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Posts For: August 10, 2010

Bibi May Have Gotten More than He Bargained for with UN Panel

When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assented last week to Israeli participation in a United Nations panel investigating the May 31 Gaza flotilla incident, he said that his country had “nothing to hide” and that he had been assured that the group would only review the results of previous investigations — including Israel’s — and that it would not conduct its own inquiry. But at the same time that Netanyahu spoke as though he had gotten the better of his country’s foes at the world body, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon gave a mandate to the panel that was vague enough to also convince Turkey — whose goal at this point is to brand Israel as the criminal in the affair — that the UN effort serves its interests as well.

Unsurprisingly, one week later, it appears as though the Turks had better cause to be pleased by the UN than does Israel. At a news conference yesterday in New York, the AP reports that Ban denied that the UN panel would refrain from calling its own witnesses about the incident, including Israeli army soldiers who had taken part in the seizure of the Turkish ships that sought to break the blockade of Hamas-run Gaza. Israeli officials had previously said that their participation had been conditional on the promise that their soldiers would not be hauled in front of a UN star chamber. In response to Ban’s backtracking on that promise, Netanyahu’s office issued a statement saying that “Israel will not cooperate with and will not take part in any panel that seeks to interrogate Israeli soldiers.”

This was bravely said, but if Netanyahu believes that an Israeli pullout from the panel will not be portrayed as a sign of guilt in the court of international opinion, he’s wrong. Having already promised to play along with the UN, it won’t matter that Ban or the Obama administration (which is widely assumed to have pushed hard for Israel’s participation in the UN inquiry) had made assurances that won’t be upheld.

Granted, sticking to its initial inclination to boycott a UN investigation wouldn’t have won Israel any popularity points either. The distorted coverage of the incident, in which violent activists were killed and whose goal was to assist the Islamist terrorists who run Gaza in gaining free access to arms and material, makes unlikely any impartial query by the UN. No amount of reporting about the fact that there is no shortage of food or medicine appears capable of correcting the false impression that such a humanitarian crisis exists or that those killed were innocent human-rights advocates.

But to pull out of a UN investigation after initially agreeing to participate looks and feels a lot worse than a principled refusal to have anything to do with a body whose record on human rights had consistently proved biased against Israel. Indeed, the most surprising thing about any of this is how a man with as much experience in dealing with the UN as Netanyahu could possibly be surprised by Ban’s reneging on private promises made to Israel. The result is another propaganda win for Turkey, whose own role in fomenting this crisis and then resolutely refusing to defuse it before any shots had to be fired was detailed in Netanyahu’s own testimony before an Israeli panel investigating the incident.

When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assented last week to Israeli participation in a United Nations panel investigating the May 31 Gaza flotilla incident, he said that his country had “nothing to hide” and that he had been assured that the group would only review the results of previous investigations — including Israel’s — and that it would not conduct its own inquiry. But at the same time that Netanyahu spoke as though he had gotten the better of his country’s foes at the world body, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon gave a mandate to the panel that was vague enough to also convince Turkey — whose goal at this point is to brand Israel as the criminal in the affair — that the UN effort serves its interests as well.

Unsurprisingly, one week later, it appears as though the Turks had better cause to be pleased by the UN than does Israel. At a news conference yesterday in New York, the AP reports that Ban denied that the UN panel would refrain from calling its own witnesses about the incident, including Israeli army soldiers who had taken part in the seizure of the Turkish ships that sought to break the blockade of Hamas-run Gaza. Israeli officials had previously said that their participation had been conditional on the promise that their soldiers would not be hauled in front of a UN star chamber. In response to Ban’s backtracking on that promise, Netanyahu’s office issued a statement saying that “Israel will not cooperate with and will not take part in any panel that seeks to interrogate Israeli soldiers.”

This was bravely said, but if Netanyahu believes that an Israeli pullout from the panel will not be portrayed as a sign of guilt in the court of international opinion, he’s wrong. Having already promised to play along with the UN, it won’t matter that Ban or the Obama administration (which is widely assumed to have pushed hard for Israel’s participation in the UN inquiry) had made assurances that won’t be upheld.

Granted, sticking to its initial inclination to boycott a UN investigation wouldn’t have won Israel any popularity points either. The distorted coverage of the incident, in which violent activists were killed and whose goal was to assist the Islamist terrorists who run Gaza in gaining free access to arms and material, makes unlikely any impartial query by the UN. No amount of reporting about the fact that there is no shortage of food or medicine appears capable of correcting the false impression that such a humanitarian crisis exists or that those killed were innocent human-rights advocates.

