency won’t make it go away; it will only make America weaker.

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OK, Let’s Try This Out: Journolist Isn’t News

Apparently, some are criticizing the Journolist revelations because it’s not news that the liberals are liberals. Yes, imagine the critics yawning at the revelation of a conservative Journolist discussion in which right-leaning pundits wished death or fantasized about doing bodily harm to liberal columnists. Imagine them shrugging shoulders if they heard the right fanning out after winnowing down the arguments in defense of their beloved candidate. Hard, isn’t it? It’s so silly only Journolisters could have come up with it.

Howard Kurtz isn’t buying it:

But there is no getting around the fact that some of these messages, culled from the members-only discussion group Journolist, are embarrassing. They show liberal commentators appearing to cooperate in an effort to hammer out the shrewdest talking points against the Republicans — including, in one case, a suggestion for accusing random conservatives of being racist.

By the way, his conclusion is a head-scratcher. After amply documenting the conspiracy of left-wing hackery, he writes (my comments in brackets): “None of this quite adds up to a Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy [it doesn't?], and there is no reason to believe that some conservative commentators don’t have similar discussions [the double negative is the giveaway for the unsupportable slur].”

Tucker Carlson responds to the “nothing to see here” argument in this way:

We’re not contesting the right of anyone, journalist or not, to have political opinions. (I, for one, have made a pretty good living expressing mine.) What we object to is partisanship, which is by its nature dishonest, a species of intellectual corruption. Again and again, we discovered members of Journolist working to coordinate talking points on behalf of Democratic politicians, principally Barack Obama. That is not journalism, and those who engage in it are not journalists. They should stop pretending to be. The news organizations they work for should stop pretending, too.

It goes beyond that, in fact. The pose of the left punditocracy is that those on the right are angry, unreasoned, thuggish, and motivated by less than high-minded ideals. They’ve written column after column to that effect. In short, it’s not merely the intellectual corruption, indeed fraud, that Carlson has revealed; it is the worst sort of hypocrisy — verging on projection. The angry white men and the hate-filled political marionettes aren’t on talk radio. They’re on Journolist.

Apparently, some are criticizing the Journolist revelations because it’s not news that the liberals are liberals. Yes, imagine the critics yawning at the revelation of a conservative Journolist discussion in which right-leaning pundits wished death or fantasized about doing bodily harm to liberal columnists. Imagine them shrugging shoulders if they heard the right fanning out after winnowing down the arguments in defense of their beloved candidate. Hard, isn’t it? It’s so silly only Journolisters could have come up with it.

Howard Kurtz isn’t buying it:

But there is no getting around the fact that some of these messages, culled from the members-only discussion group Journolist, are embarrassing. They show liberal commentators appearing to cooperate in an effort to hammer out the shrewdest talking points against the Republicans — including, in one case, a suggestion for accusing random conservatives of being racist.

By the way, his conclusion is a head-scratcher. After amply documenting the conspiracy of left-wing hackery, he writes (my comments in brackets): “None of this quite adds up to a Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy [it doesn't?], and there is no reason to believe that some conservative commentators don’t have similar discussions [the double negative is the giveaway for the unsupportable slur].”

Tucker Carlson responds to the “nothing to see here” argument in this way:

We’re not contesting the right of anyone, journalist or not, to have political opinions. (I, for one, have made a pretty good living expressing mine.) What we object to is partisanship, which is by its nature dishonest, a species of intellectual corruption. Again and again, we discovered members of Journolist working to coordinate talking points on behalf of Democratic politicians, principally Barack Obama. That is not journalism, and those who engage in it are not journalists. They should stop pretending to be. The news organizations they work for should stop pretending, too.

It goes beyond that, in fact. The pose of the left punditocracy is that those on the right are angry, unreasoned, thuggish, and motivated by less than high-minded ideals. They’ve written column after column to that effect. In short, it’s not merely the intellectual corruption, indeed fraud, that Carlson has revealed; it is the worst sort of hypocrisy — verging on projection. The angry white men and the hate-filled political marionettes aren’t on talk radio. They’re on Journolist.

