Commentary Magazine


Posts For: September 1, 2010

Obama and Ideas of Force

I‘m in broad company, from what I can tell, in detecting from Obama’s speech last night no outline of a policy for Middle Eastern security or the use of U.S. power. As Peter Wehner and others point out, the president spoke emphatically of deadlines (especially regarding Afghanistan) and only vaguely of purposes. The strongest signal he sent was his intention to remove large formations of ground troops.

We rarely parse the mental idea leftists like Obama have when they speak of military force. Obama didn’t like the war in Iraq; he doesn’t like the war in Afghanistan. But he seems fine with the growing war in Yemen, as he apparently is with the expansion of a similar kind of war in Pakistan. He is not opposed to all methods of imposing American will by force.

After his speech, the TV commentariat rose up to advance the narrative that Obama had no obligation to acknowledge Bush’s surge decision, because there was never a valid justification for regime-changing Iraq to begin with. This reminded me forcibly of the alternative proposed often in the period between October 2001 and March 2003 (and now looked back on with an affectionate nostalgia in some quarters): that is, simply continuing to “contain Saddam” with sanctions.

Sanctions on Saddam’s Iraq represented a type of force approved by the political left. The UN sanctions were inaugurated under George H.W. Bush in conjunction with Desert Storm, but Bill Clinton continued them, presiding over refinements to them and dedicating the U.S. military as the principal enforcer. He combined them on several occasions with air and missile strikes. In theory, they were part of an overarching political effort centered on UN inspections of Iraq’s suspect facilities.

The containment of Saddam dragged on for more than 12 years. It necessitated a growing, permanently based U.S. military force in the Persian Gulf. It dramatically distorted the region’s economy, generated tremendous blockade-running revenue for Iran, and produced the spectacle of kickbacks through the UN Oil-for-Food program. A tolerable burden for American power, the sanctions on Iraq were an agent of change — for the worse — in global politics, regional relations, and UN practices. The one thing they did not change was Saddam.

It is easy, and not without utility, to view Obama’s antipathy to large formations of ground troops as part of a modern Democratic pattern of resisting that “level” of engagement. There’s some fairness to that. But there is a more important aspect of this pattern. Democratic presidents have been willing to use all kinds of other military options, for almost any purpose except forcing a change in the political situation that keeps the problem going. It’s the latter objective that typically necessitates ground troops to secure territory for political purposes. The objective itself is what no Democratic president since Harry Truman has felt able to justify.

It shouldn’t surprise us that Obama didn’t unequivocally endorse our success in Iraq. He belongs to a political faction that never saw its purpose — never sees any purpose of its kind — as justifiable. But the occasion of Obama’s speech is a good time to reflect on the alternatives to which modern Democratic presidents (along with some Republicans) have regularly resorted. The American people may not always be politically prepared for goals as decisive as regime-changing dictators, but containment is not really the low-impact alternative it often seems to be. It deforms the situations that concern us without providing any path to a conclusion. As with sanctions on Iraq, the U.S. can probably continue headhunting terrorists for years without breaking a sweat. And as with sanctions on Iraq, we are likely to induce changes in almost every aspect of the situation except the one that matters: the incidence of willing terrorists.

I‘m in broad company, from what I can tell, in detecting from Obama’s speech last night no outline of a policy for Middle Eastern security or the use of U.S. power. As Peter Wehner and others point out, the president spoke emphatically of deadlines (especially regarding Afghanistan) and only vaguely of purposes. The strongest signal he sent was his intention to remove large formations of ground troops.

We rarely parse the mental idea leftists like Obama have when they speak of military force. Obama didn’t like the war in Iraq; he doesn’t like the war in Afghanistan. But he seems fine with the growing war in Yemen, as he apparently is with the expansion of a similar kind of war in Pakistan. He is not opposed to all methods of imposing American will by force.

After his speech, the TV commentariat rose up to advance the narrative that Obama had no obligation to acknowledge Bush’s surge decision, because there was never a valid justification for regime-changing Iraq to begin with. This reminded me forcibly of the alternative proposed often in the period between October 2001 and March 2003 (and now looked back on with an affectionate nostalgia in some quarters): that is, simply continuing to “contain Saddam” with sanctions.

Sanctions on Saddam’s Iraq represented a type of force approved by the political left. The UN sanctions were inaugurated under George H.W. Bush in conjunction with Desert Storm, but Bill Clinton continued them, presiding over refinements to them and dedicating the U.S. military as the principal enforcer. He combined them on several occasions with air and missile strikes. In theory, they were part of an overarching political effort centered on UN inspections of Iraq’s suspect facilities.

The containment of Saddam dragged on for more than 12 years. It necessitated a growing, permanently based U.S. military force in the Persian Gulf. It dramatically distorted the region’s economy, generated tremendous blockade-running revenue for Iran, and produced the spectacle of kickbacks through the UN Oil-for-Food program. A tolerable burden for American power, the sanctions on Iraq were an agent of change — for the worse — in global politics, regional relations, and UN practices. The one thing they did not change was Saddam.

It is easy, and not without utility, to view Obama’s antipathy to large formations of ground troops as part of a modern Democratic pattern of resisting that “level” of engagement. There’s some fairness to that. But there is a more important aspect of this pattern. Democratic presidents have been willing to use all kinds of other military options, for almost any purpose except forcing a change in the political situation that keeps the problem going. It’s the latter objective that typically necessitates ground troops to secure territory for political purposes. The objective itself is what no Democratic president since Harry Truman has felt able to justify.

It shouldn’t surprise us that Obama didn’t unequivocally endorse our success in Iraq. He belongs to a political faction that never saw its purpose — never sees any purpose of its kind — as justifiable. But the occasion of Obama’s speech is a good time to reflect on the alternatives to which modern Democratic presidents (along with some Republicans) have regularly resorted. The American people may not always be politically prepared for goals as decisive as regime-changing dictators, but containment is not really the low-impact alternative it often seems to be. It deforms the situations that concern us without providing any path to a conclusion. As with sanctions on Iraq, the U.S. can probably continue headhunting terrorists for years without breaking a sweat. And as with sanctions on Iraq, we are likely to induce changes in almost every aspect of the situation except the one that matters: the incidence of willing terrorists.

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Elegant Wordsmithery at the New York Times

Brian Knowlton of the Times began his story about the peace talks on the website today as follows (emphasis added):

President Obama on Wednesday began the arduous process of coaxing and pressing the main Middle East participants to define and embrace a comprehensive peace settlement. But he had to begin by joining Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel in strongly condemning a fatal attack on the West Bank and declaring solemnly, “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Yes, Obama “had to begin.” Because that pesky terrorism just got in the way somehow.

Brian Knowlton of the Times began his story about the peace talks on the website today as follows (emphasis added):

President Obama on Wednesday began the arduous process of coaxing and pressing the main Middle East participants to define and embrace a comprehensive peace settlement. But he had to begin by joining Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel in strongly condemning a fatal attack on the West Bank and declaring solemnly, “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Yes, Obama “had to begin.” Because that pesky terrorism just got in the way somehow.

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How Could Such a Thing Happen?

In this report on the peace talks, we learn:

The administration is frustrated, the sources said, that Abbas keeps publicly insisting on an absolute freeze and positions that may limit his own flexibility in the talks.

“I get a pretty strong sense of exasperation from the administration folks that Abbas keeps climbing up the tree himself,” one Middle East expert in close consultation with the administration said Tuesday. “This time, he is the one putting demands on a moratorium.”

Well, gosh — how in the world did we get to this point? Could it be that Obama tried for 18 months to cram a freeze down the Israelis’ throats? Could it have something to do with a building permit in Jerusalem eliciting a condemnation from the administration?

When you hear things like this, you realize that in many ways it really is amateur hour. At nearly every turn, the Obama team has misread the players, created more conflict than it resolved, and then scrambled to repair the damage. You never realized how smart the Bush Middle East diplomacy was, huh?

In this report on the peace talks, we learn:

The administration is frustrated, the sources said, that Abbas keeps publicly insisting on an absolute freeze and positions that may limit his own flexibility in the talks.

“I get a pretty strong sense of exasperation from the administration folks that Abbas keeps climbing up the tree himself,” one Middle East expert in close consultation with the administration said Tuesday. “This time, he is the one putting demands on a moratorium.”

Well, gosh — how in the world did we get to this point? Could it be that Obama tried for 18 months to cram a freeze down the Israelis’ throats? Could it have something to do with a building permit in Jerusalem eliciting a condemnation from the administration?

When you hear things like this, you realize that in many ways it really is amateur hour. At nearly every turn, the Obama team has misread the players, created more conflict than it resolved, and then scrambled to repair the damage. You never realized how smart the Bush Middle East diplomacy was, huh?

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What Happens When the Talks Fail?

It is a measure of how badly the Obami’s approach to the Middle East has failed and how little the Israelis trust Obama when, as Josh Rogin reports, the Israelis make it crystal clear how little they regard the president’s positions:

“We are coming to the table with no preconditions on any issue,” embassy spokesman Jonathan Peled said on a conference call Tuesday. “We are certain that the issue of settlements, of this moratorium, will be on the table and discussed between the two leaders … with the hope that a solution, an exit, a formula can be found that will satisfy both sides, but only after it is brought to the table between them.”

