Commentary Magazine


Posts For: August 2010

RE: Obama from the Oval Office

Much like the man who gave it, President Obama’s speech on Iraq was many things to many people. It was a paean to Americans in uniform, a bone tossed to Bush-nostalgic conservatives, a placeholder for Afghanistan hawks, a pacifier for the anti-war Left, and, clumsily, an acknowledgment of Americans worried about the economy. Much like the man who gave it, the speech was too irresolute to signify anything other than America’s ambivalence on the world stage. According to Obama, the Iraq war was at once a mistake and a success. In Afghanistan, we will both fight and leave (as if he has not given a second’s thought to the damage his confusion on this point has already done). For all the president’s talk of “turn[ing] the page,” he is stuck in the extended paradox of his own contradictions.

Not surprisingly, the most revealing part of the speech came in the form of a seemingly negligible aside, not a strategically inconclusive talking point. Obama said, “In an age without surrender ceremonies, we must earn victory through the success of our partners and the strength of our own nation.” Reread the first part of that sentence. What reason is there to think we have passed into an age without surrender ceremonies? Barack Obama believes this because he assumes that mankind is now so modern and reasonable that we are outside the vast breadth of history. Nations will never formally go to war again and will not get caught up in pre-21st-century anachronisms like “victory” and “surrender.” For Barack Obama, an old-fashioned victory is as quaint as a duel at 20 paces. This unjustified optimism is not a historically new phenomenon among academics and has invited exploitation by tyrants throughout the modern age. (We need only look to the post–Cold War gambits of Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein to disprove the contention.)

To wit: the single mention of the word “victory” in a speech acknowledging the successful conclusion of a remarkable American military effort came in a bid to redefine the term as a universalist construct. If only the world’s bad actors would agree to do the same, this would prove to be a speech for the ages.

Much like the man who gave it, President Obama’s speech on Iraq was many things to many people. It was a paean to Americans in uniform, a bone tossed to Bush-nostalgic conservatives, a placeholder for Afghanistan hawks, a pacifier for the anti-war Left, and, clumsily, an acknowledgment of Americans worried about the economy. Much like the man who gave it, the speech was too irresolute to signify anything other than America’s ambivalence on the world stage. According to Obama, the Iraq war was at once a mistake and a success. In Afghanistan, we will both fight and leave (as if he has not given a second’s thought to the damage his confusion on this point has already done). For all the president’s talk of “turn[ing] the page,” he is stuck in the extended paradox of his own contradictions.

Not surprisingly, the most revealing part of the speech came in the form of a seemingly negligible aside, not a strategically inconclusive talking point. Obama said, “In an age without surrender ceremonies, we must earn victory through the success of our partners and the strength of our own nation.” Reread the first part of that sentence. What reason is there to think we have passed into an age without surrender ceremonies? Barack Obama believes this because he assumes that mankind is now so modern and reasonable that we are outside the vast breadth of history. Nations will never formally go to war again and will not get caught up in pre-21st-century anachronisms like “victory” and “surrender.” For Barack Obama, an old-fashioned victory is as quaint as a duel at 20 paces. This unjustified optimism is not a historically new phenomenon among academics and has invited exploitation by tyrants throughout the modern age. (We need only look to the post–Cold War gambits of Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein to disprove the contention.)

To wit: the single mention of the word “victory” in a speech acknowledging the successful conclusion of a remarkable American military effort came in a bid to redefine the term as a universalist construct. If only the world’s bad actors would agree to do the same, this would prove to be a speech for the ages.

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Obama from the Oval Office

First, a visual observation: he looked scrawny and ill-at-ease at the large, empty desk. There were no funny hand gestures this time, as there was for the Oil Spill address. This speech did have some good moments, which I will start with.

First, he clearly debunked the notion that we are bugging out of Iraq:

Going forward, a transitional force of U.S. troops will remain in Iraq with a different mission: advising and assisting Iraq’s Security Forces; supporting Iraqi troops in targeted counter-terrorism missions; and protecting our civilians. Consistent with our agreement with the Iraqi government, all U.S. troops will leave by the end of next year. As our military draws down, our dedicated civilians — diplomats, aid workers, and advisors — are moving into the lead to support Iraq as it strengthens its government, resolves political disputes, resettles those displaced by war, and builds ties with the region and the world. And that is a message that Vice President Biden is delivering to the Iraqi people through his visit there today.

This new approach reflects our long-term partnership with Iraq — one based upon mutual interests, and mutual respect. Of course, violence will not end with our combat mission. Extremists will continue to set off bombs, attack Iraqi civilians and try to spark sectarian strife. But ultimately, these terrorists will fail to achieve their goals. Iraqis are a proud people. They have rejected sectarian war, and they have no interest in endless destruction. They understand that, in the end, only Iraqis can resolve their differences and police their streets. Only Iraqis can build a democracy within their borders. What America can do, and will do, is provide support for the Iraqi people as both a friend and a partner.

And he put forth a positive statement on the Afghanistan war:

As we speak, al Qaeda continues to plot against us, and its leadership remains anchored in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. We will disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda, while preventing Afghanistan from again serving as a base for terrorists. And because of our drawdown in Iraq, we are now able to apply the resources necessary to go on offense. In fact, over the last 19 months, nearly a dozen al Qaeda leaders –and hundreds of Al Qaeda’s extremist allies–have been killed or captured around the world.

Within Afghanistan, I have ordered the deployment of additional troops who — under the command of General David Petraeus — are fighting to break the Taliban’s momentum. As with the surge in Iraq, these forces will be in place for a limited time to provide space for the Afghans to build their capacity and secure their own future.

But those comments were, regrettably, far outweighed by a number of unhelpful, ungracious, and downright inaccurate moments.

First, in his recap and praise of George W. Bush’s administration, he never explained how it was that we succeeded in Iraq. It was of course that same surge that we are now using in Afghanistan. He said this about Bush:

This afternoon, I spoke to former President George W. Bush. It’s well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset. Yet no one could doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security. As I have said, there were patriots who supported this war, and patriots who opposed it. And all of us are united in appreciation for our servicemen and women, and our hope for Iraq’s future.

But Mr. President, Bush was not just a great guy — he was right. It was one more instance of the lack of introspection and grace that has characterized Obama’s entire presidency.

Next, he reiterated the Afghanistan deadline, trying to fuzz it up rather than revoke it:

[A]s was the case in Iraq, we cannot do for Afghans what they must ultimately do for themselves. That’s why we are training Afghan Security Forces and supporting a political resolution to Afghanistan’s problems. And, next July, we will begin a transition to Afghan responsibility. The pace of our troop reductions will be determined by conditions on the ground, and our support for Afghanistan will endure. But make no mistake: this transition will begin — because open-ended war serves neither our interests nor the Afghan people’s.

You see, Obama’s not into open-ended commitment. This is the same counterproductive claptrap that has been roundly criticized and that reveals him to be fundamentally disinterested in foreign policy. It is also why both friends and enemies doubt our staying power.

But most of all, the bulk of the speech had nothing to do with either Iraq or Afghanistan — it was a pep talk for his domestic agenda. This cements the sense that he simply wants out of messy foreign commitments. He also repeated a number of domestic policy canards. This was among the worst, blaming our debt on wars rather than on domestic fiscal gluttony: “We have spent over a trillion dollars at war, often financed by borrowing from overseas. This, in turn, has short-changed investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits. For too long, we have put off tough decisions on everything from our manufacturing base to our energy policy to education reform.”

He is arguing for more spending.

Obama is still candidate Obama, never tiring of reminding us that he kept his campaign pledge and ever eager to push aside foreign policy challenges so he can get on with the business of remaking America. All in all, it was what we were promised it would not be — self-serving, disingenuous, ungracious, and unreassuring.

UPDATE: COMMENTARY contributor Jonah Goldberg’s smart take is here.

UPDATE II: Charles Krauthammer’s reaction is here.

First, a visual observation: he looked scrawny and ill-at-ease at the large, empty desk. There were no funny hand gestures this time, as there was for the Oil Spill address. This speech did have some good moments, which I will start with.

First, he clearly debunked the notion that we are bugging out of Iraq:

Going forward, a transitional force of U.S. troops will remain in Iraq with a different mission: advising and assisting Iraq’s Security Forces; supporting Iraqi troops in targeted counter-terrorism missions; and protecting our civilians. Consistent with our agreement with the Iraqi government, all U.S. troops will leave by the end of next year. As our military draws down, our dedicated civilians — diplomats, aid workers, and advisors — are moving into the lead to support Iraq as it strengthens its government, resolves political disputes, resettles those displaced by war, and builds ties with the region and the world. And that is a message that Vice President Biden is delivering to the Iraqi people through his visit there today.