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Democrats Panic over Israel

Former Journolist participant, now Politico reporter Laura Rozen was deployed to send around talking points for House Democrats defending themselves against — shocker! — the accusation that they and Obama have been less-than-stalwart-friends of Israel. (Have you noticed that she gets documents, blind quotes, etc. only from the left? Nothing to do with her Journolist background, mind you. Nothing to see. Move along.)

It is clear that this clumsy attempt at damage control is a matter of domestic politics, not foreign policy. (Ben Smith might well have had a jaundiced take on it, so he’s not the ideal reporter to give the lead if you need an uncritical release of your talking points.) Rozen’s comrades on the left are in a knot over the appearance of the Emergency Committee for Israel (my comments in brackets):

“I think you will find it useful to make the case that House Democrats and the president are as good if not better than any Congress or Administration that has come before,” [Howard] Berman wrote. [Not a good case, but a case. Really, didn't the administration have to launch a charm offensive to abate the anger in the ranks of American Jewry?]

Among the points the memo highlights, Obama has “repeatedly talked about the importance of the Palestinians recognizing the quote ‘Jewish’ state of Israel,” as well as the U.S. leading the international effort to pressure Iran about its nuclear weapons program. [If all he can proffer as evidence for Obama's Israel bona fides is that the president talked about the need for Palestinians to recognize Israel, you get the idea how weak the case really is.] …

The memo comes after a new conservative pro-Israel group has formed and criticized Pennsylvania Senate Democratic candidate Joe Sestak and associated him with Obama’s Middle East policy. [The ECI folks are no doubt high-fiving each other. She doesn't mention that J Street's ad also did a bang-up job of tying Sestak to Obama.]

Well, panic is the highest form of political flattery. And getting arguably the top House Democrat on the issue to take on the ECI suggests hysteria. At any rate, it’s plain that Democrats feel vulnerable after shilling for Obama’s Israel policy. They should have thought about that before they put partisan loyalty above principle. That’s water under the bridge, but now they really do need better talking points.

Former Journolist participant, now Politico reporter Laura Rozen was deployed to send around talking points for House Democrats defending themselves against — shocker! — the accusation that they and Obama have been less-than-stalwart-friends of Israel. (Have you noticed that she gets documents, blind quotes, etc. only from the left? Nothing to do with her Journolist background, mind you. Nothing to see. Move along.)

It is clear that this clumsy attempt at damage control is a matter of domestic politics, not foreign policy. (Ben Smith might well have had a jaundiced take on it, so he’s not the ideal reporter to give the lead if you need an uncritical release of your talking points.) Rozen’s comrades on the left are in a knot over the appearance of the Emergency Committee for Israel (my comments in brackets):

“I think you will find it useful to make the case that House Democrats and the president are as good if not better than any Congress or Administration that has come before,” [Howard] Berman wrote. [Not a good case, but a case. Really, didn't the administration have to launch a charm offensive to abate the anger in the ranks of American Jewry?]

Among the points the memo highlights, Obama has “repeatedly talked about the importance of the Palestinians recognizing the quote ‘Jewish’ state of Israel,” as well as the U.S. leading the international effort to pressure Iran about its nuclear weapons program. [If all he can proffer as evidence for Obama's Israel bona fides is that the president talked about the need for Palestinians to recognize Israel, you get the idea how weak the case really is.] …

The memo comes after a new conservative pro-Israel group has formed and criticized Pennsylvania Senate Democratic candidate Joe Sestak and associated him with Obama’s Middle East policy. [The ECI folks are no doubt high-fiving each other. She doesn't mention that J Street's ad also did a bang-up job of tying Sestak to Obama.]

Well, panic is the highest form of political flattery. And getting arguably the top House Democrat on the issue to take on the ECI suggests hysteria. At any rate, it’s plain that Democrats feel vulnerable after shilling for Obama’s Israel policy. They should have thought about that before they put partisan loyalty above principle. That’s water under the bridge, but now they really do need better talking points.