So much for the settlement-freeze gambit. And there’s more:

“The latest moratorium that this government took about 10 months ago was a one-time gesture with the aim of jumpstarting the process,” Peled said.

He also said that he was not aware of any ideas that the United States was bringing to the table to bridge gaps between the two sides and added that it was not the Obama administration’s place to interject its own ideas into the process.

Well, that’s some helpful candor. The Bush administration to my knowledge avoided bridging proposals. These merely encourage intransigence and gamesmanship. “Well, if the U.S. is going to split the difference, let’s ask for the moon and the stars.” It is antithetical to the notion that the parties must control their own destiny and that Israel, in particular, must be allowed to define for itself its own security needs. And one might also interpret the Israelis’ forcefulness as a preemptive strike against an imposed peace deal, which many are concerned is not entirely off the table.

And George Mitchell also appears to have his tail between his legs:

Although Mitchell has often compared Middle East negotiations to the struggle for peace in Northern Ireland, he said Tuesday that the comparison is not strictly accurate, even though military groups in Northern Ireland eventually did join talks.

“So, first, let me say they’re very different. It’s not useful to try to make direct comparisons because the participants, the circumstances, the situation, the timing are all very different,” he said.

The negotiations hang by a thread, which could easily break at any moment. (“If there’s one word to describe the feelings about the talks throughout Washington, that word is skepticism. Experts across the political spectrum see the idea of a breakthrough as a long shot at best.”) It would seem prudent then to have a backup plan in mind should talks fail. What if a third intifada breaks out? I certainly hope someone is thinking about that. Of all the possible outcomes, that, sadly, seems the most likely.

It is a measure of how badly the Obami’s approach to the Middle East has failed and how little the Israelis trust Obama when, as Josh Rogin reports, the Israelis make it crystal clear how little they regard the president’s positions:

“We are coming to the table with no preconditions on any issue,” embassy spokesman Jonathan Peled said on a conference call Tuesday. “We are certain that the issue of settlements, of this moratorium, will be on the table and discussed between the two leaders … with the hope that a solution, an exit, a formula can be found that will satisfy both sides, but only after it is brought to the table between them.”

So much for the settlement-freeze gambit. And there’s more:

“The latest moratorium that this government took about 10 months ago was a one-time gesture with the aim of jumpstarting the process,” Peled said.

He also said that he was not aware of any ideas that the United States was bringing to the table to bridge gaps between the two sides and added that it was not the Obama administration’s place to interject its own ideas into the process.

Well, that’s some helpful candor. The Bush administration to my knowledge avoided bridging proposals. These merely encourage intransigence and gamesmanship. “Well, if the U.S. is going to split the difference, let’s ask for the moon and the stars.” It is antithetical to the notion that the parties must control their own destiny and that Israel, in particular, must be allowed to define for itself its own security needs. And one might also interpret the Israelis’ forcefulness as a preemptive strike against an imposed peace deal, which many are concerned is not entirely off the table.

And George Mitchell also appears to have his tail between his legs:

Although Mitchell has often compared Middle East negotiations to the struggle for peace in Northern Ireland, he said Tuesday that the comparison is not strictly accurate, even though military groups in Northern Ireland eventually did join talks.

“So, first, let me say they’re very different. It’s not useful to try to make direct comparisons because the participants, the circumstances, the situation, the timing are all very different,” he said.

The negotiations hang by a thread, which could easily break at any moment. (“If there’s one word to describe the feelings about the talks throughout Washington, that word is skepticism. Experts across the political spectrum see the idea of a breakthrough as a long shot at best.”) It would seem prudent then to have a backup plan in mind should talks fail. What if a third intifada breaks out? I certainly hope someone is thinking about that. Of all the possible outcomes, that, sadly, seems the most likely.

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RE: Obama, Bush, and War

Rick, you are in good company. Ambassador (and maybe presidential contender) John C. Bolton had this to say about the “turn the page” rhetoric:

That may satisfy the left wing of the Democratic party, but it’s impossible to turn the page on Iraq given the continuing strategic interest we have there. I think it’s indicative of the isolationism that forms a big part of his philosophy. It reminded me of George McGovern’s 1972 Convention speech when he kept saying “Come home America.”

As many of us have commented today, what particularly concerns him is the Afghanistan remarks. “I think this is a decision driven by his domestic political consideration and I think we’re going to pay for it down the line. I still see him as having no strategic vision, no real understanding what the implications of these steps are, but continuing to play the playbook that he’s been following since his campaign.”

And no, he really didn’t think much of the Bush references either. (“It just shows how far we’ve come that saying a nice thing about the troops cheers people up. Even George McGovern had the wit to do that.”)

Well, that is what makes Bolton such an effective, and amusing, spokesman for a robust U.S. foreign policy. And a final note on the budget numbers:  this chart is compelling. You do wonder whether the president misunderstands the facts or simply thinks he can slip by the American public very large fibs (e.g., ObamaCare will save money, the stimulus created jobs).

If Obama really is to step up to the plate and shed his campaign persona, he would do well to be honest and accurate. He’s not going to listen to Bolton’s advice, but he can and should at least operate from the same set of facts.

Rick, you are in good company. Ambassador (and maybe presidential contender) John C. Bolton had this to say about the “turn the page” rhetoric:

That may satisfy the left wing of the Democratic party, but it’s impossible to turn the page on Iraq given the continuing strategic interest we have there. I think it’s indicative of the isolationism that forms a big part of his philosophy. It reminded me of George McGovern’s 1972 Convention speech when he kept saying “Come home America.”

As many of us have commented today, what particularly concerns him is the Afghanistan remarks. “I think this is a decision driven by his domestic political consideration and I think we’re going to pay for it down the line. I still see him as having no strategic vision, no real understanding what the implications of these steps are, but continuing to play the playbook that he’s been following since his campaign.”

And no, he really didn’t think much of the Bush references either. (“It just shows how far we’ve come that saying a nice thing about the troops cheers people up. Even George McGovern had the wit to do that.”)

Well, that is what makes Bolton such an effective, and amusing, spokesman for a robust U.S. foreign policy. And a final note on the budget numbers:  this chart is compelling. You do wonder whether the president misunderstands the facts or simply thinks he can slip by the American public very large fibs (e.g., ObamaCare will save money, the stimulus created jobs).

If Obama really is to step up to the plate and shed his campaign persona, he would do well to be honest and accurate. He’s not going to listen to Bolton’s advice, but he can and should at least operate from the same set of facts.

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Did I ‘Define Neoconservatism Down’?

Rich Lowry has a provocative and well-argued post about my claim in both the New York Post this morning and on CONTENTIONS that the president last night delivered a “neoconservative” speech. “I’ve never known a neo-con to brag about how rapidly he’s drawn down U.S. troops in an ongoing conflict, unnecessarily putting at risk hard-won gains on the ground,” Rich points out, going on to say that “Obama went on to use the troops and their sacrifice as a reason that we should unite around his effort to spend us into the ground here at home. Unless you’re grading on a very sharp curve, this is shabby stuff.”

I was grading on a curve. I think that’s what you do when you respond to presidential addresses. What’s interesting about them is what’s new in them; that was always understood when I was writing speeches in the White House 22 years ago. Even in Oval Office addresses, half of what is said is there because it’s intended to suggest continuities with previous statements and offer reassurance to already existing constituencies. Thus, it’s entirely to be expected and entirely without interest that he said it is time to turn the page in Iraq so we can focus on problems at home — and spend the money we spent in Iraq on domestic programs.

It’s when speeches change things up, go in unexpected directions, that they make news and are interesting. In that respect, the neocon-like rhetoric used by Obama was entirely new, especially for him, and therefore very interesting. For Obama to claim, as he did, that our perseverance in Iraq offers us hope that we can turn around our domestic woes was a startling thing. He probably didn’t mean it, and in many ways he’s the polar opposite of a neocon. But he said it. What’s more telling, he said it because he thought it would be of value to him to say it.

And by saying it, he was indicating something even more interesting — again, without knowing it. And that is this: the core “neoconservative” position is that America is a force for good in the world and that when America acts, it benefits both the world and its own national soul. The fact that Obama has moved toward this view rhetorically indicates the degree to which it reflects a common and long-standing American consensus toward which even Obama, the first post-American president, finds himself moving by default.

Rich Lowry has a provocative and well-argued post about my claim in both the New York Post this morning and on CONTENTIONS that the president last night delivered a “neoconservative” speech. “I’ve never known a neo-con to brag about how rapidly he’s drawn down U.S. troops in an ongoing conflict, unnecessarily putting at risk hard-won gains on the ground,” Rich points out, going on to say that “Obama went on to use the troops and their sacrifice as a reason that we should unite around his effort to spend us into the ground here at home. Unless you’re grading on a very sharp curve, this is shabby stuff.”

I was grading on a curve. I think that’s what you do when you respond to presidential addresses. What’s interesting about them is what’s new in them; that was always understood when I was writing speeches in the White House 22 years ago. Even in Oval Office addresses, half of what is said is there because it’s intended to suggest continuities with previous statements and offer reassurance to already existing constituencies. Thus, it’s entirely to be expected and entirely without interest that he said it is time to turn the page in Iraq so we can focus on problems at home — and spend the money we spent in Iraq on domestic programs.