This new approach reflects our long-term partnership with Iraq — one based upon mutual interests, and mutual respect. Of course, violence will not end with our combat mission. Extremists will continue to set off bombs, attack Iraqi civilians and try to spark sectarian strife. But ultimately, these terrorists will fail to achieve their goals. Iraqis are a proud people. They have rejected sectarian war, and they have no interest in endless destruction. They understand that, in the end, only Iraqis can resolve their differences and police their streets. Only Iraqis can build a democracy within their borders. What America can do, and will do, is provide support for the Iraqi people as both a friend and a partner.

And he put forth a positive statement on the Afghanistan war:

As we speak, al Qaeda continues to plot against us, and its leadership remains anchored in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. We will disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda, while preventing Afghanistan from again serving as a base for terrorists. And because of our drawdown in Iraq, we are now able to apply the resources necessary to go on offense. In fact, over the last 19 months, nearly a dozen al Qaeda leaders –and hundreds of Al Qaeda’s extremist allies–have been killed or captured around the world.

Within Afghanistan, I have ordered the deployment of additional troops who — under the command of General David Petraeus — are fighting to break the Taliban’s momentum. As with the surge in Iraq, these forces will be in place for a limited time to provide space for the Afghans to build their capacity and secure their own future.

But those comments were, regrettably, far outweighed by a number of unhelpful, ungracious, and downright inaccurate moments.

First, in his recap and praise of George W. Bush’s administration, he never explained how it was that we succeeded in Iraq. It was of course that same surge that we are now using in Afghanistan. He said this about Bush:

This afternoon, I spoke to former President George W. Bush. It’s well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset. Yet no one could doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security. As I have said, there were patriots who supported this war, and patriots who opposed it. And all of us are united in appreciation for our servicemen and women, and our hope for Iraq’s future.

But Mr. President, Bush was not just a great guy — he was right. It was one more instance of the lack of introspection and grace that has characterized Obama’s entire presidency.

Next, he reiterated the Afghanistan deadline, trying to fuzz it up rather than revoke it:

[A]s was the case in Iraq, we cannot do for Afghans what they must ultimately do for themselves. That’s why we are training Afghan Security Forces and supporting a political resolution to Afghanistan’s problems. And, next July, we will begin a transition to Afghan responsibility. The pace of our troop reductions will be determined by conditions on the ground, and our support for Afghanistan will endure. But make no mistake: this transition will begin — because open-ended war serves neither our interests nor the Afghan people’s.

You see, Obama’s not into open-ended commitment. This is the same counterproductive claptrap that has been roundly criticized and that reveals him to be fundamentally disinterested in foreign policy. It is also why both friends and enemies doubt our staying power.

But most of all, the bulk of the speech had nothing to do with either Iraq or Afghanistan — it was a pep talk for his domestic agenda. This cements the sense that he simply wants out of messy foreign commitments. He also repeated a number of domestic policy canards. This was among the worst, blaming our debt on wars rather than on domestic fiscal gluttony: “We have spent over a trillion dollars at war, often financed by borrowing from overseas. This, in turn, has short-changed investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits. For too long, we have put off tough decisions on everything from our manufacturing base to our energy policy to education reform.”

He is arguing for more spending.

Obama is still candidate Obama, never tiring of reminding us that he kept his campaign pledge and ever eager to push aside foreign policy challenges so he can get on with the business of remaking America. All in all, it was what we were promised it would not be — self-serving, disingenuous, ungracious, and unreassuring.

UPDATE: COMMENTARY contributor Jonah Goldberg’s smart take is here.

UPDATE II: Charles Krauthammer’s reaction is here.

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RE: Why There Is No Peace

Bibi is indeed coming under pressure to halt the peace-talks charade. The Jerusalem Post reports:

“The terror attack near Kiryat Arba is a reminder to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who his partners are,” said MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union). “The Likud government’s negotiations with the terrorist Abu Mazen (Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas) are an energy boost to murderousness and terror. The blood of those harmed is upon the head of the Likud government.”

MK Uri Ariel  (National Union) called on Netanyahu to freeze the nascent negotiations slated to begin on Thursday in Washington. “Now it is clear – the most violent period is when there are negotiations. Netanyahu must immediately freeze the talks and concentrate on promising peace for Israeli civilians.” …

Everyone who in recent months was a partner to the myth that Abu Mazen controlled the field must come to their senses and immediately suspend the activities to strengthen the Palestinian army that is being established with American assistance,” said [MK Aryeh] Eldad. “Such a body is not capable of effectively combating Hamas, and we should not be surprised if its weapons are directed against us.”

Other officials were “more ambiguous,” and still others insisted that this showed how vital talks are. (The same nonsense emanated from our own State Department.)

Meanwhile, the Simon Wiesenthal Center put out a tough-minded statement:

“Far from being ‘senseless’, these cold blooded execution style Hamas murders underscore the reality that PA President Abbas does not fully control Palestinian territories,” said Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper, who are respectively the  Founder and Dean and Associate Dean of the international Jewish human rights NGO. “Hamas is exercising its murderous veto power over any proposed peaceful solution two-state solution, and as long the Palestinian people back them, they will never have peace,” they added.

“Today’s murders prove that the peace talks in Washington will go nowhere until the world stops demanding that Israel make ‘more painful concessions for peace’ and instead focus on how to defang and oust Hamas from power,” Rabbi Hier and Rabbi Cooper concluded.

So now we have a test. Where is the condemnation from CAIR and from Imam Rauf? Now would be the time to prove their alleged “moderate” bona fides. But more important, where is the statement – in Arabic — from Mahmoud Abbas declaring that the terrorist acts are contrary to the interests of the Palestinian people and calling for a complete cessation of all violence? That would seem to be the first order of business at the peace talks. Because you can’t have peace when one side is still killing. And you will hear that, oh, that was Hamas and Abbas can’t control them. Well then what, pray tell, is the point of a “peace agreement”?

It would be a fine idea if Bibi did return for the funerals — not cancel the talks, but emphasize that the safety of his citizens is his highest priority. If he doesn’t make that crystal clear, why should others take him seriously?

Bibi is indeed coming under pressure to halt the peace-talks charade. The Jerusalem Post reports:

“The terror attack near Kiryat Arba is a reminder to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who his partners are,” said MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union). “The Likud government’s negotiations with the terrorist Abu Mazen (Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas) are an energy boost to murderousness and terror. The blood of those harmed is upon the head of the Likud government.”

MK Uri Ariel  (National Union) called on Netanyahu to freeze the nascent negotiations slated to begin on Thursday in Washington. “Now it is clear – the most violent period is when there are negotiations. Netanyahu must immediately freeze the talks and concentrate on promising peace for Israeli civilians.” …

Everyone who in recent months was a partner to the myth that Abu Mazen controlled the field must come to their senses and immediately suspend the activities to strengthen the Palestinian army that is being established with American assistance,” said [MK Aryeh] Eldad. “Such a body is not capable of effectively combating Hamas, and we should not be surprised if its weapons are directed against us.”

Other officials were “more ambiguous,” and still others insisted that this showed how vital talks are. (The same nonsense emanated from our own State Department.)

Meanwhile, the Simon Wiesenthal Center put out a tough-minded statement:

“Far from being ‘senseless’, these cold blooded execution style Hamas murders underscore the reality that PA President Abbas does not fully control Palestinian territories,” said Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper, who are respectively the  Founder and Dean and Associate Dean of the international Jewish human rights NGO. “Hamas is exercising its murderous veto power over any proposed peaceful solution two-state solution, and as long the Palestinian people back them, they will never have peace,” they added.

“Today’s murders prove that the peace talks in Washington will go nowhere until the world stops demanding that Israel make ‘more painful concessions for peace’ and instead focus on how to defang and oust Hamas from power,” Rabbi Hier and Rabbi Cooper concluded.

So now we have a test. Where is the condemnation from CAIR and from Imam Rauf? Now would be the time to prove their alleged “moderate” bona fides. But more important, where is the statement – in Arabic — from Mahmoud Abbas declaring that the terrorist acts are contrary to the interests of the Palestinian people and calling for a complete cessation of all violence? That would seem to be the first order of business at the peace talks. Because you can’t have peace when one side is still killing. And you will hear that, oh, that was Hamas and Abbas can’t control them. Well then what, pray tell, is the point of a “peace agreement”?

It would be a fine idea if Bibi did return for the funerals — not cancel the talks, but emphasize that the safety of his citizens is his highest priority. If he doesn’t make that crystal clear, why should others take him seriously?

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Back to Beck

I’ve been critical of Glenn Beck in the past, but it strikes me that James Freeman of the Wall Street Journal got it just about right when he wrote:

Pundits will debate whether the crowd at Glenn Beck’s Saturday rally in Washington was the largest in recent political history, but it was certainly among the most impressive. Mr. Beck is a television host and radio broadcaster with a checkered past and a penchant for incendiary remarks. But if he’s judged by the quality of people of all colors that he attracted to the Lincoln Memorial, his stock can’t help but rise. One would not be able to find a more polite crowd at a political convention, certainly not at a professional sporting event, probably not even at an opera.

