Commentary Magazine


Posts For: February 7, 2011

Ron Paul Heads to Iowa, but Huckabee and Romney May Stay Home

A handful of Republican presidential hopefuls are heading to Iowa to address a conference of social conservatives next month, and Rep. Ron Paul has signed on to attend. This is the clearest sign yet that Paul may be planning to launch his third presidential bid:

Add Rep. Ron Paul’s (R-Texas) name to the list of Republicans making their way through Iowa for an appearance at a conservative group’s Presidential Lecture Series, but don’t pencil in former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) just yet. …

Paul — who did not rule out another WH run in an interview with National Journal in late January — will be featured in the Iowa social conservative group The Family Leader’s lecture series on March 7.

The Hotline reports that Huckabee was slated to speak at the conference, but the organizers now say he hasn’t yet confirmed his attendance. And Romney may also be sitting this one out, according to the organizers, who say they haven’t been able to get in touch with him.

If Paul decides to run, it’s sure to discourage (or at least further complicate) the possible 2012 aspirations of his son, Sen. Rand Paul. During an interview with ABC News last week, Rand wouldn’t rule out a run and said he would accept the challenge if nominated. While Rand’s lack of experience may make him a long shot for 2012, he has much more mainstream appeal than his father and would probably have a better chance at winning the nomination.

But then again, if the elder Paul runs, then maybe he and Giuliani will be able continue that conversation about blowback.

A handful of Republican presidential hopefuls are heading to Iowa to address a conference of social conservatives next month, and Rep. Ron Paul has signed on to attend. This is the clearest sign yet that Paul may be planning to launch his third presidential bid:

Add Rep. Ron Paul’s (R-Texas) name to the list of Republicans making their way through Iowa for an appearance at a conservative group’s Presidential Lecture Series, but don’t pencil in former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) just yet. …

Paul — who did not rule out another WH run in an interview with National Journal in late January — will be featured in the Iowa social conservative group The Family Leader’s lecture series on March 7.

The Hotline reports that Huckabee was slated to speak at the conference, but the organizers now say he hasn’t yet confirmed his attendance. And Romney may also be sitting this one out, according to the organizers, who say they haven’t been able to get in touch with him.

If Paul decides to run, it’s sure to discourage (or at least further complicate) the possible 2012 aspirations of his son, Sen. Rand Paul. During an interview with ABC News last week, Rand wouldn’t rule out a run and said he would accept the challenge if nominated. While Rand’s lack of experience may make him a long shot for 2012, he has much more mainstream appeal than his father and would probably have a better chance at winning the nomination.

But then again, if the elder Paul runs, then maybe he and Giuliani will be able continue that conversation about blowback.

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The Israeli Case for Supporting Egyptian Democracy

The debate between those who embrace the possibility of democracy in Egypt and those who recoil in fear at the idea of an Islamist “Muslim street” overthrowing the Mubarak autocracy has at times been a dialogue of the deaf. It is far from unreasonable to worry about whether the situation today in Cairo is analogous with that of Tehran in 1979. But that is, as Alana notes, a far cry from the sort of incoherent thinking we’ve been hearing from the likes of Glenn Beck.

Yet the Israeli voices expressing indifference, if not outright hostility, to the unrest in Egypt are a different thing altogether. In the Jerusalem Post last Friday, Caroline Glick summed up the arguments for dismissing the uprising as a possible force for good. For her, the apathy of Israelis about Egyptian democracy is based on knowledge of the strength of anti-Semitism, a force that unites an Arab world that is otherwise split along a variety of lines. She went on to conclude:

While we wish them the best of luck with their democracy movements, and would welcome the advent of a tolerant society in Egypt, we recognize that that tolerance will end when it comes to the Jews. And so whether they are democrats or autocrats, we fully expect they will continue to hate us.

Anyone familiar with the depth of Jew-hatred in the Islamic world — a topic that Glick rightly notes is rarely reported on in the Western press — understands the truth of her assertion. So should we simply dismiss the Egyptian unrest as just a case of reshuffling the Jew-hating deck in Cairo? Read More

The debate between those who embrace the possibility of democracy in Egypt and those who recoil in fear at the idea of an Islamist “Muslim street” overthrowing the Mubarak autocracy has at times been a dialogue of the deaf. It is far from unreasonable to worry about whether the situation today in Cairo is analogous with that of Tehran in 1979. But that is, as Alana notes, a far cry from the sort of incoherent thinking we’ve been hearing from the likes of Glenn Beck.