It’s when speeches change things up, go in unexpected directions, that they make news and are interesting. In that respect, the neocon-like rhetoric used by Obama was entirely new, especially for him, and therefore very interesting. For Obama to claim, as he did, that our perseverance in Iraq offers us hope that we can turn around our domestic woes was a startling thing. He probably didn’t mean it, and in many ways he’s the polar opposite of a neocon. But he said it. What’s more telling, he said it because he thought it would be of value to him to say it.

And by saying it, he was indicating something even more interesting — again, without knowing it. And that is this: the core “neoconservative” position is that America is a force for good in the world and that when America acts, it benefits both the world and its own national soul. The fact that Obama has moved toward this view rhetorically indicates the degree to which it reflects a common and long-standing American consensus toward which even Obama, the first post-American president, finds himself moving by default.

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Obama, Bush, and War

Barack Obama used a lawyer-like locution last night to avoid acknowledging the courage of his predecessor in initiating the surge that won the Iraq War:

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.

The key words were “from its outset.” His locution focused on his opposition to the war, while faintly praising Bush as a well-intentioned patriot. But while Obama opposed the war “at” its outset, he did not always oppose it thereafter.

In his famous 2002 speech, Obama said the war would be a “cynical attempt” by “armchair, weekend, warriors” and “political hacks like Karl Rove” to “shove their own ideological agendas down our throats” and ignore pressing domestic needs. Two years later, his position had become inconvenient. Appearing on Meet the Press before his 2004 convention speech, he attributed his prior opposition to lack of knowledge:

MR. RUSSERT: The nominee of your party, John Kerry, the nominee for vice president, John Edwards, all said [Saddam] was an imminent threat. They voted to authorize George Bush to go to war. How could they have been so wrong and you so right …

STATE REP. OBAMA: Well, I think they have access to information that I did not have. …

MR. RUSSERT: But if you had been a senator at that time, you would have voted not to authorize President Bush to go to war?

STATE REP. OBAMA: I would have voted not to authorize the president given the facts as I saw them at that time.

MR. RUSSERT: So you disagree with John Kerry and John Edwards?

STATE REP. OBAMA: At that time, but, as I said, I wasn’t there …

The change Obama believed in as of 2004 was one of “tone” and “administration.” He told Russert “if we don’t have a change in tone and a change in administration, I think we’re going to have trouble making sure that our troops are secure and that we succeed.”

Two years after that, with the war not yet won, he became the cut-and-run candidate, arguing from late 2006 through the end of 2007 that more troops would not help, that Bush’s strategy would increase sectarian violence, and that the troops should be withdrawn.

Last night, at a moment he called “historic,” Obama gracelessly refused to acknowledge his predecessor’s contribution to progress on the war, vouching simply for his patriotism. He was palpably anxious to “turn the page” on Iraq, where the book may in fact not yet be closed, and to start turning it next year in Afghanistan — where the “pace” will be “condition-based” but, “make no mistake,” we’re leaving starting in July. It was not the steadfast commitment to victory that marked George W. Bush’s approach to war, and which is necessary if a leader wants to win one.

Barack Obama used a lawyer-like locution last night to avoid acknowledging the courage of his predecessor in initiating the surge that won the Iraq War:

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.

The key words were “from its outset.” His locution focused on his opposition to the war, while faintly praising Bush as a well-intentioned patriot. But while Obama opposed the war “at” its outset, he did not always oppose it thereafter.

In his famous 2002 speech, Obama said the war would be a “cynical attempt” by “armchair, weekend, warriors” and “political hacks like Karl Rove” to “shove their own ideological agendas down our throats” and ignore pressing domestic needs. Two years later, his position had become inconvenient. Appearing on Meet the Press before his 2004 convention speech, he attributed his prior opposition to lack of knowledge:

MR. RUSSERT: The nominee of your party, John Kerry, the nominee for vice president, John Edwards, all said [Saddam] was an imminent threat. They voted to authorize George Bush to go to war. How could they have been so wrong and you so right …

STATE REP. OBAMA: Well, I think they have access to information that I did not have. …

MR. RUSSERT: But if you had been a senator at that time, you would have voted not to authorize President Bush to go to war?

STATE REP. OBAMA: I would have voted not to authorize the president given the facts as I saw them at that time.

MR. RUSSERT: So you disagree with John Kerry and John Edwards?

STATE REP. OBAMA: At that time, but, as I said, I wasn’t there …

The change Obama believed in as of 2004 was one of “tone” and “administration.” He told Russert “if we don’t have a change in tone and a change in administration, I think we’re going to have trouble making sure that our troops are secure and that we succeed.”

Two years after that, with the war not yet won, he became the cut-and-run candidate, arguing from late 2006 through the end of 2007 that more troops would not help, that Bush’s strategy would increase sectarian violence, and that the troops should be withdrawn.

Last night, at a moment he called “historic,” Obama gracelessly refused to acknowledge his predecessor’s contribution to progress on the war, vouching simply for his patriotism. He was palpably anxious to “turn the page” on Iraq, where the book may in fact not yet be closed, and to start turning it next year in Afghanistan — where the “pace” will be “condition-based” but, “make no mistake,” we’re leaving starting in July. It was not the steadfast commitment to victory that marked George W. Bush’s approach to war, and which is necessary if a leader wants to win one.

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Worse and Worse

Gallup reports:

A new USA Today/Gallup poll finds Americans saying the Republicans in Congress would do a better job than the Democrats in Congress of handling seven of nine key election issues. The parties are essentially tied on health care, with the environment being the lone Democratic strength.

As Gallup points out, “The Democrats’ advantage on the issue of the environment is likely not something the party can leverage to improve its 2010 electoral fortunes, as Americans rank it at the bottom of the list in terms of its importance to their vote. Rather, economic concerns are paramount, with a majority of Americans rating the economy, jobs, and federal spending (along with government corruption) as extremely important.”

Meanwhile, Charlie Cook is ready to pronounce the last rites over the Democrats’ House majority:

There are few signs of any meaningful recovery, and indeed there is more talk of a double-dip recession, plunging the country back into economic trouble between now and the end of the year. Unemployment seems stuck at 9.5 percent, reinforcing the view that last year would have been better spent focusing on the economy than on health care reform. …

Simply put, Democrats find themselves heading into a midterm election that looks as grisly as any the party has faced in decades. It isn’t hard to find Democratic pollsters who privately concede that the numbers they are looking at now are worse than what they saw in 1994.

Yes, it really is that grim for the Democrats. The recriminations will be fierce.

Gallup reports:

A new USA Today/Gallup poll finds Americans saying the Republicans in Congress would do a better job than the Democrats in Congress of handling seven of nine key election issues. The parties are essentially tied on health care, with the environment being the lone Democratic strength.

As Gallup points out, “The Democrats’ advantage on the issue of the environment is likely not something the party can leverage to improve its 2010 electoral fortunes, as Americans rank it at the bottom of the list in terms of its importance to their vote. Rather, economic concerns are paramount, with a majority of Americans rating the economy, jobs, and federal spending (along with government corruption) as extremely important.”

Meanwhile, Charlie Cook is ready to pronounce the last rites over the Democrats’ House majority:

There are few signs of any meaningful recovery, and indeed there is more talk of a double-dip recession, plunging the country back into economic trouble between now and the end of the year. Unemployment seems stuck at 9.5 percent, reinforcing the view that last year would have been better spent focusing on the economy than on health care reform. …

Simply put, Democrats find themselves heading into a midterm election that looks as grisly as any the party has faced in decades. It isn’t hard to find Democratic pollsters who privately concede that the numbers they are looking at now are worse than what they saw in 1994.

Yes, it really is that grim for the Democrats. The recriminations will be fierce.

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Deadlines

Obama from last night on Iraq:

Consistent with our agreement with the Iraqi government, all U.S. troops will leave by the end of next year.

And on Afghanistan:

But, as 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. [emphasis added]

Obama, as many of us discussed at the time, did great damage to his own Afghanistan war strategy — which properly centered on an infusion of 30,000 troops — by imposing a deadline. His secretaries of state and defense have struggled mightily to blur it and redefine it. But it still stands and is, as the outgoing commandant of the Marines, John McCain, and many others have argued, a hindrance to our mission.

Less widely discussed (and kudos to the New York Post editors for picking this up) was the statement on Iraq. A number of distinguished supporters of the war, including former Ambassador Ryan Crocker, have cautioned that should the Iraqis request an extension of the Strategic Framework Agreement, we should respond positively. Paul Wolfowitz, likewise, advised:

Our commitment must also include continued material support, particularly in the form of military and technical assistance. And though we have agreed to withdraw all our troops by the end of next year — a pledge that we must honor if the Iraqi government so desires — we need to remain open to the possibility of a mutually agreed longer-term security commitment or military presence for deterrence and support.

And earlier this year, Fred and Kim Kagan warned:

The U.S. has steadfastly refused to discuss a long-term military partnership with Iraq beyond 2011, despite the fact that the Iraqi military will not be able to defend Iraq on its own by then. It has refused fully to increase civilian efforts in order to accomplish tasks that had been performed by military forces now withdrawing. It has reduced funding for the Commander’s Emergency Response Program, which allows the military to provide “urgent humanitarian relief and reconstruction” projects, as well as for other forms of humanitarian and security assistance.