But to pull out of a UN investigation after initially agreeing to participate looks and feels a lot worse than a principled refusal to have anything to do with a body whose record on human rights had consistently proved biased against Israel. Indeed, the most surprising thing about any of this is how a man with as much experience in dealing with the UN as Netanyahu could possibly be surprised by Ban’s reneging on private promises made to Israel. The result is another propaganda win for Turkey, whose own role in fomenting this crisis and then resolutely refusing to defuse it before any shots had to be fired was detailed in Netanyahu’s own testimony before an Israeli panel investigating the incident.

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Krugman: ‘Intellectually Lazy’

The Atlantic’s Megan McArdle sent a torpedo into the bow of the U.S.S. Paul Krugman. The damage is enormous and irreparable.

Professor Krugman, in trying to take on Rep. Paul Ryan, looks like an ideological fool — and he appears to be intentionally misleading, too. Ryan — who was my colleague at Empower America and who is a notoriously decent and civilized fellow — decided to characterize Krugman in the most innocuous way possible, calling him “intellectually lazy.”

To think that Krugman ranks as one of the most important columnists at the New York Times tells us a great deal, indeed.

The Atlantic’s Megan McArdle sent a torpedo into the bow of the U.S.S. Paul Krugman. The damage is enormous and irreparable.

Professor Krugman, in trying to take on Rep. Paul Ryan, looks like an ideological fool — and he appears to be intentionally misleading, too. Ryan — who was my colleague at Empower America and who is a notoriously decent and civilized fellow — decided to characterize Krugman in the most innocuous way possible, calling him “intellectually lazy.”

To think that Krugman ranks as one of the most important columnists at the New York Times tells us a great deal, indeed.

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When the Unprecedented Becomes Commonplace

According to the latest survey by Gallup:

Republicans have a 49% to 43% lead over Democrats among registered voters in Gallup’s generic ballot for Congress for the week of Aug. 2-8, the second straight week in which Republicans have held an edge in projected voting. The current six-percentage-point Republican lead ties the largest for either party so far, although Republicans have generally tied or held an advantage over Democrats since Gallup began tracking the generic ballot in March.

In addition:

Republicans have maintained at least a 10-point advantage in voting enthusiasm since March, including this past week’s 16-point lead over Democrats in the percentage who are “very enthusiastic” about voting. The widest such gap was 24 points in late June.

There’s nothing particularly new here — which is precisely why the Democrats should be so alarmed. The lead for Republicans on the generic ballot is, compared to past elections, virtually unprecedented — and yet these days, it is commonplace.

Barack Obama — the gift that keeps on giving,.. to the GOP.

According to the latest survey by Gallup:

Republicans have a 49% to 43% lead over Democrats among registered voters in Gallup’s generic ballot for Congress for the week of Aug. 2-8, the second straight week in which Republicans have held an edge in projected voting. The current six-percentage-point Republican lead ties the largest for either party so far, although Republicans have generally tied or held an advantage over Democrats since Gallup began tracking the generic ballot in March.

In addition:

Republicans have maintained at least a 10-point advantage in voting enthusiasm since March, including this past week’s 16-point lead over Democrats in the percentage who are “very enthusiastic” about voting. The widest such gap was 24 points in late June.

There’s nothing particularly new here — which is precisely why the Democrats should be so alarmed. The lead for Republicans on the generic ballot is, compared to past elections, virtually unprecedented — and yet these days, it is commonplace.

Barack Obama — the gift that keeps on giving,.. to the GOP.

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When It Rains, It Pours

Mediaite links to Charlie Rangel’s rant on the House floor today. In Steve Krakauer’s words, “It was a rant that slammed everyone from House Democrats to Pres. Barack Obama – and he promised not to go away anytime soon.”

All of this must be welcome news for the Democratic Party, heading into a midterm election that already looks epically bad.

When it rains, it pours.

Mediaite links to Charlie Rangel’s rant on the House floor today. In Steve Krakauer’s words, “It was a rant that slammed everyone from House Democrats to Pres. Barack Obama – and he promised not to go away anytime soon.”

All of this must be welcome news for the Democratic Party, heading into a midterm election that already looks epically bad.

When it rains, it pours.