What was politically smart was to use the rally not as a forum for anti-Obama anger but for expressions of gratitude to our military, to figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., and to God. I found Beck’s comments the next day on Fox about President Obama’s Christianity to be more troubling — but in terms of the rally itself, it was, from the coverage I saw, a fairly impressive display by Beck and, mostly, by those whom he was able to draw to Washington.

Critics were waiting to strike, but it turned out there was no target at which to aim. And so people like Bill Press were made to look like fools (see this takedown of Press by HotAir’s Ed Morrissey).

I’ve been critical of Glenn Beck in the past, but it strikes me that James Freeman of the Wall Street Journal got it just about right when he wrote:

Pundits will debate whether the crowd at Glenn Beck’s Saturday rally in Washington was the largest in recent political history, but it was certainly among the most impressive. Mr. Beck is a television host and radio broadcaster with a checkered past and a penchant for incendiary remarks. But if he’s judged by the quality of people of all colors that he attracted to the Lincoln Memorial, his stock can’t help but rise. One would not be able to find a more polite crowd at a political convention, certainly not at a professional sporting event, probably not even at an opera.

What was politically smart was to use the rally not as a forum for anti-Obama anger but for expressions of gratitude to our military, to figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., and to God. I found Beck’s comments the next day on Fox about President Obama’s Christianity to be more troubling — but in terms of the rally itself, it was, from the coverage I saw, a fairly impressive display by Beck and, mostly, by those whom he was able to draw to Washington.

Critics were waiting to strike, but it turned out there was no target at which to aim. And so people like Bill Press were made to look like fools (see this takedown of Press by HotAir’s Ed Morrissey).

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Arrogance Doesn’t Become Him

Fox’s Gretchen Carlson was too aggressive in her interview with Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, but it did allow Gibbs to display his unparalleled snideness and condescension. For a man who is part of an administration that is unspooling, you would think Gibbs would show a bit more humility. But you would be wrong.

As for substance: Mr. Gibbs is once again out of his depth. What he can’t seem to understand – or perhaps what he has chosen to willfully ignore – is that the surge was critical in both the success of the Anbar Awakening and the political progress that we have seen in Iraq. The surge allowed everything else that is good to take place. Without it, the Iraq war would have been lost and Iraq itself would be consumed in a bloody civil war and possibly genocide. And if Gibbs’s boss had gotten his way in 2007, that is exactly where things would now stand.

As for who has handled the diplomatic/political situation better between the Bush and Obama administration: here again, the Bush record is superior. Compare Bush’s ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, who was a spectacular diplomat, with Obama’s ambassador to Iraq, Chris Hill, who was not (Hill served in the Bush administration; his achievement as Ambassador to Korea and head of the U.S. delegation to the six-party talks could hardly be termed a success either).

Robert Gibbs often doesn’t know what he’s talking about. But to combine ignorance with such preening arrogance is uncommon even for Washington.

Fox’s Gretchen Carlson was too aggressive in her interview with Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, but it did allow Gibbs to display his unparalleled snideness and condescension. For a man who is part of an administration that is unspooling, you would think Gibbs would show a bit more humility. But you would be wrong.

As for substance: Mr. Gibbs is once again out of his depth. What he can’t seem to understand – or perhaps what he has chosen to willfully ignore – is that the surge was critical in both the success of the Anbar Awakening and the political progress that we have seen in Iraq. The surge allowed everything else that is good to take place. Without it, the Iraq war would have been lost and Iraq itself would be consumed in a bloody civil war and possibly genocide. And if Gibbs’s boss had gotten his way in 2007, that is exactly where things would now stand.

As for who has handled the diplomatic/political situation better between the Bush and Obama administration: here again, the Bush record is superior. Compare Bush’s ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, who was a spectacular diplomat, with Obama’s ambassador to Iraq, Chris Hill, who was not (Hill served in the Bush administration; his achievement as Ambassador to Korea and head of the U.S. delegation to the six-party talks could hardly be termed a success either).

Robert Gibbs often doesn’t know what he’s talking about. But to combine ignorance with such preening arrogance is uncommon even for Washington.

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A Concession from President Obama

Today, in addressing the troops at Fort Bliss, Obama properly gave our military hearty praise. He added this:

There’s still a lot of work that we’ve got to do to make sure that Iraq is an effective partner with us. But the fact of the matter is that because of the extraordinary service that all of you have done, and so many people here at Fort Bliss have done, Iraq has an opportunity to create a better future for itself, and America is more secure.

Well, that’s a very positive sign: he is heeding the advice of many conservatives to abstain from the “you’re on your own” language and to stress our ongoing commitment. But the second part is extraordinary. For the first time I can recall, Obama said that the Iraq war has made America more secure. I would point out that as candidate, he not only opposed the war but did so on grounds that it would make us less safe. It is quite a concession, as one of my colleagues pointed out.

This will no doubt infuriate the president’s leftist base. But maybe Obama has written it and the 2010 elections off (forget pumping up the enthusiasm among Democrats, because it is hopeless). If so, this is a positive development and we should encourage more of the same — a full-throated endorsement of our commitment to Afghanistan, a renunciation of the deadline for troop withdrawal, a robust statement that military force remains an option in Iran, and a stinging denunciation of the murders in Israel today. After 18 months, maybe the president has decided to step up into the role of commander in chief. Time will tell.

Today, in addressing the troops at Fort Bliss, Obama properly gave our military hearty praise. He added this:

There’s still a lot of work that we’ve got to do to make sure that Iraq is an effective partner with us. But the fact of the matter is that because of the extraordinary service that all of you have done, and so many people here at Fort Bliss have done, Iraq has an opportunity to create a better future for itself, and America is more secure.

Well, that’s a very positive sign: he is heeding the advice of many conservatives to abstain from the “you’re on your own” language and to stress our ongoing commitment. But the second part is extraordinary. For the first time I can recall, Obama said that the Iraq war has made America more secure. I would point out that as candidate, he not only opposed the war but did so on grounds that it would make us less safe. It is quite a concession, as one of my colleagues pointed out.

This will no doubt infuriate the president’s leftist base. But maybe Obama has written it and the 2010 elections off (forget pumping up the enthusiasm among Democrats, because it is hopeless). If so, this is a positive development and we should encourage more of the same — a full-throated endorsement of our commitment to Afghanistan, a renunciation of the deadline for troop withdrawal, a robust statement that military force remains an option in Iran, and a stinging denunciation of the murders in Israel today. After 18 months, maybe the president has decided to step up into the role of commander in chief. Time will tell.

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Yemen and the Biden Strategy

One of the most useful prisms through which to view Yemen and Somalia is that of the “Biden strategy” for the War on Terror. The strategy’s outlines are provided in this article, one of many recounting Biden’s advocacy of over-the-horizon counterterrorism during the interminable seminar on Afghanistan last year:

Biden urged the president to consider a narrow counterterrorism mission, heavy on Special Forces and Predator drone strikes, which would require far less manpower than the military was seeking. … [He] continues to argue that it may not be possible to defeat the Taliban and stabilize Afghanistan at a reasonable cost.

Administration policy in Yemen and Somalia has been an even purer example of applying the Biden strategy. Team Obama has disavowed any intention of enlarging U.S. goals or the military footprint in either nation (see here and here, for example). The U.S. is there only to hunt terrorists, suppress piracy, and supply humanitarian aid, with a little military aid thrown in on the side.

Obama has so rigorously eschewed having any greater designs on the region that his administration seems to have missed some very basic geopolitical facts; e.g., that the pirate-infested waters of the Gulf of Aden lie between Yemen and Somalia and are the main path by which terrorists — and refugees — travel between their unruly shores. Yemen and Somalia function, in many ways, as a “system”; they share problems and displaced populations; and their neighbors — like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti, and Sudan — claim equities in their turmoil. Proposing to interact with this region solely by executing drone attacks and distributing aid, as if that will immunize the U.S. against unpleasant levels of involvement, is as much a fool’s errand as it is in Central Asia.

The U.S. is already deeply embedded in the region, with our naval task force combating piracy, our joint military headquarters in Djibouti, and our Special Forces and military training activities in Yemen. Now Obama wants to increase our counterterrorism activities in Yemen, deeming it a greater source of terrorism than Pakistan. In Somalia, meanwhile, where the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) is trying to retake the south from the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab terror group, the commander of U.S. Africa Command has stated — for the first time — a U.S. willingness to train Somali TFG troops directly.

The intensifying war on terrorists in Yemen is reminiscent of the U.S. posture in Southeast Asia in the early 1960s. There are, unfortunately, parallels in multiple realms. Human-rights groups are decrying the collateral damage done by U.S. strikes (like this one in December 2009). Yemen itself is rent by factional insurgencies; one of them, the Southern Movement, has ambiguous relations with al-Qaeda. The moral hazard of U.S. cooperation being exploited by the Yemeni government to go after its internal opposition cannot be discounted. Such allegations are already being made by Amnesty International and others. But the strongest parallel with Southeast Asia 50 years ago is the administration’s passion for Special Forces, military advisers, and standoff air strikes.