But Obama is, at least for now, saying, in effect “We are out of here.” What if the situation deteriorates? What if conditions on the ground worsen? His statement hints at no wiggle room.

Deadlines, especially in wars against ideologically minded foes, are nearly always a bad idea. It is why George W. Bush, who understood well the nature of the war against jihadists, took such a firm stance against them. He was right, as are Crocker, Wolfowitz, and the Kagans: we should, in fact, be leaving the door open to the the extension of our military presence.

Presidential statements carry immense weight and we should be candid about what is said and why it is problematic. Those who root for success in Iraq owe the president the benefit of their counsel on the danger of deadlines.

Obama from last night on Iraq:

Consistent with our agreement with the Iraqi government, all U.S. troops will leave by the end of next year.

And on Afghanistan:

But, as 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. [emphasis added]

Obama, as many of us discussed at the time, did great damage to his own Afghanistan war strategy — which properly centered on an infusion of 30,000 troops — by imposing a deadline. His secretaries of state and defense have struggled mightily to blur it and redefine it. But it still stands and is, as the outgoing commandant of the Marines, John McCain, and many others have argued, a hindrance to our mission.

Less widely discussed (and kudos to the New York Post editors for picking this up) was the statement on Iraq. A number of distinguished supporters of the war, including former Ambassador Ryan Crocker, have cautioned that should the Iraqis request an extension of the Strategic Framework Agreement, we should respond positively. Paul Wolfowitz, likewise, advised:

Our commitment must also include continued material support, particularly in the form of military and technical assistance. And though we have agreed to withdraw all our troops by the end of next year — a pledge that we must honor if the Iraqi government so desires — we need to remain open to the possibility of a mutually agreed longer-term security commitment or military presence for deterrence and support.

And earlier this year, Fred and Kim Kagan warned:

The U.S. has steadfastly refused to discuss a long-term military partnership with Iraq beyond 2011, despite the fact that the Iraqi military will not be able to defend Iraq on its own by then. It has refused fully to increase civilian efforts in order to accomplish tasks that had been performed by military forces now withdrawing. It has reduced funding for the Commander’s Emergency Response Program, which allows the military to provide “urgent humanitarian relief and reconstruction” projects, as well as for other forms of humanitarian and security assistance.

But Obama is, at least for now, saying, in effect “We are out of here.” What if the situation deteriorates? What if conditions on the ground worsen? His statement hints at no wiggle room.

Deadlines, especially in wars against ideologically minded foes, are nearly always a bad idea. It is why George W. Bush, who understood well the nature of the war against jihadists, took such a firm stance against them. He was right, as are Crocker, Wolfowitz, and the Kagans: we should, in fact, be leaving the door open to the the extension of our military presence.

Presidential statements carry immense weight and we should be candid about what is said and why it is problematic. Those who root for success in Iraq owe the president the benefit of their counsel on the danger of deadlines.

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Some Thoughts About Last Night’s Speech

1. The most Obama could say about George W. Bush is that “no one could doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security.” That’s correct; no one could doubt it, which is why there was no need to say it.

The real issue was whether Obama would praise Bush for the surge — one of the most courageous and wise presidential decisions in the modern era and one Bush pushed through over fierce, widespread opposition, including from Obama and his vice president, Joe Biden. But for Obama to praise Bush for the surge would be to admit his own massive error in judgment in opposing it — and a man of Obama’s vanity could not bring himself to do that. So Obama could only say that Bush was well-intentioned rather than right.

As for his own record on Iraq, the Obama administration is now trying to corrupt the historical record, with press secretary Robert Gibbs making assertions that are not only wrong but the opposite of the truth. Read More

1. The most Obama could say about George W. Bush is that “no one could doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security.” That’s correct; no one could doubt it, which is why there was no need to say it.

The real issue was whether Obama would praise Bush for the surge — one of the most courageous and wise presidential decisions in the modern era and one Bush pushed through over fierce, widespread opposition, including from Obama and his vice president, Joe Biden. But for Obama to praise Bush for the surge would be to admit his own massive error in judgment in opposing it — and a man of Obama’s vanity could not bring himself to do that. So Obama could only say that Bush was well-intentioned rather than right.

As for his own record on Iraq, the Obama administration is now trying to corrupt the historical record, with press secretary Robert Gibbs making assertions that are not only wrong but the opposite of the truth.

2. On Iraq, Obama did say that while our combat mission is ending, “our commitment to Iraq’s future is not.” But you could be forgiven for believing, amid all the talk of page-turning and missions ended and over, that Obama has detached himself from a war he opposed and wants to have nothing more to do with it. He clearly considers it a distraction from his larger ambitions to transform America here at home.

What was also notable in the speech is how Obama — apart from one perfunctory paragraph (he devoted four to the economy) — failed to appropriately acknowledge many of the estimable things that have been achieved by the Iraq war, including deposing a malevolent and aggressive dictator, helping plant a representative (if imperfect) democracy in the heart of the Middle East, and administering a military defeat to al-Qaeda on the ground of its own choosing. Obama hinted at some of this, but it was said without passion or conviction. And we all know why: for Obama, this was a war without purpose, a nihilistic misadventure whose only good result is its end. This is not only wrong; it is a disfigurement of history and a failure to acknowledge what a remarkable thing our combat troops in Iraq achieved.

3. On the most important matter before us, Afghanistan, Obama did substantial damage. The reason can be found in this paragraph:

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, as 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.

What Obama did here was not simply to repeat his commitment to the (arbitrary) summer 2011 drawdown date; he underscored and deepened it. The president’s declaration that the pace of troop reductions “will be determined by conditions on the ground” was overwhelmed by Obama’s declaring that our forces will be in place for “a limited time” and that we should “make no mistake: this transition will begin because open-ended war serves neither our interests nor the Afghan people’s.”

This statement occurred within a particular context. In his December 2009 address at West Point, Obama made essentially the same argument — though less emphatically than he did last night.

Many people (including me) underestimated just how harmful was Obama’s declaration that we would begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011. Mentioning that it would be conditions-based was almost completely overlooked by both our friends and our enemies. The message they believed was sent, and which they received, is that America’s commitment is limited and we will leave on time and on schedule, come what may.

Don’t take my word for it; here is what Marine Commandant General James Conway said a week ago about the 2011 deadline: “In some ways, we think right now it’s probably giving our enemy sustenance. We think that he may be saying to himself … ‘Hey, you know, we only have to hold out for so long.’” Conway buttressed his claim by saying that intelligence intercepts suggest that Taliban fighters have been encouraged by the talk of the U.S. beginning to withdraw troops next year.

Knowing all this, Obama not only didn’t attempt to undo his previous error; he doubled down on it. This was an injurious message to send.

The Democratic Party can count several great wartime leaders among its ranks, including Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. John F. Kennedy, while denied the time and opportunities that FDR and Truman had, understood the stakes of the Cold War struggle and spoke with force and eloquence about America’s role in the world. These were admirable leaders, presidents whom our allies could count on and our enemies respected and feared.

In Barack Obama, we have someone very different — a president who is at times more eager to apologize for America than to defend her. He is a man not yet comfortable with his role as commander in chief. Obama views war not in terms of victory; he is above all committed to finding exit ramps.

President Obama has already inflicted enormous damage to our nation; last night he added to the wreckage.

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‘Clearing’ Afghanistan’s Financial System

It is axiomatic in counterinsurgency warfare that things get worse before they get better. Immediately after troops enter an insurgent-infested area, there is much hard fighting before peace can be restored. Thus it would be a mistake to see the immediate spike in casualties as a sign of failure. The same is true in the realm of nation-building, where it may be necessary to force a crisis in order to resolve a corrosive problem.

Those thoughts are prompted by news that the Afghan Central Bank has seized control of Afghanistan’s largest private financial institution, Kabul Bank. Its management has long been a scandal, with all sorts of shady money transfers and loans involving well-connected political players funneling Afghanistan’s scant wealth to offshore accounts in Dubai. Its ousted chairman, Sherkhan Farnood, is a major backer of President Karzai, while two of the bank’s largest investors have familiar names — Mahmoud Karzai, the president’s brother, and Haseen Fahim, brother of Vice President (and notorious warlord) Mohammad Fahim.

Kabul Bank is at the center of a web of suspect relationships that also involve New Ansari, an Islamic money-transfer firm (hawala), and the country’s other major bank, Afghan United. There are persistent rumors that they are linked to both the Taliban and drug traffickers — a charge they naturally deny. All have been propped up by years of foreign aid; all the salaries that are paid to Afghan government employees, for instance, and that come primarily from the U.S. government are funneled through electronic-money transfers to Kabul Bank. This is supposed to decrease corruption by cutting the risk that cash will go astray, but it has had the perverse effect of floating a rotten institution.

The trick now will be to unravel the problems without causing a run on the banks and the collapse of a fragile financial system. I have no idea whether that will be possible to do, but I do know that it would have been impossible to leave these institutions to run as they did. Sooner or later, the whole rickety structure would have come tumbling down. It is to the credit of the Afghan officials, including President Karzai, that with American encouragement, they have moved to address this festering mess. The next few weeks and months won’t be pretty, however, because what we are seeing is, in financial terms, the “clear” phase of what in counterinsurgency operations is known as “clear, hold, and build.”