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Spin, Spin, Spin — but Democrats Remain in Trouble

Granted, Marc Ambinder is among the most blatant of the Obama water carriers in the blogosphere (spins like a dreidel, Mickey Kaus once wrote), but this is downright dopey:

The chaos at the Republican National Committee threatens to cost Republicans the chance to take control of the House of Representatives, Republican strategists fear. During midterm elections, the national committee plays two essential roles. First, it serves as a bank account that can be drawn upon to shore up House races or put others into play. Second, it coordinates the party’s field operations and funds joint “Victory” committees with state parties. The RNC, at the moment, is barely fulfilling the second function and has less than $10 million on hand, so it cannot help much with House races.

Who believes this — really? There are now alternative organizations and entities amply funding Republicans, and there is no sign that there is any lack of GOP enthusiasm that might depress turnout. The notion that Michael Steele, as unhelpful or incompetent as he may be, is somehow going to prevent a House takeover by the GOP sounds like something they’d dream up on JournoList.

Granted, Marc Ambinder is among the most blatant of the Obama water carriers in the blogosphere (spins like a dreidel, Mickey Kaus once wrote), but this is downright dopey:

The chaos at the Republican National Committee threatens to cost Republicans the chance to take control of the House of Representatives, Republican strategists fear. During midterm elections, the national committee plays two essential roles. First, it serves as a bank account that can be drawn upon to shore up House races or put others into play. Second, it coordinates the party’s field operations and funds joint “Victory” committees with state parties. The RNC, at the moment, is barely fulfilling the second function and has less than $10 million on hand, so it cannot help much with House races.

Who believes this — really? There are now alternative organizations and entities amply funding Republicans, and there is no sign that there is any lack of GOP enthusiasm that might depress turnout. The notion that Michael Steele, as unhelpful or incompetent as he may be, is somehow going to prevent a House takeover by the GOP sounds like something they’d dream up on JournoList.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: How the Mainstream Media Misses the News

For a year, a small number of conservative media outlets have been reporting on the New Black Panther Party scandal – a slam-dunk voter-intimidation case documented on videotape, which the government won by default but that Obama administration appointees ordered career lawyers to dismiss against the NBPP and two individual defendants. (The injunction against a third individual was drastically curtailed.) On the web at CONTENTIONS, Hot Air.com, and National Review Online, and on the pages of the Weekly Standard and the Washington Times, readers could watch the story unfold as bit by bit an extraordinary tale came into focus and the stone wall erected by the Holder Justice Department crumbled.

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

For a year, a small number of conservative media outlets have been reporting on the New Black Panther Party scandal – a slam-dunk voter-intimidation case documented on videotape, which the government won by default but that Obama administration appointees ordered career lawyers to dismiss against the NBPP and two individual defendants. (The injunction against a third individual was drastically curtailed.) On the web at CONTENTIONS, Hot Air.com, and National Review Online, and on the pages of the Weekly Standard and the Washington Times, readers could watch the story unfold as bit by bit an extraordinary tale came into focus and the stone wall erected by the Holder Justice Department crumbled.

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

It’s not just that Journolisters (Journoapparatchiks?) are foul-mouthed; they need to get out more, says Jeffrey Goldberg about the lefties’ vulgar insult of Nascar fans: “It is true, in my limited exposure to Nascar fans, that many Nascar partisans are advocates of small government, lower taxes and a strong national defense, but I have not run into racists, anti-Semites or conspiracy-mongerers at Nascar events, either.” By the way, Rahm Emanuel had to apologize for using “retard” — what about this crew?

It’s not just conservatives who oppose the Ground Zero mosque: “Just 20% of U.S. voters favor the building of an Islamic mosque near the Ground Zero site of the World Trade Center in New York City, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Fifty-four percent (54%) oppose the planned building of a mosque near where Muslim terrorists brought down the skyscrapers by crashing commercial airliners into them on September 11, 2001. Three thousand people died in the incident and related attacks that day.”

It’s not just critics who thought Obama should have gone to the Gulf on vacation: “US President Barack Obama and his family will spend a vacation weekend on the Gulf Coast in Florida next month, showing solidarity with a tourism industry hurt by the BP oil spill.”