What happens in Yemen will not stay in Yemen: it will spill over and affect the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight terror there, but it does mean we will be unprepared for the consequences of doing so if we rely only on the Biden strategy. Perhaps the American people have let Team Obama maintain the fiction that we are executing a distant, hands-off strategy there, but regional circumstances won’t allow it much longer. Obama is inviting things to come to a head by ramping up Special Forces operations and drone attacks in Yemen, which will stretch the Biden method to the breaking point.

We are already involved in Yemen’s fate: we’ve been shooting there for years. Somalia may be next. We are backing into a problem we should be meeting head-on. Our strategy should, at the very least, recognize the limits of our ability to ignore local and regional politics when we are hunting our enemies and enforcing our policies on someone else’s territory.

One of the most useful prisms through which to view Yemen and Somalia is that of the “Biden strategy” for the War on Terror. The strategy’s outlines are provided in this article, one of many recounting Biden’s advocacy of over-the-horizon counterterrorism during the interminable seminar on Afghanistan last year:

Biden urged the president to consider a narrow counterterrorism mission, heavy on Special Forces and Predator drone strikes, which would require far less manpower than the military was seeking. … [He] continues to argue that it may not be possible to defeat the Taliban and stabilize Afghanistan at a reasonable cost.

Administration policy in Yemen and Somalia has been an even purer example of applying the Biden strategy. Team Obama has disavowed any intention of enlarging U.S. goals or the military footprint in either nation (see here and here, for example). The U.S. is there only to hunt terrorists, suppress piracy, and supply humanitarian aid, with a little military aid thrown in on the side.

Obama has so rigorously eschewed having any greater designs on the region that his administration seems to have missed some very basic geopolitical facts; e.g., that the pirate-infested waters of the Gulf of Aden lie between Yemen and Somalia and are the main path by which terrorists — and refugees — travel between their unruly shores. Yemen and Somalia function, in many ways, as a “system”; they share problems and displaced populations; and their neighbors — like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti, and Sudan — claim equities in their turmoil. Proposing to interact with this region solely by executing drone attacks and distributing aid, as if that will immunize the U.S. against unpleasant levels of involvement, is as much a fool’s errand as it is in Central Asia.

The U.S. is already deeply embedded in the region, with our naval task force combating piracy, our joint military headquarters in Djibouti, and our Special Forces and military training activities in Yemen. Now Obama wants to increase our counterterrorism activities in Yemen, deeming it a greater source of terrorism than Pakistan. In Somalia, meanwhile, where the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) is trying to retake the south from the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab terror group, the commander of U.S. Africa Command has stated — for the first time — a U.S. willingness to train Somali TFG troops directly.

The intensifying war on terrorists in Yemen is reminiscent of the U.S. posture in Southeast Asia in the early 1960s. There are, unfortunately, parallels in multiple realms. Human-rights groups are decrying the collateral damage done by U.S. strikes (like this one in December 2009). Yemen itself is rent by factional insurgencies; one of them, the Southern Movement, has ambiguous relations with al-Qaeda. The moral hazard of U.S. cooperation being exploited by the Yemeni government to go after its internal opposition cannot be discounted. Such allegations are already being made by Amnesty International and others. But the strongest parallel with Southeast Asia 50 years ago is the administration’s passion for Special Forces, military advisers, and standoff air strikes.

What happens in Yemen will not stay in Yemen: it will spill over and affect the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight terror there, but it does mean we will be unprepared for the consequences of doing so if we rely only on the Biden strategy. Perhaps the American people have let Team Obama maintain the fiction that we are executing a distant, hands-off strategy there, but regional circumstances won’t allow it much longer. Obama is inviting things to come to a head by ramping up Special Forces operations and drone attacks in Yemen, which will stretch the Biden method to the breaking point.

We are already involved in Yemen’s fate: we’ve been shooting there for years. Somalia may be next. We are backing into a problem we should be meeting head-on. Our strategy should, at the very least, recognize the limits of our ability to ignore local and regional politics when we are hunting our enemies and enforcing our policies on someone else’s territory.

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Why There Is No Peace

Just in:

Four Israelis were killed as terrorists opened fire at an Israeli vehicle near Kiryat Arba in Hebron Tuesday evening.

Magen David Adom paramedics arrived at the scene of the shooting and declared all four victims dead; two men aged 25 and 40 and two women aged 25 and 40. Paramedics added that one woman may have been pregnant. All four are residents of the Beit Hagai. …

The attack comes hours before Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are set to meet in Washington for peace talks.

There has been a lot of talk about a moratorium on settlements by Israel. Abbas has threatened to walk out. When do they talk about a moratorium on killing Jews? Perhaps Bibi should leave D.C. and return to Israel for the funerals of the four victims (possibly five, if indeed the woman was carrying a child). That would, maybe, refocus things.

Just in:

Four Israelis were killed as terrorists opened fire at an Israeli vehicle near Kiryat Arba in Hebron Tuesday evening.

Magen David Adom paramedics arrived at the scene of the shooting and declared all four victims dead; two men aged 25 and 40 and two women aged 25 and 40. Paramedics added that one woman may have been pregnant. All four are residents of the Beit Hagai. …

The attack comes hours before Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are set to meet in Washington for peace talks.

There has been a lot of talk about a moratorium on settlements by Israel. Abbas has threatened to walk out. When do they talk about a moratorium on killing Jews? Perhaps Bibi should leave D.C. and return to Israel for the funerals of the four victims (possibly five, if indeed the woman was carrying a child). That would, maybe, refocus things.

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Up There with Rosie O’Donnell and Lindsay Lohan

Near the top of my “people I could do without hearing from or about” is Meghan McCain, the twentysomething daughter of Sen. John McCain. She is out plugging her book, which I don’t intend to read. If her interview with ABC is any guide, a good deal of the book is devoted to trashing Sarah Palin. She proclaims, based on her wealth of political experience and long years in office, that Palin’s selection was on the “line between genius and insanity.” That’s a fairly rotten thing to say about one’s father. After all, Palin was his choice.

Her gripe seems to be that Palin caused “drama, stress, complications, panic and loads of uncertainty.” Yeah, like the stop-the-campaign/start-the-campaign exercise before the first debate. Like the stress induced by failure to come up with a cogent economic plan. Like the panic felt by the base during the town-hall debate when the candidate wandered around the stage like a doddering relative. Oh wait. That was her father.

Then there is this doozy:

“I feel like I should clarify. I wasn’t fired,” she said. “I was asked to leave and not come back, or go on my own bus tour. So I elected to go on my own bus tour in Ohio.”

She said she never called her father to ask about the dismissal, which was linked to the growing controversy over her blog.

“I was obviously upset because I had clearly done something to make people angry or irritated, so then I went on my own tour and it really ended up being amazing,” she said.

Dear, I know you haven’t had many (any?) real jobs, but you were canned. But smart not to call dad. I think it was possible that Meghan was causing too much “drama, stress, complications, panic and loads of uncertainty.”

All this reminds me of a point I’ve been meaning to make. The Clintons for their many and obvious faults raised a daughter who never embarrassed them and who was an asset in campaigns. They deserve credit for that. Not every political parent is so adept.

Near the top of my “people I could do without hearing from or about” is Meghan McCain, the twentysomething daughter of Sen. John McCain. She is out plugging her book, which I don’t intend to read. If her interview with ABC is any guide, a good deal of the book is devoted to trashing Sarah Palin. She proclaims, based on her wealth of political experience and long years in office, that Palin’s selection was on the “line between genius and insanity.” That’s a fairly rotten thing to say about one’s father. After all, Palin was his choice.

Her gripe seems to be that Palin caused “drama, stress, complications, panic and loads of uncertainty.” Yeah, like the stop-the-campaign/start-the-campaign exercise before the first debate. Like the stress induced by failure to come up with a cogent economic plan. Like the panic felt by the base during the town-hall debate when the candidate wandered around the stage like a doddering relative. Oh wait. That was her father.

Then there is this doozy:

“I feel like I should clarify. I wasn’t fired,” she said. “I was asked to leave and not come back, or go on my own bus tour. So I elected to go on my own bus tour in Ohio.”

She said she never called her father to ask about the dismissal, which was linked to the growing controversy over her blog.

“I was obviously upset because I had clearly done something to make people angry or irritated, so then I went on my own tour and it really ended up being amazing,” she said.

Dear, I know you haven’t had many (any?) real jobs, but you were canned. But smart not to call dad. I think it was possible that Meghan was causing too much “drama, stress, complications, panic and loads of uncertainty.”