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Robert’s Rant

Apropos my posting yesterday, we read this from The Hill:

The White House is simmering with anger at criticism from liberals who say President Obama is more concerned with deal-making than ideological purity.

During an interview with The Hill in his West Wing office, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs blasted liberal naysayers, whom he said would never regard anything the president did as good enough.

“I hear these people saying he’s like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested,” Gibbs said. “I mean, it’s crazy.”

The press secretary dismissed the “professional left” in terms very similar to those used by their opponents on the ideological right, saying, “They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality.”

Of those who complain that Obama caved to centrists on issues such as healthcare reform, Gibbs said: “They wouldn’t be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president.”

Gibbs goes on to say this:

“There’s [sic] 101 things we’ve done,” said Gibbs, who then mentioned both Iraq and healthcare.

Gibbs said the professional left is not representative of the progressives who organized, campaigned, raised money and ultimately voted for Obama.

I’m not fan of the left — but it’s very unwise for President Obama’s notoriously prickly press secretary to publicly vent like this.

Among the many problems Democrats face going into the midterm election is the huge gap in voter intensity. (It favors Republicans by about a two-to-one margin.) Gibbs’ comments will only deflate the Democratic base. But Gibbs, his colleagues, and the president cannot help themselves. They are an extremely thin-skinned lot, prone to lash out at their critics. Doing so is almost always unwise. And in this instance, it is as well.

A fight with the base of the Democratic Party isn’t what Obama or Democratic candidates need right now. But thanks to Mr. Gibbs — who also succeeded in offending Speaker Pelosi recently — that’s just what they have.

Apropos my posting yesterday, we read this from The Hill:

The White House is simmering with anger at criticism from liberals who say President Obama is more concerned with deal-making than ideological purity.

During an interview with The Hill in his West Wing office, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs blasted liberal naysayers, whom he said would never regard anything the president did as good enough.

“I hear these people saying he’s like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested,” Gibbs said. “I mean, it’s crazy.”

The press secretary dismissed the “professional left” in terms very similar to those used by their opponents on the ideological right, saying, “They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality.”

Of those who complain that Obama caved to centrists on issues such as healthcare reform, Gibbs said: “They wouldn’t be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president.”

Gibbs goes on to say this:

“There’s [sic] 101 things we’ve done,” said Gibbs, who then mentioned both Iraq and healthcare.

Gibbs said the professional left is not representative of the progressives who organized, campaigned, raised money and ultimately voted for Obama.

I’m not fan of the left — but it’s very unwise for President Obama’s notoriously prickly press secretary to publicly vent like this.

Among the many problems Democrats face going into the midterm election is the huge gap in voter intensity. (It favors Republicans by about a two-to-one margin.) Gibbs’ comments will only deflate the Democratic base. But Gibbs, his colleagues, and the president cannot help themselves. They are an extremely thin-skinned lot, prone to lash out at their critics. Doing so is almost always unwise. And in this instance, it is as well.

A fight with the base of the Democratic Party isn’t what Obama or Democratic candidates need right now. But thanks to Mr. Gibbs — who also succeeded in offending Speaker Pelosi recently — that’s just what they have.

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Democratic Lawmakers, an Endangered Species

Public Opinion Strategies conducted a survey in 13 states with competitive U.S. Senate races as defined by the Cook Report. This survey, Public Opinion Strategies points out, is not the same as a generic ballot. It tested the specific candidates by name and party in every state but Colorado (where there are no clear primary front runners), in which case it tested the “Republican” versus the “Democratic” candidate. (In Florida, it included Charlie Crist as a candidate of no party affiliation.)

The results foreshadow enormous trouble for the Democrats in the midterm election, including these:

(1) The Republican candidate leads on the ballot 47%-39% across the 13 Battleground Senate states. The lead is 45%-37% in the Republican-held states (Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, New Hampshire, and Ohio), and 47%-40% in Democratic-held states (Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Washington).

(2) Independents are voting Republican by 47%-25% across the Battleground states.

(3) In the four states John McCain won in 2008, the GOPer leads 46%-36%. In the nine states Barack Obama won, the GOPer still leads 47%-40%, including 50%-38% in the five states Obama won with less than 55%, and 43%-42% in the four Obama 55%+ states.

(4) There is a 21-point gender gap. Men are voting GOP 52%-33% while women split 42% GOP/44% Democratic.