It is axiomatic in counterinsurgency warfare that things get worse before they get better. Immediately after troops enter an insurgent-infested area, there is much hard fighting before peace can be restored. Thus it would be a mistake to see the immediate spike in casualties as a sign of failure. The same is true in the realm of nation-building, where it may be necessary to force a crisis in order to resolve a corrosive problem.

Those thoughts are prompted by news that the Afghan Central Bank has seized control of Afghanistan’s largest private financial institution, Kabul Bank. Its management has long been a scandal, with all sorts of shady money transfers and loans involving well-connected political players funneling Afghanistan’s scant wealth to offshore accounts in Dubai. Its ousted chairman, Sherkhan Farnood, is a major backer of President Karzai, while two of the bank’s largest investors have familiar names — Mahmoud Karzai, the president’s brother, and Haseen Fahim, brother of Vice President (and notorious warlord) Mohammad Fahim.

Kabul Bank is at the center of a web of suspect relationships that also involve New Ansari, an Islamic money-transfer firm (hawala), and the country’s other major bank, Afghan United. There are persistent rumors that they are linked to both the Taliban and drug traffickers — a charge they naturally deny. All have been propped up by years of foreign aid; all the salaries that are paid to Afghan government employees, for instance, and that come primarily from the U.S. government are funneled through electronic-money transfers to Kabul Bank. This is supposed to decrease corruption by cutting the risk that cash will go astray, but it has had the perverse effect of floating a rotten institution.

The trick now will be to unravel the problems without causing a run on the banks and the collapse of a fragile financial system. I have no idea whether that will be possible to do, but I do know that it would have been impossible to leave these institutions to run as they did. Sooner or later, the whole rickety structure would have come tumbling down. It is to the credit of the Afghan officials, including President Karzai, that with American encouragement, they have moved to address this festering mess. The next few weeks and months won’t be pretty, however, because what we are seeing is, in financial terms, the “clear” phase of what in counterinsurgency operations is known as “clear, hold, and build.”

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The Speech: About As Good As We Could Expect

I see some disagreement on the right about Obama’s Iraq speech, with Peter Robinson and Jennifer Rubin condemning it and Bill Kristol and John Podhoretz praising it. For what it’s worth, I’m with Bill and John on this one. I thought that this speech was about as good as we could expect from an opponent of the Iraq war — and better than Obama has done in the past. He even (for the first time?) held out an olive branch to his predecessor:

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 can doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security.

OK, he didn’t say, “Bush’s surge won the war, and I regret opposing it,” which is what many of my conservative compatriots are waiting to hear. But nor did he say, “I believe that Bush lied us into a war we shouldn’t have fought,” which is what his liberal base longs to hear. Considering how strongly he opposed Bush and the decision to go to war, this was a nice grace note.

On a more substantive issue, I was cheered to hear him say, “Our combat mission is ending, but our commitment to Iraq’s future is not.” He also said, however, “Consistent with our agreement with the Iraqi government, all U.S. troops will leave by the end of next year.” While it’s a good message to send that the U.S. will keep its commitments, he might have added that we will leave by the end of next year “unless an agreement is reached with the government of Iraq to extend our presence.” Such an agreement will be vital to safeguarding Iraq’s future, and I would hope that Obama recognizes that. Even if he does, there is a case to be made for not lobbying publicly for such an agreement, because it will encourage Iraqi obstinacy in the negotiations, which is what happened during the run-up to the existing U.S.-Iraq accord.

There was only a brief mention of Afghanistan, but what he said was pretty good. He did not speak of a troop-withdrawal deadline. Instead he said that “next August, 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.” That the drawdown will be “conditions based” rather than adhere to an artificial timeline means that our troops will have a fighting chance to get the job done.

Finally, like Bill Kristol, I liked the ending of the speech, in which he linked today’s soldiers “with an unbroken line of heroes that stretches from Lexington to Gettysburg; from Iwo Jima to Inchon; from Khe Sanh to Kandahar.” It wasn’t exactly Ronald Reagan’s 1984 “Boys of Pointe du Hoc” speech — a masterpiece of giving thanks to the men and women in uniform — but it was a nice conclusion to a nice speech.

However good the words, the hard part is still ahead of us in Iraq, where no government has yet been formed and everyone is nervous about the American troop withdrawal. Obama will have to get more involved in managing Iraq’s future than he has been to date.

I see some disagreement on the right about Obama’s Iraq speech, with Peter Robinson and Jennifer Rubin condemning it and Bill Kristol and John Podhoretz praising it. For what it’s worth, I’m with Bill and John on this one. I thought that this speech was about as good as we could expect from an opponent of the Iraq war — and better than Obama has done in the past. He even (for the first time?) held out an olive branch to his predecessor:

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 can doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security.

OK, he didn’t say, “Bush’s surge won the war, and I regret opposing it,” which is what many of my conservative compatriots are waiting to hear. But nor did he say, “I believe that Bush lied us into a war we shouldn’t have fought,” which is what his liberal base longs to hear. Considering how strongly he opposed Bush and the decision to go to war, this was a nice grace note.

On a more substantive issue, I was cheered to hear him say, “Our combat mission is ending, but our commitment to Iraq’s future is not.” He also said, however, “Consistent with our agreement with the Iraqi government, all U.S. troops will leave by the end of next year.” While it’s a good message to send that the U.S. will keep its commitments, he might have added that we will leave by the end of next year “unless an agreement is reached with the government of Iraq to extend our presence.” Such an agreement will be vital to safeguarding Iraq’s future, and I would hope that Obama recognizes that. Even if he does, there is a case to be made for not lobbying publicly for such an agreement, because it will encourage Iraqi obstinacy in the negotiations, which is what happened during the run-up to the existing U.S.-Iraq accord.

There was only a brief mention of Afghanistan, but what he said was pretty good. He did not speak of a troop-withdrawal deadline. Instead he said that “next August, 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.” That the drawdown will be “conditions based” rather than adhere to an artificial timeline means that our troops will have a fighting chance to get the job done.

Finally, like Bill Kristol, I liked the ending of the speech, in which he linked today’s soldiers “with an unbroken line of heroes that stretches from Lexington to Gettysburg; from Iwo Jima to Inchon; from Khe Sanh to Kandahar.” It wasn’t exactly Ronald Reagan’s 1984 “Boys of Pointe du Hoc” speech — a masterpiece of giving thanks to the men and women in uniform — but it was a nice conclusion to a nice speech.

However good the words, the hard part is still ahead of us in Iraq, where no government has yet been formed and everyone is nervous about the American troop withdrawal. Obama will have to get more involved in managing Iraq’s future than he has been to date.

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“It Almost Seemed a Chore”

Military historian Victor Davis Hanson observes:

Obama warns against “open-ended wars,” as if they are almost animate things. But wars end, not when they reach a rational, previously agreed-upon expiration date, but usually when tough, specific wartime choices are made that lead to victory or end in defeat. One party must decide – for good or bad reasons – that it doesn’t want to fight to win, or simply doesn’t believe it has the resources for victory. To say that “open-ended wars” are undesirable is a banality that offers no guidance for these real-life choices. A better truism is that America should not fight wars it does not intend to win.

And indeed, it is more dangerous than banal. “War is hell” is a banality, but at least it is true. Obama’s aversion to open-ended wars is the ultimate expression of  his shortcomings as commander in chief. His predecessor refused, despite public clamoring, to put a stopwatch on our troops in Iraq. He understood that as president, he must convey resoluteness and commitment. He understood that the troops want more than the promise of VA benefits — they want to come home victorious. He understood that America’s greatness depends not on how many billions we can throw a statist projects but rather on the fact that we are willing to project and defend our values, give hope to the oppressed, stand by allies, and champion freedom.

Obama’s childlike desire to set arbitrary deadlines is both a sop to the left and indicative of his own annoyance with the money we’ve had to spend on wars. Yes, the latter is the price one pays for being a superpower and the leader of the Free World. Neither Ronald Reagan nor George W. Bush begrudged spending the money — for this was the most essential part of our budget, just as being commander in chief was the most important part of their job.

Hanson also notes: “[T]here was something bizarre about his entire Iraq speech — it was as if it were being delivered by an exhausted Obama factotum, rather than the animate Obama of old. So we got a flat Iraq/flat Afghanistan/flat hope-and-change recession address. It almost seemed a chore.” For Bush, foreign policy was his highest calling, whereas Obama made clear that domestic recovery was “my central responsibility” — an odd declaration in a foreign policy speech to be viewed closely by adversaries.

Despite recent polling results, we can’t have Bush back. We have this president instead, and we will have to muddle through as best we can.

Military historian Victor Davis Hanson observes:

Obama warns against “open-ended wars,” as if they are almost animate things. But wars end, not when they reach a rational, previously agreed-upon expiration date, but usually when tough, specific wartime choices are made that lead to victory or end in defeat. One party must decide – for good or bad reasons – that it doesn’t want to fight to win, or simply doesn’t believe it has the resources for victory. To say that “open-ended wars” are undesirable is a banality that offers no guidance for these real-life choices. A better truism is that America should not fight wars it does not intend to win.