All this reminds me of a point I’ve been meaning to make. The Clintons for their many and obvious faults raised a daughter who never embarrassed them and who was an asset in campaigns. They deserve credit for that. Not every political parent is so adept.

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RE: Obama: ‘I Do Not Want to Screw This Up’

Max, the desire to not let everything we have accomplished and everything so many Iraqis and Americans died for come to ruin is nowhere stronger than in the U.S. military. Today Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had this to say:

“One of the things we tend to forget is how desperate we were in that fight, pre-surge,” Mullen said. He said that, despite continuing violence in Iraq, there are no signs that any groups seek to return to the kind of sectarian violence that plagued the country after the 2003 invasion.

“I certainly don’t take for granted the progress that we’ve made, I recognize there is still a lot of work to be done,” Mullen said.

As for the surge, it would be swell if Obama echoed that sentiment tonight. As for the work that needs to be done, however, we should be concerned if the following is applied too literally: “Meanwhile, he said the only thing that worries him now is the lack of a unity government — but that he expects one to form very soon. The military, he said, has no role to play in that regard, and the Iraqi military has remained neutral, he said.”

It is true that the selection of a new government is not the U.S. military’s job, but keeping the peace and acting as a spur to reach a deal certainly is. Moreover, U.S. civilian leaders should be there to cajole and mediate between competing groups.

The president could go a long way tonight in making all this clear to the American people, to the Iraqis, and to those who would benefit from mischief-making in what is, in essence, a petri dish for Muslim democracy.

Max, the desire to not let everything we have accomplished and everything so many Iraqis and Americans died for come to ruin is nowhere stronger than in the U.S. military. Today Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had this to say:

“One of the things we tend to forget is how desperate we were in that fight, pre-surge,” Mullen said. He said that, despite continuing violence in Iraq, there are no signs that any groups seek to return to the kind of sectarian violence that plagued the country after the 2003 invasion.

“I certainly don’t take for granted the progress that we’ve made, I recognize there is still a lot of work to be done,” Mullen said.

As for the surge, it would be swell if Obama echoed that sentiment tonight. As for the work that needs to be done, however, we should be concerned if the following is applied too literally: “Meanwhile, he said the only thing that worries him now is the lack of a unity government — but that he expects one to form very soon. The military, he said, has no role to play in that regard, and the Iraqi military has remained neutral, he said.”

It is true that the selection of a new government is not the U.S. military’s job, but keeping the peace and acting as a spur to reach a deal certainly is. Moreover, U.S. civilian leaders should be there to cajole and mediate between competing groups.

The president could go a long way tonight in making all this clear to the American people, to the Iraqis, and to those who would benefit from mischief-making in what is, in essence, a petri dish for Muslim democracy.

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Gibbs vs. the Historical Record

“What is certainly not up for question is that President Obama, then-candidate Obama, said that adding those 20,000 troops into Iraq would, indeed, improve the security situation, and it did,” Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said on the Today show this morning, in anticipation of Mr. Obama’s Oval Office address this evening.

That statement is false. As I pointed out in this COMMENTARY essay, on the night of President Bush’s “surge” announcement, then-Senator Obama proclaimed: “I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq are going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse” [emphasis added]. It’s worth pointing out as well that in January 2007 then-Senator Joseph Biden declared: “If he surges another 20, 30 [thousand], or whatever number he’s going to, into Baghdad, it’ll be a tragic mistake.”

It would be hard to find two more vociferous critics of the surge than Obama and Biden.

It’s regrettable that Obama’s press secretary would compound his error in judgment with a shameful (and stupid) attempt to falsify the historical record.

“What is certainly not up for question is that President Obama, then-candidate Obama, said that adding those 20,000 troops into Iraq would, indeed, improve the security situation, and it did,” Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said on the Today show this morning, in anticipation of Mr. Obama’s Oval Office address this evening.

That statement is false. As I pointed out in this COMMENTARY essay, on the night of President Bush’s “surge” announcement, then-Senator Obama proclaimed: “I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq are going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse” [emphasis added]. It’s worth pointing out as well that in January 2007 then-Senator Joseph Biden declared: “If he surges another 20, 30 [thousand], or whatever number he’s going to, into Baghdad, it’ll be a tragic mistake.”

It would be hard to find two more vociferous critics of the surge than Obama and Biden.

It’s regrettable that Obama’s press secretary would compound his error in judgment with a shameful (and stupid) attempt to falsify the historical record.

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J Street Responds

J Street has answered the questions posed by the Emergency Committee for Israel. On whether any old two-state solution will do, J Street declares:

J Street does agree that both states in a two-state solution that ends the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be stable, peace-loving and anti-terrorist. … We’re also very clear that, no, we don’t support the two-state solution no matter the character and borders of the two states. We believe that both states have to be secure, viable and contiguous. That means not simply that Israel’s security must be assured in a two-state deal — that’s a given, and no Israeli government would or should agree to a deal that doesn’t guarantee security. But it’s also in Israel’s interest to ensure that the future Palestinian state is viable and sustainable and offers the Palestinian people a future with dignity, not a half-state that breeds further violence and discontent.

We support a two-state solution built on the 1967 borders with equal land swaps and in which the Jewish and Arab sections of Jerusalem are capitals respectively of Israel and the new Palestinian state.

Well, how is that all that different from those wacky kids at the ECI? In fact, what’s so special about J Street if it is going to mimic the mainstream Jewish position? Well, maybe there is a loophole here. The J Street statement didn’t exactly say it would be a Jewish state. And what if the 1967 borders are no longer a viable dividing line? And, of course, the J Street gang has decided to divide Jerusalem. What if Israelis don’t want to, or what if that makes a two-state solution nonviable? The “solution,” I suspect, is just to issue an ultimatum.

The second answer is more candid and revealing. On whether it “support[s] peace and security for Israel in the absence of a Palestinian state,” the answer is apparently no. “Further, we do not see a formula for ensuring peace and security for Israel or its survival as a Jewish and democratic home over the coming generation without a two-state solution.”

And to prove it, the J Streeters launch a half-hearted attempt to justify the Gaza 54 letter, which accused Israel of perpetrating a great injustice (“collective punishment”) on Palestinians by maintaining a blockade to prevent from entering Gaza materials that would be used to maim and kill Israelis.

This highlights a dilemma for J Street that has hobbled the group since it was founded by George Soros. If it repeats the pablum of mainstream Jewish groups, why is J Street needed? And if it shows its true colors — helping Richard Goldstone draft a defense, cheering on the UN Human Rights Commission, allying themselves with apologists for the Iranian regime, seeking to oust Dennis Ross — then it risks alienating all but the solidly anti-Zionist fringe.

J Street has answered the questions posed by the Emergency Committee for Israel. On whether any old two-state solution will do, J Street declares:

J Street does agree that both states in a two-state solution that ends the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be stable, peace-loving and anti-terrorist. … We’re also very clear that, no, we don’t support the two-state solution no matter the character and borders of the two states. We believe that both states have to be secure, viable and contiguous. That means not simply that Israel’s security must be assured in a two-state deal — that’s a given, and no Israeli government would or should agree to a deal that doesn’t guarantee security. But it’s also in Israel’s interest to ensure that the future Palestinian state is viable and sustainable and offers the Palestinian people a future with dignity, not a half-state that breeds further violence and discontent.

We support a two-state solution built on the 1967 borders with equal land swaps and in which the Jewish and Arab sections of Jerusalem are capitals respectively of Israel and the new Palestinian state.

Well, how is that all that different from those wacky kids at the ECI? In fact, what’s so special about J Street if it is going to mimic the mainstream Jewish position? Well, maybe there is a loophole here. The J Street statement didn’t exactly say it would be a Jewish state. And what if the 1967 borders are no longer a viable dividing line? And, of course, the J Street gang has decided to divide Jerusalem. What if Israelis don’t want to, or what if that makes a two-state solution nonviable? The “solution,” I suspect, is just to issue an ultimatum.

The second answer is more candid and revealing. On whether it “support[s] peace and security for Israel in the absence of a Palestinian state,” the answer is apparently no. “Further, we do not see a formula for ensuring peace and security for Israel or its survival as a Jewish and democratic home over the coming generation without a two-state solution.”

And to prove it, the J Streeters launch a half-hearted attempt to justify the Gaza 54 letter, which accused Israel of perpetrating a great injustice (“collective punishment”) on Palestinians by maintaining a blockade to prevent from entering Gaza materials that would be used to maim and kill Israelis.

This highlights a dilemma for J Street that has hobbled the group since it was founded by George Soros. If it repeats the pablum of mainstream Jewish groups, why is J Street needed? And if it shows its true colors — helping Richard Goldstone draft a defense, cheering on the UN Human Rights Commission, allying themselves with apologists for the Iranian regime, seeking to oust Dennis Ross — then it risks alienating all but the solidly anti-Zionist fringe.