(5) Democratic candidates face a wide disparity in terms of enthusiasm. Republicans lead 52%-36% among high-interest voters.

(6) Among Independents, only 21% say the nation is in the right direction, while 68% say it’s on the wrong track.

The bottom line from the survey?

Voters in the 13 Battleground Senate seats — five held by Republicans, eight by Democrats — want to vote for Republicans. Voters in the four seats held by Democratic incumbents are unhappy with those incumbents and are in a mood for change. Delving into the survey, the crosstab data shows even more of an opportunity for Republicans to make major gains in these U.S. Senate seats than even the positive topline data indicates. Independents are breaking heavily to the Republican candidates, and high interest voters provide significantly more support to the Republican candidates than the electorate overall. Democrats in these Battleground Senate races are not only facing an enthusiasm gap, they are also facing a message gap. It is possible, albeit unlikely, that they can make up for with money what they are losing on turnout interest and on message. But, as recent elections have once again shown, when voters are unhappy with the party running Washington, problems of message and turnout trump financial advantages. While some of the Democratic candidates in these thirteen Battleground Senate states may survive, given the way the electorate is moving against them, most of them will not.

Democratic lawmakers in the Age of Obama are becoming, in many instances and in many places, an endangered species. Change is coming; it’s just not the type of change liberals imagined.

Public Opinion Strategies conducted a survey in 13 states with competitive U.S. Senate races as defined by the Cook Report. This survey, Public Opinion Strategies points out, is not the same as a generic ballot. It tested the specific candidates by name and party in every state but Colorado (where there are no clear primary front runners), in which case it tested the “Republican” versus the “Democratic” candidate. (In Florida, it included Charlie Crist as a candidate of no party affiliation.)

The results foreshadow enormous trouble for the Democrats in the midterm election, including these:

(1) The Republican candidate leads on the ballot 47%-39% across the 13 Battleground Senate states. The lead is 45%-37% in the Republican-held states (Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, New Hampshire, and Ohio), and 47%-40% in Democratic-held states (Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Washington).

(2) Independents are voting Republican by 47%-25% across the Battleground states.

(3) In the four states John McCain won in 2008, the GOPer leads 46%-36%. In the nine states Barack Obama won, the GOPer still leads 47%-40%, including 50%-38% in the five states Obama won with less than 55%, and 43%-42% in the four Obama 55%+ states.

(4) There is a 21-point gender gap. Men are voting GOP 52%-33% while women split 42% GOP/44% Democratic.

(5) Democratic candidates face a wide disparity in terms of enthusiasm. Republicans lead 52%-36% among high-interest voters.

(6) Among Independents, only 21% say the nation is in the right direction, while 68% say it’s on the wrong track.

The bottom line from the survey?

Voters in the 13 Battleground Senate seats — five held by Republicans, eight by Democrats — want to vote for Republicans. Voters in the four seats held by Democratic incumbents are unhappy with those incumbents and are in a mood for change. Delving into the survey, the crosstab data shows even more of an opportunity for Republicans to make major gains in these U.S. Senate seats than even the positive topline data indicates. Independents are breaking heavily to the Republican candidates, and high interest voters provide significantly more support to the Republican candidates than the electorate overall. Democrats in these Battleground Senate races are not only facing an enthusiasm gap, they are also facing a message gap. It is possible, albeit unlikely, that they can make up for with money what they are losing on turnout interest and on message. But, as recent elections have once again shown, when voters are unhappy with the party running Washington, problems of message and turnout trump financial advantages. While some of the Democratic candidates in these thirteen Battleground Senate states may survive, given the way the electorate is moving against them, most of them will not.

Democratic lawmakers in the Age of Obama are becoming, in many instances and in many places, an endangered species. Change is coming; it’s just not the type of change liberals imagined.

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RE: JFCOM to Be Shut Down?

Max raises important issues with Secretary Gates’s new proposal to shutter Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) in southeastern Virginia. I’m not convinced that Gates thinks JFCOM’s job can be done without JFCOM. I suspect he may think it’s not important enough to justify the organization and expenses of a major combatant command.