And indeed, it is more dangerous than banal. “War is hell” is a banality, but at least it is true. Obama’s aversion to open-ended wars is the ultimate expression of  his shortcomings as commander in chief. His predecessor refused, despite public clamoring, to put a stopwatch on our troops in Iraq. He understood that as president, he must convey resoluteness and commitment. He understood that the troops want more than the promise of VA benefits — they want to come home victorious. He understood that America’s greatness depends not on how many billions we can throw a statist projects but rather on the fact that we are willing to project and defend our values, give hope to the oppressed, stand by allies, and champion freedom.

Obama’s childlike desire to set arbitrary deadlines is both a sop to the left and indicative of his own annoyance with the money we’ve had to spend on wars. Yes, the latter is the price one pays for being a superpower and the leader of the Free World. Neither Ronald Reagan nor George W. Bush begrudged spending the money — for this was the most essential part of our budget, just as being commander in chief was the most important part of their job.

Hanson also notes: “[T]here was something bizarre about his entire Iraq speech — it was as if it were being delivered by an exhausted Obama factotum, rather than the animate Obama of old. So we got a flat Iraq/flat Afghanistan/flat hope-and-change recession address. It almost seemed a chore.” For Bush, foreign policy was his highest calling, whereas Obama made clear that domestic recovery was “my central responsibility” — an odd declaration in a foreign policy speech to be viewed closely by adversaries.

Despite recent polling results, we can’t have Bush back. We have this president instead, and we will have to muddle through as best we can.

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The Budget Fudge

In a portion of last night’s speech that rankled many conservatives, Obama pointed the finger at defense spending as the cause of our fiscal woes: “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.” This is hooey.

The Washington Post explains:

Federal domestic spending increased a record 16 percent to $3.2 trillion in 2009, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday, largely because of a boost in aid to the unemployed and the huge economic stimulus package enacted to rescue the sinking economy.

The rise in spending was the largest since the Census Bureau began compiling the data in 1983. The Washington region was among the biggest beneficiaries of the government’s spending.

With congressional elections looming this fall, the spike in federal spending has emerged as one of the nation’s most contentious political issues.

Many Republicans accuse President Obama and his Democratic allies of being reckless spenders who are harming the nation’s long-term economic prospects by inflating the deficit.

It doesn’t appear that defense spending is the problem:

Overall, the largest chunk of federal spending – about 46 percent of the $3.2 trillion – went to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, entitlement programs that are projected to swell as the population ages.

Pay for federal employees accounted for nearly $300 billion of the spending and nearly half of that went to the Defense Department payroll.

In July, Gary Schmitt debunked the idea that defense spending is driving our deficits:

Right now, Defense’s share of federal outlays—including those for Iraq and Afghanistan—is 18 percent.  That’s the same level it was at during the Clinton years.  In contrast, mandatory spending eats up some 56 percent of federal spending, while discretionary non-defense spending is 19 percent.  Core entitlement spending (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid) is now double that of defense. And while entitlement spending and debt service will continue to explode, the Pentagon’s share of federal spending will be shrinking to 15 percent within the next few years. While the Obama administration has already cut some $300 billion in defense programs, it has been spending nearly $800 billion to (supposedly) stimulate the economy.

This is yet another example of two Obama traits. First, he makes stuff up. Really, what he said last night is not remotely true no matter how you do the math. And second, he stretches the truth to sustain an ideological preference: he wants to spend more and more on domestic programs, so he’s anxious to trim as much from our defense budget as possible. And to do that, we can’t make open-ended commitments.

In a portion of last night’s speech that rankled many conservatives, Obama pointed the finger at defense spending as the cause of our fiscal woes: “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.” This is hooey.

The Washington Post explains:

Federal domestic spending increased a record 16 percent to $3.2 trillion in 2009, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday, largely because of a boost in aid to the unemployed and the huge economic stimulus package enacted to rescue the sinking economy.

The rise in spending was the largest since the Census Bureau began compiling the data in 1983. The Washington region was among the biggest beneficiaries of the government’s spending.

With congressional elections looming this fall, the spike in federal spending has emerged as one of the nation’s most contentious political issues.

Many Republicans accuse President Obama and his Democratic allies of being reckless spenders who are harming the nation’s long-term economic prospects by inflating the deficit.

It doesn’t appear that defense spending is the problem:

Overall, the largest chunk of federal spending – about 46 percent of the $3.2 trillion – went to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, entitlement programs that are projected to swell as the population ages.

Pay for federal employees accounted for nearly $300 billion of the spending and nearly half of that went to the Defense Department payroll.

In July, Gary Schmitt debunked the idea that defense spending is driving our deficits:

Right now, Defense’s share of federal outlays—including those for Iraq and Afghanistan—is 18 percent.  That’s the same level it was at during the Clinton years.  In contrast, mandatory spending eats up some 56 percent of federal spending, while discretionary non-defense spending is 19 percent.  Core entitlement spending (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid) is now double that of defense. And while entitlement spending and debt service will continue to explode, the Pentagon’s share of federal spending will be shrinking to 15 percent within the next few years. While the Obama administration has already cut some $300 billion in defense programs, it has been spending nearly $800 billion to (supposedly) stimulate the economy.

This is yet another example of two Obama traits. First, he makes stuff up. Really, what he said last night is not remotely true no matter how you do the math. And second, he stretches the truth to sustain an ideological preference: he wants to spend more and more on domestic programs, so he’s anxious to trim as much from our defense budget as possible. And to do that, we can’t make open-ended commitments.

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Another Democratic Disappointment: No GOP Fight in Alaska

Democrats, who have precious little to cheer about, were hoping that the nip-and-tuck GOP Senate primary in Alaska would devolve into a messy, prolonged fight. Sorry, guys. Lisa Murkowski showed some class and party loyalty:

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski has conceded her Alaska Senate primary race to Joe Miller. The Republican made the concession speech Tuesday night, a full week after the primary. …

“We all know that this has been a long week, a terribly long week,” she said at campaign headquarters. She said that while there were outstanding votes, “I don’t see a scenario where the primary will turn out in my favor, and that is a reality that is before me at this point in time.”

OK, she’s taken some hits as a shoveler of pork, but those Republicans who have been trashing her might want to give her some credit. She didn’t pull an “Al Franken,” and she pretty much ensured that the seat will stay in the GOP column. As for the Democrats, that nothing-going-right streak remains intact.

Democrats, who have precious little to cheer about, were hoping that the nip-and-tuck GOP Senate primary in Alaska would devolve into a messy, prolonged fight. Sorry, guys. Lisa Murkowski showed some class and party loyalty:

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski has conceded her Alaska Senate primary race to Joe Miller. The Republican made the concession speech Tuesday night, a full week after the primary. …

“We all know that this has been a long week, a terribly long week,” she said at campaign headquarters. She said that while there were outstanding votes, “I don’t see a scenario where the primary will turn out in my favor, and that is a reality that is before me at this point in time.”

OK, she’s taken some hits as a shoveler of pork, but those Republicans who have been trashing her might want to give her some credit. She didn’t pull an “Al Franken,” and she pretty much ensured that the seat will stay in the GOP column. As for the Democrats, that nothing-going-right streak remains intact.

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RE: Neocon Obama?

Yes, on this one, John, we have a different take. And on this one, I hope you are right. Unfortunately, his Nobel Speech had much of the same promising rhetoric but nothing much changed after that. I will let Bill’s piece speak for itself. I merely call attention to this part of his opening paragraph:

It’s therefore unrealistic for supporters of the war to expect the president to give the speech John McCain would have given, or to expect President Obama to put the war in the context we would put it in. He simply doesn’t believe the war in Iraq was a necessary part of a broader effort to fight terror, to change the Middle East, etc.

Obama is no George W. Bush.

Yes, on this one, John, we have a different take. And on this one, I hope you are right. Unfortunately, his Nobel Speech had much of the same promising rhetoric but nothing much changed after that. I will let Bill’s piece speak for itself. I merely call attention to this part of his opening paragraph:

It’s therefore unrealistic for supporters of the war to expect the president to give the speech John McCain would have given, or to expect President Obama to put the war in the context we would put it in. He simply doesn’t believe the war in Iraq was a necessary part of a broader effort to fight terror, to change the Middle East, etc.

Obama is no George W. Bush.

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What Washington’s Lame Response to Terror Says About the Peace Talks

If more reasons were needed for concluding that the current Israeli-Palestinian talks won’t produce a deal, here’s another: the designated mediator — i.e., the Obama administration — has just proved itself incapable of providing what even Israeli leftists deem an essential condition for peace.

Tuesday night, Palestinian terrorists murdered four Israeli civilians — two men and two women — by shooting them at close range. Yet as even Haaretz, normally the administration’s reliable flack, noted, “State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley didn’t seem to be in a rush to condemn the attack.” In fact, he didn’t condemn it at all: he merely declared it “a tragedy.”

“Any time one human being takes out a weapon and fires and kills other human beings, it’s a tragedy,” Crowley said. “We just don’t know the circumstances under which this occurred. … We are cognizant that there could be external events that can have an impact on the environment.”