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Queen Esther Goes to Alaska

As Jen noted yesterday, Sarah Palin, widely considered intellectually deficient by many Jews I know, appeared at a shabbaton (a study session on the Jewish Sabbath) the evening before she spoke at Glenn Beck’s rally. The shabbaton took place at the Hershey Lodge, near Hershey Park in Pennsylvania, which has probably been attended more frequently on the Sabbath by many Northeastern Jews than their local synagogues. Benyamin Korn offers details in an article in the online New York Sun:

My colleague Sheya, director of PalinTV, presented Mrs. Palin with the ArtScroll edition of Perek Shira, a commentary on the song of celebration sung by Jewish women during the exodus from Egypt. Mrs. Palin received the Hebrew volume with obvious delight; she has used the biblical Book of Esther as bedtime reading material for her eight-year-old daughter, Piper. She wants Willow to emulate Esther, Jewish history’s great heroine, who risked everything to save the Jewish people from Haman’s plan for genocide.

Although 65 years have passed since the Holocaust, the threat of genocide still hangs over the Jewish people — and again from Persia. Iran openly threatens to wipe Israel off the map. Hamas, with its charter calling for the extermination of the Jewish State, fires rockets at Israeli schoolchildren. Syria races to build chemical and biological weapons to use against Israel. Mrs. Palin makes it clear that she recognizes these threats to America’s ally, Israel, and wants to end them. She minced no words in her remarks to the Pennsylvania Family Institute, criticizing the Obama administration for “coddling our enemies while abandoning our treasured ally, Israel.”

Maybe it’s not just Palin’s right-wing politics that gets secular Jews so riled up. Maybe it’s also that Palin, that idiot, may actually know more about Judaism and feel no discomfort about emulating  Jewish traditions and Jewish particularism in the way that they seem to.

As Jen noted yesterday, Sarah Palin, widely considered intellectually deficient by many Jews I know, appeared at a shabbaton (a study session on the Jewish Sabbath) the evening before she spoke at Glenn Beck’s rally. The shabbaton took place at the Hershey Lodge, near Hershey Park in Pennsylvania, which has probably been attended more frequently on the Sabbath by many Northeastern Jews than their local synagogues. Benyamin Korn offers details in an article in the online New York Sun:

My colleague Sheya, director of PalinTV, presented Mrs. Palin with the ArtScroll edition of Perek Shira, a commentary on the song of celebration sung by Jewish women during the exodus from Egypt. Mrs. Palin received the Hebrew volume with obvious delight; she has used the biblical Book of Esther as bedtime reading material for her eight-year-old daughter, Piper. She wants Willow to emulate Esther, Jewish history’s great heroine, who risked everything to save the Jewish people from Haman’s plan for genocide.

Although 65 years have passed since the Holocaust, the threat of genocide still hangs over the Jewish people — and again from Persia. Iran openly threatens to wipe Israel off the map. Hamas, with its charter calling for the extermination of the Jewish State, fires rockets at Israeli schoolchildren. Syria races to build chemical and biological weapons to use against Israel. Mrs. Palin makes it clear that she recognizes these threats to America’s ally, Israel, and wants to end them. She minced no words in her remarks to the Pennsylvania Family Institute, criticizing the Obama administration for “coddling our enemies while abandoning our treasured ally, Israel.”

Maybe it’s not just Palin’s right-wing politics that gets secular Jews so riled up. Maybe it’s also that Palin, that idiot, may actually know more about Judaism and feel no discomfort about emulating  Jewish traditions and Jewish particularism in the way that they seem to.

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Yet Another Ominous Sign for Democrats

This one comes to us courtesy of the Associated Press. According to reporter Alan Fram:

Americans with the strongest opinions about the country’s most divisive issues are largely unhappy with how President Barack Obama is handling them, an ominous sign for Democrats hoping to retain control of Congress in the fall elections.

In nine of 15 issues examined in an Associated Press-GfK Poll this month, more Americans who expressed intense interest in a problem voiced strong opposition to Obama’s work on it, including the economy, unemployment, federal deficits and terrorism. They were about evenly split over the president’s efforts on five issues and strongly approved of his direction on just one: U.S. relationships with other countries.

In another danger sign for Democrats, most Americans extremely concerned about 10 of the issues say they will vote for the Republican candidate in their local House race. Only those highly interested in the environment lean toward the Democrats.

This one comes to us courtesy of the Associated Press. According to reporter Alan Fram:

Americans with the strongest opinions about the country’s most divisive issues are largely unhappy with how President Barack Obama is handling them, an ominous sign for Democrats hoping to retain control of Congress in the fall elections.

In nine of 15 issues examined in an Associated Press-GfK Poll this month, more Americans who expressed intense interest in a problem voiced strong opposition to Obama’s work on it, including the economy, unemployment, federal deficits and terrorism. They were about evenly split over the president’s efforts on five issues and strongly approved of his direction on just one: U.S. relationships with other countries.

In another danger sign for Democrats, most Americans extremely concerned about 10 of the issues say they will vote for the Republican candidate in their local House race. Only those highly interested in the environment lean toward the Democrats.

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ObamaCare Sinking in the Polls

“Nearly all of the gains Democrats have made in public approval of the health-care overhaul since it passed in March have been washed away, according to the Kaiser Health Tracking Poll for August,” Politico’s Mike Allen reports. According to the Kaiser poll, Americans are about evenly divided on health reform this month, with 43 percent holding favorable views of the new law and 45 percent unfavorable views. This represents a 7-percent drop in support from July, and a 10-percent uptick in opposition.

It’s worth noting that the Kaiser poll has in general shown greater public support for ObamaCare than other polls — yet even Kaiser shows that opposition to President Obama’s signature domestic achievement is higher (and more intense) than support.

“Nearly all of the gains Democrats have made in public approval of the health-care overhaul since it passed in March have been washed away, according to the Kaiser Health Tracking Poll for August,” Politico’s Mike Allen reports. According to the Kaiser poll, Americans are about evenly divided on health reform this month, with 43 percent holding favorable views of the new law and 45 percent unfavorable views. This represents a 7-percent drop in support from July, and a 10-percent uptick in opposition.

It’s worth noting that the Kaiser poll has in general shown greater public support for ObamaCare than other polls — yet even Kaiser shows that opposition to President Obama’s signature domestic achievement is higher (and more intense) than support.

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RE: Spinning for CAIR

An extremely insightful counterweight to the Washington Post’s slobbering over American Muslim leadership comes from Daniel Pearl’s father, Judea. He rejects the notion that mosque opposition is based on bigotry. “I cannot agree with the theory that such broad resistance represents Islamophobic sentiments, nor that it is a product of a ‘rightwing’ smear campaign against one imam or another,” he says. “Americans are neither bigots nor gullible.”

Instead, he posits that the opposition is based on the very reasonable explanation that Americans “view… the 9/11 assault as a product of an anti- American ideology that, for good and bad reasons, has found a fertile breeding ground in the hearts and minds of many Muslim youngsters who see their Muslim identity inextricably tied with this anti-American ideology.” For that and the missed opportunity over nine years to take “proactive steps against the spread of anti-American terror-breeding ideologies,” he holds American Muslim leadership accountable:

In public, Muslim spokespersons praise America as the best country for Muslims to live and practice their faith. But in sermons, speeches, rallies, classrooms, conferences and books sold at those conferences, the narrative is often different. There, Noam Chomsky’s conspiracy theory is the dominant paradigm, and America’s foreign policy is one long chain of “crimes” against humanity, especially against Muslims. …

Terrorist acts, whenever condemned, are immediately “contextually explicated” (to quote Tariq Ramadan); spiritual legitimizers of suicide bombings (e.g. Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi of Qatar) are revered beyond criticism; Hamas and Hizbullah are permanently shielded from the label of “terrorist.”

Overall, the message that emerges from this discourse is implicit, but can hardly be missed: When Muslim grievance is at question, America is the culprit and violence is justified, if not obligatory.

Real Muslim outreach would therefore require a frank discussion of this serious problem. It would require that we abstain from encouraging the victimology meme, which merely fuels anti-Americanism.

In this, much of the responsibility lies with Obama. He, after all, made Muslim outreach an official government policy. He went to Cairo and fed his audience the fiction that Palestinians are akin to enslaved African-Americans. He has asked nothing of the Muslim community — not sensitivity, not repudiation of specific terrorist groups, and not rejection of the noxious idea that America was responsible for 9/11. He may think he is bolstering Islamic self-esteem, but he is infantilizing Muslims and absolving them of the responsibility that is required of leaders who want to enjoy the love and respect of their fellow citizens.

An extremely insightful counterweight to the Washington Post’s slobbering over American Muslim leadership comes from Daniel Pearl’s father, Judea. He rejects the notion that mosque opposition is based on bigotry. “I cannot agree with the theory that such broad resistance represents Islamophobic sentiments, nor that it is a product of a ‘rightwing’ smear campaign against one imam or another,” he says. “Americans are neither bigots nor gullible.”