Gates’s budgetary de-emphasis on force transformation and future weapon systems has stood in contrast to the Rumsfeld-era environment in which JFCOM flourished. Gates was also the secretary of defense in the summer of 2008, when General Mattis, then the new JFCOM commander, took the unusual but necessary step — all but invisible outside military circles — of repudiating the course on which JFCOM had set the once-pervasive, cutting-edge warfare concept of “effects-based operations” (EBO). EBO had become tied, in the minds of many, to our operational failures in Iraq. A widely read U.S. Army War College paper further implicated EBO in the IDF’s failures in the 2006 conflict with Hezbollah. EBO has been a drag on the image of what JFCOM was created to do: look toward the future of joint warfare.

Rumsfeld went too far in the direction of transformation, at the expense of current operations. But Gates may well be going too far in the opposite direction. With Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia all arming up, and Russia and China accelerating their weapons-development programs, now is not a good time to preserve our defense-planning assumptions in amber. I’m not as concerned about the disestablishment of JFCOM as I am about the potential for ignoring the joint-warfighting implications of emerging trends abroad. JFCOM’s utility in that regard has been unique: unlike the Joint Staff in Washington, its principal orientation is theory, application, and the lessons from combat — not on the Defense Department budget or the programming cycle.

One feature of JFCOM is likely to slow down efforts to eliminate it. I don’t see any acknowledgment in the Gates proposal that JFCOM plays a key role with the NATO command in Norfolk, Allied Command Transformation (ACT). In the NATO reorganization of 2002, ACT was assigned a mission of training and doctrine development parallel to that of JFCOM. In fact, until 2009, when a French officer assumed command of ACT, the JFCOM commander headed it as well.

NATO’s latest round of strategic thinking produced a report, issued in May 2010, which highlights ACT’s role and calls for “a bolder mandate, greater authorities [sic], and more resources” for the command, identifying it as the key to an overdue transformation of NATO force organization and doctrine. Disestablishing JFCOM, the U.S. counterpart to ACT — in fact, the model on which ACT was designed — would put us noticeably out of step with the direction currently proposed for the NATO alliance. That’s worth a pause for reflection. There are ways to cut contractor positions and slice fat without pulling the plug on a core nexus with our NATO allies.

Max raises important issues with Secretary Gates’s new proposal to shutter Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) in southeastern Virginia. I’m not convinced that Gates thinks JFCOM’s job can be done without JFCOM. I suspect he may think it’s not important enough to justify the organization and expenses of a major combatant command.

Gates’s budgetary de-emphasis on force transformation and future weapon systems has stood in contrast to the Rumsfeld-era environment in which JFCOM flourished. Gates was also the secretary of defense in the summer of 2008, when General Mattis, then the new JFCOM commander, took the unusual but necessary step — all but invisible outside military circles — of repudiating the course on which JFCOM had set the once-pervasive, cutting-edge warfare concept of “effects-based operations” (EBO). EBO had become tied, in the minds of many, to our operational failures in Iraq. A widely read U.S. Army War College paper further implicated EBO in the IDF’s failures in the 2006 conflict with Hezbollah. EBO has been a drag on the image of what JFCOM was created to do: look toward the future of joint warfare.

Rumsfeld went too far in the direction of transformation, at the expense of current operations. But Gates may well be going too far in the opposite direction. With Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia all arming up, and Russia and China accelerating their weapons-development programs, now is not a good time to preserve our defense-planning assumptions in amber. I’m not as concerned about the disestablishment of JFCOM as I am about the potential for ignoring the joint-warfighting implications of emerging trends abroad. JFCOM’s utility in that regard has been unique: unlike the Joint Staff in Washington, its principal orientation is theory, application, and the lessons from combat — not on the Defense Department budget or the programming cycle.

One feature of JFCOM is likely to slow down efforts to eliminate it. I don’t see any acknowledgment in the Gates proposal that JFCOM plays a key role with the NATO command in Norfolk, Allied Command Transformation (ACT). In the NATO reorganization of 2002, ACT was assigned a mission of training and doctrine development parallel to that of JFCOM. In fact, until 2009, when a French officer assumed command of ACT, the JFCOM commander headed it as well.

NATO’s latest round of strategic thinking produced a report, issued in May 2010, which highlights ACT’s role and calls for “a bolder mandate, greater authorities [sic], and more resources” for the command, identifying it as the key to an overdue transformation of NATO force organization and doctrine. Disestablishing JFCOM, the U.S. counterpart to ACT — in fact, the model on which ACT was designed — would put us noticeably out of step with the direction currently proposed for the NATO alliance. That’s worth a pause for reflection. There are ways to cut contractor positions and slice fat without pulling the plug on a core nexus with our NATO allies.

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