The White House finally issued an unequivocal condemnation only hours later, once “the circumstances” had become clear: namely, that it could condemn the attack safely, because the Palestinian Authority wasn’t involved. Until then, Crowley had hedged his bets, hinting at extenuating circumstances that “we just don’t know,” “external events” that could affect “the environment” — any straw he could grasp to excuse the PA if that proved necessary.

What does this have to do with peace talks? To understand that, it’s worth reading Gershon Baskin’s column in the Jerusalem Post this week. Baskin aptly titled it “The indefatigable peacemaker’s advice,” because he is indeed an indefatigable peace activist. He is co-CEO of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, has been personally involved in many previous rounds of negotiations (both official and unofficial), and continues to believe that “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolvable” right now — a position shared by few other Israelis.

Yet even this indefatigable optimist noted that peace will not be possible if certain conditions aren’t met. For instance, he dismissed the “borders first” idea once touted by U.S. mediator George Mitchell, correctly noting that “the agreement will be a package deal in which there are trade-offs,” and therefore, the various final-status issues “cannot be negotiated separately.” Additionally, he warned, Israel must be convinced that any deal will end with the Palestinians’ recognizing it as “the nation-state of the Jewish people” (to bridge the gap between the PA’s unwillingness to concede this upfront and Israel’s need to know it will happen eventually, he proposed having the Palestinians give such a pledge to Washington as a “deposit”).

But here’s the clincher: “All of Israel’s security concerns must be addressed by the Palestinians (and the American team) with the utmost sincerity. There will be no agreement unless Israel feels its security needs will be met.”

That, however, is precisely what team Obama has just shown itself incapable of doing. Because if you want to convince Israelis that their security concerns will be addressed, offering lame excuses for anti-Israel terror rather than forthrightly condemning it isn’t a good way to start.

If more reasons were needed for concluding that the current Israeli-Palestinian talks won’t produce a deal, here’s another: the designated mediator — i.e., the Obama administration — has just proved itself incapable of providing what even Israeli leftists deem an essential condition for peace.

Tuesday night, Palestinian terrorists murdered four Israeli civilians — two men and two women — by shooting them at close range. Yet as even Haaretz, normally the administration’s reliable flack, noted, “State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley didn’t seem to be in a rush to condemn the attack.” In fact, he didn’t condemn it at all: he merely declared it “a tragedy.”

“Any time one human being takes out a weapon and fires and kills other human beings, it’s a tragedy,” Crowley said. “We just don’t know the circumstances under which this occurred. … We are cognizant that there could be external events that can have an impact on the environment.”

The White House finally issued an unequivocal condemnation only hours later, once “the circumstances” had become clear: namely, that it could condemn the attack safely, because the Palestinian Authority wasn’t involved. Until then, Crowley had hedged his bets, hinting at extenuating circumstances that “we just don’t know,” “external events” that could affect “the environment” — any straw he could grasp to excuse the PA if that proved necessary.

What does this have to do with peace talks? To understand that, it’s worth reading Gershon Baskin’s column in the Jerusalem Post this week. Baskin aptly titled it “The indefatigable peacemaker’s advice,” because he is indeed an indefatigable peace activist. He is co-CEO of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, has been personally involved in many previous rounds of negotiations (both official and unofficial), and continues to believe that “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolvable” right now — a position shared by few other Israelis.

Yet even this indefatigable optimist noted that peace will not be possible if certain conditions aren’t met. For instance, he dismissed the “borders first” idea once touted by U.S. mediator George Mitchell, correctly noting that “the agreement will be a package deal in which there are trade-offs,” and therefore, the various final-status issues “cannot be negotiated separately.” Additionally, he warned, Israel must be convinced that any deal will end with the Palestinians’ recognizing it as “the nation-state of the Jewish people” (to bridge the gap between the PA’s unwillingness to concede this upfront and Israel’s need to know it will happen eventually, he proposed having the Palestinians give such a pledge to Washington as a “deposit”).

But here’s the clincher: “All of Israel’s security concerns must be addressed by the Palestinians (and the American team) with the utmost sincerity. There will be no agreement unless Israel feels its security needs will be met.”

That, however, is precisely what team Obama has just shown itself incapable of doing. Because if you want to convince Israelis that their security concerns will be addressed, offering lame excuses for anti-Israel terror rather than forthrightly condemning it isn’t a good way to start.

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RE: RE: Obama from the Oval Office

Peter Robinson, who certainly knows how to write a presidential speech, goes through Obama’s Oval Office address, grouping it into general categories. A sample from each:

Incoherent: … The president wants to have it both ways, associating himself with the victory we achieved in Iraq while distancing himself from the costs. As argument, this is incoherent. But of course it isn’t argument. It’s cheap manipulation.

Grudging: … Why [did we win]? Because in 2007, when many, including then senators Obama and Clinton, insisted that the United States should simply withdraw from Iraq, leaving behind a nation reduced to chaos, George W. Bush instead insisted on a new strategy, the surge. Let me repeat that. We won because President Bush insisted on the surge.

Did President Obama extend the courtesy to his predecessor of saying as much? He most certainly did not. … President Obama could bring himself to credit President Bush with nothing more than mere well-intentioned haplessness. How shabby. How tawdry.

Disgraceful: After having added $1 trillion to the deficit since taking office, President Obama suggested that somehow the $1 trillion the nation has spent in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade “short-changed investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits.” Take just a moment to do the math—something of which our chief executive apparently believes most Americans incapable.

Read the whole thing — the rest is just as perceptive and smart as these extracts.

As with all things Obama, the gap is always between expectations and performance. Peter sums up: “[T]onight the President of United States used what should have been a straightforward, big-hearted celebration of a remarkable feat of American force and diplomacy to pursue instead his own narrow and, it must be said, increasingly desperate, political ends.”

There were, as I pointed out, some things to be thankful for — the commitment to Iraq being the principal one. But Obama remains paralyzed by his own ego, leftist inclinations, and poor political judgment. So he can never get it right, or nearly right. Unfortunately, unlike baseball, a presidential speech that hits .400 means he’s done more harm than good — and missed an important opportunity.

And that brings us to the speech’s most important failing. In this interview, John McCain seems resigned to the fact that a lack of graciousness is in this president’s “DNA.” But the senator also emphasizes that the most damaging part of the speech was on Afghanistan. Just like at West Point, Obama neither relinquished the escape route nor comforted our allies. He insisted, instead, on reiterating the withdrawal — it’ll be conditions-based, but he’s going to guarantee it will begin. Even if conditions don’t allow?

It’s upsetting to see a president so lacking in class, but it’s scary to see one so unwilling to lead in war. When brave young men and women are risking their lives for a stable and terror-free Afghanistan, the least Obama can do is give them, yes, an open-ended commitment to achieve victory. Otherwise, he is, as a Marine commandant noted recently, simply giving encouragement to the enemy.

Peter Robinson, who certainly knows how to write a presidential speech, goes through Obama’s Oval Office address, grouping it into general categories. A sample from each:

Incoherent: … The president wants to have it both ways, associating himself with the victory we achieved in Iraq while distancing himself from the costs. As argument, this is incoherent. But of course it isn’t argument. It’s cheap manipulation.

Grudging: … Why [did we win]? Because in 2007, when many, including then senators Obama and Clinton, insisted that the United States should simply withdraw from Iraq, leaving behind a nation reduced to chaos, George W. Bush instead insisted on a new strategy, the surge. Let me repeat that. We won because President Bush insisted on the surge.

Did President Obama extend the courtesy to his predecessor of saying as much? He most certainly did not. … President Obama could bring himself to credit President Bush with nothing more than mere well-intentioned haplessness. How shabby. How tawdry.

Disgraceful: After having added $1 trillion to the deficit since taking office, President Obama suggested that somehow the $1 trillion the nation has spent in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade “short-changed investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits.” Take just a moment to do the math—something of which our chief executive apparently believes most Americans incapable.

Read the whole thing — the rest is just as perceptive and smart as these extracts.

As with all things Obama, the gap is always between expectations and performance. Peter sums up: “[T]onight the President of United States used what should have been a straightforward, big-hearted celebration of a remarkable feat of American force and diplomacy to pursue instead his own narrow and, it must be said, increasingly desperate, political ends.”

There were, as I pointed out, some things to be thankful for — the commitment to Iraq being the principal one. But Obama remains paralyzed by his own ego, leftist inclinations, and poor political judgment. So he can never get it right, or nearly right. Unfortunately, unlike baseball, a presidential speech that hits .400 means he’s done more harm than good — and missed an important opportunity.

And that brings us to the speech’s most important failing. In this interview, John McCain seems resigned to the fact that a lack of graciousness is in this president’s “DNA.” But the senator also emphasizes that the most damaging part of the speech was on Afghanistan. Just like at West Point, Obama neither relinquished the escape route nor comforted our allies. He insisted, instead, on reiterating the withdrawal — it’ll be conditions-based, but he’s going to guarantee it will begin. Even if conditions don’t allow?

It’s upsetting to see a president so lacking in class, but it’s scary to see one so unwilling to lead in war. When brave young men and women are risking their lives for a stable and terror-free Afghanistan, the least Obama can do is give them, yes, an open-ended commitment to achieve victory. Otherwise, he is, as a Marine commandant noted recently, simply giving encouragement to the enemy.