Instead, he posits that the opposition is based on the very reasonable explanation that Americans “view… the 9/11 assault as a product of an anti- American ideology that, for good and bad reasons, has found a fertile breeding ground in the hearts and minds of many Muslim youngsters who see their Muslim identity inextricably tied with this anti-American ideology.” For that and the missed opportunity over nine years to take “proactive steps against the spread of anti-American terror-breeding ideologies,” he holds American Muslim leadership accountable:

In public, Muslim spokespersons praise America as the best country for Muslims to live and practice their faith. But in sermons, speeches, rallies, classrooms, conferences and books sold at those conferences, the narrative is often different. There, Noam Chomsky’s conspiracy theory is the dominant paradigm, and America’s foreign policy is one long chain of “crimes” against humanity, especially against Muslims. …

Terrorist acts, whenever condemned, are immediately “contextually explicated” (to quote Tariq Ramadan); spiritual legitimizers of suicide bombings (e.g. Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi of Qatar) are revered beyond criticism; Hamas and Hizbullah are permanently shielded from the label of “terrorist.”

Overall, the message that emerges from this discourse is implicit, but can hardly be missed: When Muslim grievance is at question, America is the culprit and violence is justified, if not obligatory.

Real Muslim outreach would therefore require a frank discussion of this serious problem. It would require that we abstain from encouraging the victimology meme, which merely fuels anti-Americanism.

In this, much of the responsibility lies with Obama. He, after all, made Muslim outreach an official government policy. He went to Cairo and fed his audience the fiction that Palestinians are akin to enslaved African-Americans. He has asked nothing of the Muslim community — not sensitivity, not repudiation of specific terrorist groups, and not rejection of the noxious idea that America was responsible for 9/11. He may think he is bolstering Islamic self-esteem, but he is infantilizing Muslims and absolving them of the responsibility that is required of leaders who want to enjoy the love and respect of their fellow citizens.

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Gallup Poll Results in Perspective

Yesterday I referenced the Gallup survey showing that Republicans lead by 51 percent to 41 percent among registered voters in Gallup’s weekly tracking of 2010 congressional voting preferences. The poll is getting a lot of attention, and rightfully so. Frank Newport, editor in chief of Gallup, put the results in context:

The Republican leads of 6, 7, and 10 points this month are all higher than any previous midterm Republican advantage in Gallup’s history of tracking the generic ballot, which dates to 1942. Prior to this year, the highest such gap was five points, measured in June 2002 and July 1994. Elections in both of these years resulted in significant Republican gains in House seats.

As a further reference point: in August 1994, Republicans and Democrats were tied in Gallup’s generic ballot (46/46). And in the final pre-election poll in 1994, when asked if the elections for Congress were held today which party’s candidate (Republican or Democrat) would you vote for in your congressional district, the public preferred the Democratic candidate by a two-point margin (43 v. 41).

The GOP gained 54 seats in the House.

(A caveat: the data do not appear to have Gallup’s likely-voter screen applied to them, a practice the organization now employs starting in October. Data of national adults, rather than likely voters, usually will add several points more to Democratic candidates.)

Now, the generic ballot question, though significant, is not dispositive. The problem for Democrats is that almost across the board, the polling news is awful. President Obama is witnessing a hemorrhaging of support from among independent voters. And the enthusiasm gap, which favors the GOP by 20-25 points, is also an ominous sign for Democrats.

“The intensity gap is the biggest I’ve seen in 30 years,” the Republican pollster Bill McInturff told Bloomberg News’s Al Hunt. “This is going to be a massive election like 1974, except it will happen to the Democrats this time,” according to McInturff. In 1974 Democrats, in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal (Nixon resigned in August), took 49 seats from the Republican Party and increased their majority above the two-thirds mark (from 242 to 291).

“Today,” proclaimed the Democratic strategist James Carville in the wake of 2008 Obama’s victory, “a Democratic majority is emerging, and it’s my hypothesis, one I share with a great many others, that this majority will guarantee the Democrats remain in power for the next 40 years.”

It looks like Carville’s Democratic majority may fall around 38 years short of his prediction.

Yesterday I referenced the Gallup survey showing that Republicans lead by 51 percent to 41 percent among registered voters in Gallup’s weekly tracking of 2010 congressional voting preferences. The poll is getting a lot of attention, and rightfully so. Frank Newport, editor in chief of Gallup, put the results in context:

The Republican leads of 6, 7, and 10 points this month are all higher than any previous midterm Republican advantage in Gallup’s history of tracking the generic ballot, which dates to 1942. Prior to this year, the highest such gap was five points, measured in June 2002 and July 1994. Elections in both of these years resulted in significant Republican gains in House seats.

As a further reference point: in August 1994, Republicans and Democrats were tied in Gallup’s generic ballot (46/46). And in the final pre-election poll in 1994, when asked if the elections for Congress were held today which party’s candidate (Republican or Democrat) would you vote for in your congressional district, the public preferred the Democratic candidate by a two-point margin (43 v. 41).

The GOP gained 54 seats in the House.

(A caveat: the data do not appear to have Gallup’s likely-voter screen applied to them, a practice the organization now employs starting in October. Data of national adults, rather than likely voters, usually will add several points more to Democratic candidates.)

Now, the generic ballot question, though significant, is not dispositive. The problem for Democrats is that almost across the board, the polling news is awful. President Obama is witnessing a hemorrhaging of support from among independent voters. And the enthusiasm gap, which favors the GOP by 20-25 points, is also an ominous sign for Democrats.

“The intensity gap is the biggest I’ve seen in 30 years,” the Republican pollster Bill McInturff told Bloomberg News’s Al Hunt. “This is going to be a massive election like 1974, except it will happen to the Democrats this time,” according to McInturff. In 1974 Democrats, in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal (Nixon resigned in August), took 49 seats from the Republican Party and increased their majority above the two-thirds mark (from 242 to 291).

“Today,” proclaimed the Democratic strategist James Carville in the wake of 2008 Obama’s victory, “a Democratic majority is emerging, and it’s my hypothesis, one I share with a great many others, that this majority will guarantee the Democrats remain in power for the next 40 years.”

It looks like Carville’s Democratic majority may fall around 38 years short of his prediction.

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The Left vs. New Yorkers

If you buy into the left punditocracy’s framing of the Ground Zero issue, there are a ton of Islamophobes in New York:

Seven in ten New Yorkers say the proposed mosque/Islamic community center near Ground Zero should be relocated because of opposition from 9/11 families — and an equal number want state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to probe the group’s finances, a new statewide poll released today found.

“Overwhelmingly — across party and regional lines — New Yorkers say the sponsors ought to voluntarily move the proposed mosque to another location,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

And women are the worst “bigots”: “By a 56-34 margin, women said the mosque should not be allowed to build near Ground Zero despite the legal right to do so. Among the men, there was a narrower 50-45 split.”

Moreover, the mosque builders appear to be the sorts of villains the left usually excoriates. The New York Post op-ed page explains that the builders are tax dodgers with a rap sheet:

Indeed, Sharif El-Gamal, who owns the site — as The Post’s Isabel Vincent and Melissa Klein reported Sunday — owes nearly a quarter of a million dollars to the city in back payments. His firm, 45 Park Place Partners, simply skipped its property-tax bills in January and July, according to the Finance Department. Gamal’s folks say he delayed payments while seeking a lower tax rate, The New York Times reported.

Gamal, 37, also reportedly pleaded guilty to at least six misdemeanors while in his teens and 20s. Charges included disorderly conduct, drunk driving and attempted shoplifting.

And he was arrested once for punching a man who owed his brother money and another time for soliciting a prostitute.

And what’s more, “tenants in New Jersey buildings owned by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who’s leading the mosque project, describe him as a veritable slumlord.” This is the “moderate” imam and role model who’s been sent overseas at taxpayers’ expense:

“All he likes is money,” one tenant, Vilma Then, says. “Nothing [in her building] ever gets fixed.”

Jamie Barillas, another tenant, agrees, adding that tenants are forced to call their city officials to seek action. Barillas complains, for example, that bedbugs plague her building and that managers claim they don’t have money for an exterminator.

Not only has the left punditocracy managed to get on the opposite side of 70 percent of one of the Bluest States in the country, but it has also championed a tax cheat and exploiter of “the little guy.” I’d be hard pressed to find a better example of the rotten judgment and political extremism of what passes for the liberal intelligentsia.

If you buy into the left punditocracy’s framing of the Ground Zero issue, there are a ton of Islamophobes in New York:

Seven in ten New Yorkers say the proposed mosque/Islamic community center near Ground Zero should be relocated because of opposition from 9/11 families — and an equal number want state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to probe the group’s finances, a new statewide poll released today found.