It’s not just Republicans who think Rep. Charlie Rangel has a lot of explaining to do: “Embattled Rep. Charles Rangel, the former chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, committed an undisclosed ethics violation, a House investigatory subcommittee determined Thursday. Congressional officials knowledgeable with the ethics process said the exact nature of the violation — or violations — won’t be publicly revealed until Rangel goes before an eight-person adjudicatory subcommittee of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct next Thursday to state his case.”

It’s not just employment numbers that are looking bad. “In the latest sign of renewed turbulence in the housing market, an industry group said Thursday that sales of existing homes fell 5.1% in June. The National Association of Realtors reported that existing home sales fell last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.37 million units, down from 5.66 million in May.”

It’s not just conservatives who think the Obami behaved badly in the Shirley Sherrod incident. Richard Cohen: “The coward in question is Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack who, even though from Iowa, fired Sherrod in a New York minute, and by extension and tradition — ‘The buck stops here,’ remember? — Barack Obama himself. Where do they get off treating anyone so shabbily?”

It’s not just the election that Republicans should keep their eyes on, warns Charles Krauthammer: “But assuming the elections go as currently projected, Obama’s follow-on reforms are dead. Except for the fact that a lame-duck session, freezing in place the lopsided Democratic majorities of November 2008, would be populated by dozens of Democratic members who had lost reelection (in addition to those retiring). They could then vote for anything — including measures they today shun as the midterms approach and their seats are threatened — because they would have nothing to lose. They would be unemployed. And playing along with Obama might even brighten the prospects for, say, an ambassadorship to a sunny Caribbean isle.”

It’s not just that Journolisters (Journoapparatchiks?) are foul-mouthed; they need to get out more, says Jeffrey Goldberg about the lefties’ vulgar insult of Nascar fans: “It is true, in my limited exposure to Nascar fans, that many Nascar partisans are advocates of small government, lower taxes and a strong national defense, but I have not run into racists, anti-Semites or conspiracy-mongerers at Nascar events, either.” By the way, Rahm Emanuel had to apologize for using “retard” — what about this crew?

It’s not just conservatives who oppose the Ground Zero mosque: “Just 20% of U.S. voters favor the building of an Islamic mosque near the Ground Zero site of the World Trade Center in New York City, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Fifty-four percent (54%) oppose the planned building of a mosque near where Muslim terrorists brought down the skyscrapers by crashing commercial airliners into them on September 11, 2001. Three thousand people died in the incident and related attacks that day.”

It’s not just critics who thought Obama should have gone to the Gulf on vacation: “US President Barack Obama and his family will spend a vacation weekend on the Gulf Coast in Florida next month, showing solidarity with a tourism industry hurt by the BP oil spill.”

It’s not just Republicans who think Rep. Charlie Rangel has a lot of explaining to do: “Embattled Rep. Charles Rangel, the former chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, committed an undisclosed ethics violation, a House investigatory subcommittee determined Thursday. Congressional officials knowledgeable with the ethics process said the exact nature of the violation — or violations — won’t be publicly revealed until Rangel goes before an eight-person adjudicatory subcommittee of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct next Thursday to state his case.”

It’s not just employment numbers that are looking bad. “In the latest sign of renewed turbulence in the housing market, an industry group said Thursday that sales of existing homes fell 5.1% in June. The National Association of Realtors reported that existing home sales fell last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.37 million units, down from 5.66 million in May.”

It’s not just conservatives who think the Obami behaved badly in the Shirley Sherrod incident. Richard Cohen: “The coward in question is Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack who, even though from Iowa, fired Sherrod in a New York minute, and by extension and tradition — ‘The buck stops here,’ remember? — Barack Obama himself. Where do they get off treating anyone so shabbily?”

It’s not just the election that Republicans should keep their eyes on, warns Charles Krauthammer: “But assuming the elections go as currently projected, Obama’s follow-on reforms are dead. Except for the fact that a lame-duck session, freezing in place the lopsided Democratic majorities of November 2008, would be populated by dozens of Democratic members who had lost reelection (in addition to those retiring). They could then vote for anything — including measures they today shun as the midterms approach and their seats are threatened — because they would have nothing to lose. They would be unemployed. And playing along with Obama might even brighten the prospects for, say, an ambassadorship to a sunny Caribbean isle.”

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