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Maureen Dowd Is Right

… well, about practically nothing. But even a broken clock is right twice a day. Her time has come:

The Oval Office was done over by chi-chi decorator Michael Smith, who was paid $800,000 to refurnish the lair of the former Merrill Lynch C.E.O. John Thain to the tune of $1.22 million — an effort that featured the notorious $35,000 antique commode.

The Oval Office, the classiest, most powerful place on earth, is now suffused with browns and beiges and leather and resembles an upscale hotel conference room or a ’70s conversation pit.

My first reaction was – $800,000 for that! And she’s right, you know, the place looks pretty bleh. And really brown. She doesn’t care for the rug either:

The cream-of-wheat colored rug is made of 25 percent recycled wool and features 100 percent recycled quotes around the border that have significance for President Obama. (Which means, of course, that the next chief executive will want to carpet copy-edit and put his or her own special quotes on the Oval rug. If the Tea Party triumphs, it might be “Don’t Tread on Me.” If Sarah Palin ascends, it will no doubt be a mama grizzly bear rug, personally bagged by her.) …

Sidetracked by the mosque fight and now admirably plunging into brokering a Middle East peace, Obama clearly needs a reminder about what really counts as the Democrats prepare to get their clocks cleaned. The rug should quote James Carville’s famous admonition: “It’s the economy, stupid!”

(OK, the bear rug would be cool. But I personally think Palin should forgo any animal heads on the walls.)

Dowd thinks the message is off-key:

The recession redo, paid for by the nonprofit White House Historical Association, was the latest tone-deaf move by a White House that was supposed to excel at connection and communication. Message: I care, but not enough to stop the fancy vacations and posh renovations.

Listen, it’s not taxpayers’ money, so I suppose people can give cash for whatever they want. But it does sort of reinforce the impression that the man doesn’t know the value of a dollar.

… well, about practically nothing. But even a broken clock is right twice a day. Her time has come:

The Oval Office was done over by chi-chi decorator Michael Smith, who was paid $800,000 to refurnish the lair of the former Merrill Lynch C.E.O. John Thain to the tune of $1.22 million — an effort that featured the notorious $35,000 antique commode.

The Oval Office, the classiest, most powerful place on earth, is now suffused with browns and beiges and leather and resembles an upscale hotel conference room or a ’70s conversation pit.

My first reaction was – $800,000 for that! And she’s right, you know, the place looks pretty bleh. And really brown. She doesn’t care for the rug either:

The cream-of-wheat colored rug is made of 25 percent recycled wool and features 100 percent recycled quotes around the border that have significance for President Obama. (Which means, of course, that the next chief executive will want to carpet copy-edit and put his or her own special quotes on the Oval rug. If the Tea Party triumphs, it might be “Don’t Tread on Me.” If Sarah Palin ascends, it will no doubt be a mama grizzly bear rug, personally bagged by her.) …

Sidetracked by the mosque fight and now admirably plunging into brokering a Middle East peace, Obama clearly needs a reminder about what really counts as the Democrats prepare to get their clocks cleaned. The rug should quote James Carville’s famous admonition: “It’s the economy, stupid!”

(OK, the bear rug would be cool. But I personally think Palin should forgo any animal heads on the walls.)

Dowd thinks the message is off-key:

The recession redo, paid for by the nonprofit White House Historical Association, was the latest tone-deaf move by a White House that was supposed to excel at connection and communication. Message: I care, but not enough to stop the fancy vacations and posh renovations.

Listen, it’s not taxpayers’ money, so I suppose people can give cash for whatever they want. But it does sort of reinforce the impression that the man doesn’t know the value of a dollar.

Read Less

Reaction to Murder of Israelis

The White House responds this way to the killing of Israelis on the eve of the “peace talks”:

The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the terrorist attack today perpetrated by Hamas in which four Israelis were killed in the southern West Bank. We express our condolences to the victims’ families and call for the terrorists behind this horrific act to be brought to justice. We note that the Palestinian Authority has condemned this attack. On the eve of the re-launch of direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, this brutal attack underscores how far the enemies of peace will go to try to block progress.  It is crucial that the parties persevere, keep moving forward even through difficult times, and continue working to achieve a just and lasting peace in the region that provides security for all peoples.

A few things of note. First, the woman was in fact pregnant, but the Obami – who value abortion-on-demand above all else – do not mention that death in any way. Second, this is the mindless infatuation with the peace process — all evidence that the Palestinian Authority lacks the ability and the will to enforce a peace deal (should it ever decide to make one) is discounted; in fact, every development becomes further justification for talks. This is how ideologues operate.

I asked an official with a pro-Israel organization about the incident. He, not unlike Judea Pearl, thinks it’s time for Muslims to step up to the plate:

Everyone is wondering if the peace talks will succeed, or, for that matter, if the imam of the 9/11 mosque is a moderate.

Well, here’s a ready test. Do they condemn this senseless violence? The murder of innocents? A pregnant woman? An unborn baby? Three other people?

Where is their voice now? They find it to lash out at Israel. Will they find it in compassion and condemnation of terrorism?  Or will they just cynically make false charges and claim they want peace but opt for something else, like every time before?

But as for the PA, “Prime Minister Salam Fayyad condemned the attack, which was claimed by the armed wing of the Hamas Islamist movement which governs the Gaza Strip. ‘We condemn this operation, which goes against Palestinian interests,’ Fayyad said.” Well, that’s swell — and where was Abbas? And did they repeat it in Arabic to the Palestinian public? The official reminded us:

After Israel and Jordan made peace, a Jordanian soldier tragically opened fire on a field trip of children visiting the “border of peace,” killing several. King Hussein went to the homes of these children, got down on his knees and asked their forgiveness. That is peace. Show me that and I will show you the path to moderate Islam and peace.

Easy prediction: Ehud Barak will make good on his pledge to “exact a price” for the murders. And Muslim leaders will proclaim the action “disproportionate.” We’ve seen this all before. Which is why pursuing the “peace process” — which provokes an upsurge in Israeli deaths — is such a counterproductive exercise.

Oh, and J Street also condemned the attacks — and then ignored the implication of the murders: “It is unfortunately not a surprise that extremists would try to undermine the launch of direct talks. We urge all sides to prevent the situation from spiraling out of control and harming the prospects for peace.” Fellas, the whole thing is out of control, and Abbas can’t or won’t prevent “the situation” — the premeditated slaughter of Jewish innocents — from “harming the prospects for peace.” But come to think of it, there are no prospects.

The White House responds this way to the killing of Israelis on the eve of the “peace talks”:

The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the terrorist attack today perpetrated by Hamas in which four Israelis were killed in the southern West Bank. We express our condolences to the victims’ families and call for the terrorists behind this horrific act to be brought to justice. We note that the Palestinian Authority has condemned this attack. On the eve of the re-launch of direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, this brutal attack underscores how far the enemies of peace will go to try to block progress.  It is crucial that the parties persevere, keep moving forward even through difficult times, and continue working to achieve a just and lasting peace in the region that provides security for all peoples.

A few things of note. First, the woman was in fact pregnant, but the Obami – who value abortion-on-demand above all else – do not mention that death in any way. Second, this is the mindless infatuation with the peace process — all evidence that the Palestinian Authority lacks the ability and the will to enforce a peace deal (should it ever decide to make one) is discounted; in fact, every development becomes further justification for talks. This is how ideologues operate.

I asked an official with a pro-Israel organization about the incident. He, not unlike Judea Pearl, thinks it’s time for Muslims to step up to the plate:

Everyone is wondering if the peace talks will succeed, or, for that matter, if the imam of the 9/11 mosque is a moderate.

Well, here’s a ready test. Do they condemn this senseless violence? The murder of innocents? A pregnant woman? An unborn baby? Three other people?

Where is their voice now? They find it to lash out at Israel. Will they find it in compassion and condemnation of terrorism?  Or will they just cynically make false charges and claim they want peace but opt for something else, like every time before?

But as for the PA, “Prime Minister Salam Fayyad condemned the attack, which was claimed by the armed wing of the Hamas Islamist movement which governs the Gaza Strip. ‘We condemn this operation, which goes against Palestinian interests,’ Fayyad said.” Well, that’s swell — and where was Abbas? And did they repeat it in Arabic to the Palestinian public? The official reminded us:

After Israel and Jordan made peace, a Jordanian soldier tragically opened fire on a field trip of children visiting the “border of peace,” killing several. King Hussein went to the homes of these children, got down on his knees and asked their forgiveness. That is peace. Show me that and I will show you the path to moderate Islam and peace.

Easy prediction: Ehud Barak will make good on his pledge to “exact a price” for the murders. And Muslim leaders will proclaim the action “disproportionate.” We’ve seen this all before. Which is why pursuing the “peace process” — which provokes an upsurge in Israeli deaths — is such a counterproductive exercise.

Oh, and J Street also condemned the attacks — and then ignored the implication of the murders: “It is unfortunately not a surprise that extremists would try to undermine the launch of direct talks. We urge all sides to prevent the situation from spiraling out of control and harming the prospects for peace.” Fellas, the whole thing is out of control, and Abbas can’t or won’t prevent “the situation” — the premeditated slaughter of Jewish innocents — from “harming the prospects for peace.” But come to think of it, there are no prospects.

Read Less




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