“Overwhelmingly — across party and regional lines — New Yorkers say the sponsors ought to voluntarily move the proposed mosque to another location,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

And women are the worst “bigots”: “By a 56-34 margin, women said the mosque should not be allowed to build near Ground Zero despite the legal right to do so. Among the men, there was a narrower 50-45 split.”

Moreover, the mosque builders appear to be the sorts of villains the left usually excoriates. The New York Post op-ed page explains that the builders are tax dodgers with a rap sheet:

Indeed, Sharif El-Gamal, who owns the site — as The Post’s Isabel Vincent and Melissa Klein reported Sunday — owes nearly a quarter of a million dollars to the city in back payments. His firm, 45 Park Place Partners, simply skipped its property-tax bills in January and July, according to the Finance Department. Gamal’s folks say he delayed payments while seeking a lower tax rate, The New York Times reported.

Gamal, 37, also reportedly pleaded guilty to at least six misdemeanors while in his teens and 20s. Charges included disorderly conduct, drunk driving and attempted shoplifting.

And he was arrested once for punching a man who owed his brother money and another time for soliciting a prostitute.

And what’s more, “tenants in New Jersey buildings owned by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who’s leading the mosque project, describe him as a veritable slumlord.” This is the “moderate” imam and role model who’s been sent overseas at taxpayers’ expense:

“All he likes is money,” one tenant, Vilma Then, says. “Nothing [in her building] ever gets fixed.”

Jamie Barillas, another tenant, agrees, adding that tenants are forced to call their city officials to seek action. Barillas complains, for example, that bedbugs plague her building and that managers claim they don’t have money for an exterminator.

Not only has the left punditocracy managed to get on the opposite side of 70 percent of one of the Bluest States in the country, but it has also championed a tax cheat and exploiter of “the little guy.” I’d be hard pressed to find a better example of the rotten judgment and political extremism of what passes for the liberal intelligentsia.

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“A Barbarous Relic”

Jennifer notes this morning that Ron Paul wants an audit of Fort Knox and the New York Federal Reserve Bank to see how much gold is stored there, if any. This is pure conspiracy theory, for one thing. Given the fact that both Fort Knox and the New York Fed have very large numbers of people who work there, with someone on-duty 24 hours a day, how could billions in gold be removed without the story getting out? As Benjamin Franklin said, “Two men can keep a secret, if one of them is dead.”

For another thing, most of the gold held in the vaults 85 feet below street level at the New York Fed on Liberty Street in lower Manhattan does not belong to the United States. It belongs to many of the world’s other countries, who store it there to facilitate transactions in gold between them. So if that gold is gone, it would not only be fraud; it would be theft, as well.

The truth of the matter is that the last link between gold and money was severed in 1971, when President Nixon ended the right of other countries to redeem dollars in gold. Individuals had lost that right in 1933. So if the gold in Fort Knox were to suddenly vanish into the bowels of the earth, as once happened to the contents of Scrooge McDuck’s money bin (don’t worry, he got it back), it wouldn’t really matter. Money today is money because people believe it to be money (i.e., “a commodity that is universally accepted in exchange for every other commodity”). If that belief were to flicker, if people were to begin to doubt the acceptability of the dollar in the market place, then it wouldn’t matter how much gold was stored in Fort Knox.

As Lord Keynes wrote in Monetary Reform, gold, as a monetary standard, “is already a barbarous relic.” That book was published in 1924, 11 years before Ron Paul was born.

Jennifer notes this morning that Ron Paul wants an audit of Fort Knox and the New York Federal Reserve Bank to see how much gold is stored there, if any. This is pure conspiracy theory, for one thing. Given the fact that both Fort Knox and the New York Fed have very large numbers of people who work there, with someone on-duty 24 hours a day, how could billions in gold be removed without the story getting out? As Benjamin Franklin said, “Two men can keep a secret, if one of them is dead.”

For another thing, most of the gold held in the vaults 85 feet below street level at the New York Fed on Liberty Street in lower Manhattan does not belong to the United States. It belongs to many of the world’s other countries, who store it there to facilitate transactions in gold between them. So if that gold is gone, it would not only be fraud; it would be theft, as well.

The truth of the matter is that the last link between gold and money was severed in 1971, when President Nixon ended the right of other countries to redeem dollars in gold. Individuals had lost that right in 1933. So if the gold in Fort Knox were to suddenly vanish into the bowels of the earth, as once happened to the contents of Scrooge McDuck’s money bin (don’t worry, he got it back), it wouldn’t really matter. Money today is money because people believe it to be money (i.e., “a commodity that is universally accepted in exchange for every other commodity”). If that belief were to flicker, if people were to begin to doubt the acceptability of the dollar in the market place, then it wouldn’t matter how much gold was stored in Fort Knox.

As Lord Keynes wrote in Monetary Reform, gold, as a monetary standard, “is already a barbarous relic.” That book was published in 1924, 11 years before Ron Paul was born.

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No Good Choices for the White House

The White House is torn these days — focus on the economy (and thereby highlight its own failures) or shift to foreign policy (though its “smart diplomacy” is proving to be anything but)? There is no good choice. If this report is accurate, the Obami appear to have given up on the economy:

This week’s foreign-policy initiatives are of Mr. Obama’s own choosing. But they also show a realization that there is little he can do to boost the economy ahead of the November elections, said William Galston, a domestic-policy adviser to President Bill Clinton. “President Obama for the most part has decided just to be president and do the president’s job for the rest of this year,” Mr. Galston said. “That doesn’t mean he won’t be raising money for candidates, won’t be doing some politicking. … But it seems to me at this point the president is taking a long view, perhaps because he has precious few alternatives.”

But in the foreign policy realm, the vision is anything but “long view.” Obama tends to view foreign policy moves as short term, politically minded gambits. Iraq is a campaign promise kept rather than an achievement or an ongoing commitment. The peace talks are a face-saving gesture so that Obama’s Middle East policy doesn’t go up in flames. But more candid White House aides confess that those talks may very well trigger real flames:

U.S. officials said they worried that a new round of violence in the Palestinian territories could erupt if the freeze isn’t extended. “We might end up preparing for a catastrophe instead of a prolonged peace process,” said one U.S. official engaged in the talks.

Mr. Obama has cited a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace deal as one of his chief foreign-policy aims. He has said that he believed such an agreement could be achieved within a year, and that it would have far wider implications for stability in the Middle East.

That, however, is fantasyland stuff.

It would be delightful if Obama actually took the long view — real entitlement reform, attacking the debt, ensuring that the world is not threatened by a nuclear-armed Iran, sticking with Iraq so it emerges (as South Korea did) as a reliable democratic ally. But Obama shows little sign of that. His tenure has been marked by hyper-partisanship, irresponsible spending, unreasoned and unwise foreign policy maneuvers, and a lack of responsiveness to the voters. This is why there are, nine weeks from Election Day, no good choices. You can’t undo 18 months of damage in 63 days.

The White House is torn these days — focus on the economy (and thereby highlight its own failures) or shift to foreign policy (though its “smart diplomacy” is proving to be anything but)? There is no good choice. If this report is accurate, the Obami appear to have given up on the economy:

This week’s foreign-policy initiatives are of Mr. Obama’s own choosing. But they also show a realization that there is little he can do to boost the economy ahead of the November elections, said William Galston, a domestic-policy adviser to President Bill Clinton. “President Obama for the most part has decided just to be president and do the president’s job for the rest of this year,” Mr. Galston said. “That doesn’t mean he won’t be raising money for candidates, won’t be doing some politicking. … But it seems to me at this point the president is taking a long view, perhaps because he has precious few alternatives.”

But in the foreign policy realm, the vision is anything but “long view.” Obama tends to view foreign policy moves as short term, politically minded gambits. Iraq is a campaign promise kept rather than an achievement or an ongoing commitment. The peace talks are a face-saving gesture so that Obama’s Middle East policy doesn’t go up in flames. But more candid White House aides confess that those talks may very well trigger real flames:

U.S. officials said they worried that a new round of violence in the Palestinian territories could erupt if the freeze isn’t extended. “We might end up preparing for a catastrophe instead of a prolonged peace process,” said one U.S. official engaged in the talks.

Mr. Obama has cited a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace deal as one of his chief foreign-policy aims. He has said that he believed such an agreement could be achieved within a year, and that it would have far wider implications for stability in the Middle East.

That, however, is fantasyland stuff.

It would be delightful if Obama actually took the long view — real entitlement reform, attacking the debt, ensuring that the world is not threatened by a nuclear-armed Iran, sticking with Iraq so it emerges (as South Korea did) as a reliable democratic ally. But Obama shows little sign of that. His tenure has been marked by hyper-partisanship, irresponsible spending, unreasoned and unwise foreign policy maneuvers, and a lack of responsiveness to the voters. This is why there are, nine weeks from Election Day, no good choices. You can’t undo 18 months of damage in 63 days.

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