Yet the Israeli voices expressing indifference, if not outright hostility, to the unrest in Egypt are a different thing altogether. In the Jerusalem Post last Friday, Caroline Glick summed up the arguments for dismissing the uprising as a possible force for good. For her, the apathy of Israelis about Egyptian democracy is based on knowledge of the strength of anti-Semitism, a force that unites an Arab world that is otherwise split along a variety of lines. She went on to conclude:

While we wish them the best of luck with their democracy movements, and would welcome the advent of a tolerant society in Egypt, we recognize that that tolerance will end when it comes to the Jews. And so whether they are democrats or autocrats, we fully expect they will continue to hate us.

Anyone familiar with the depth of Jew-hatred in the Islamic world — a topic that Glick rightly notes is rarely reported on in the Western press — understands the truth of her assertion. So should we simply dismiss the Egyptian unrest as just a case of reshuffling the Jew-hating deck in Cairo?

A more optimistic view comes from Natan Sharansky, who views the situation in Egypt from the perspective of a former dissident fighting tyranny inside a totalitarian state. Sharansky, who was interviewed in the Wall Street Journal this past weekend, doesn’t address the problem of anti-Semitism, but he does point out the problem with discussing Egypt, or any other country, as if there were only two possible choices: dictators like Mubarak and Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood.

Sharansky’s point is not that democracy will magically transform Egyptian society into one that will automatically support peace with a Jewish state. Rather, as he asserted in his 2005 book, The Case for Democracy, what is needed in the Arab world are steps that seek to build civil societies whose governments won’t have to depend on exploiting hatred for Israel or Jews (as Mubarak did) in order to keep themselves in power. Merely holding a vote, as happened in 2006 when Hamas won a Palestinian election pitting armed terrorist groups against each other is, more or less, the opposite of democracy. If the West were to maintain a consistent policy of supporting the development of free societies in the Arab world, then there would be a chance for the creation of states that might conceivably make peace with Israel.

The notion that the Palestinians will give up their war on the Jewish state simply because we want them to is unrealistic and the product of the sort of magical thinking that predominates on the left. By contrast, realists about the Arab world are right when they claim that the only way such a peace will happen will be in the event of a complete transformation of Arab political culture, something that doesn’t seem possible in the foreseeable future. But what Sharansky and other Israelis and Americans who advocate support for Egyptian democracy are saying is that the unrest in Cairo is something that could eventually lead to just such a transformation if genuine liberals were given the help they need to defeat Islamists. That doesn’t mean we should ignore Glick’s warnings about the prevalence of Jew-hatred or countenance a “democratic” process that would bring the Muslim Brotherhood to power. Nor should we engage in mindless optimism about Egypt. But we should not dismiss the chance, however much of a long shot it might be, that the creation of genuine democratic institutions offers the possibility of hope for something better.

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Sharansky: Obama Doing Better on Egypt than He Did on Iran

On Saturday, the Wall Street Journal devoted a fascinating article by David Feith that included an interview with the heroic Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky (Rick Richman has a nice post on Sharansky here).

Sharansky’s comments on Egypt are intelligent and insightful, as you would expect. And on U.S. policy, Sharansky says that, on Egypt, “the statements from the White House are improving with every day, especially in comparison with its catastrophic statements at the time of the Iranian revolution [in 2009].” In Sharansky’s opinion, the Obama administration’s position during the recent Iranian protests was “maybe one of the biggest betrayals of people’s freedom in modern history. … At the moment when millions were deciding whether to go to the barricades, the leader of the free world said ‘For us, the most important thing is engagement with the regime, so we don’t want a change of regime.’ Compared to this, there is very big progress [on Egypt today].”

That sounds right to me. The most favorable interpretation of events is that President Obama has learned in office and is now willing to show solidarity with movements for political liberation and human rights that he was silent on as recently as a year and a half ago. The least favorable interpretation is that he is more inclined to support revolutionary movements when its target is a pro-American regime (at least in some respects); when the object of contempt is a malevolent, anti-American one like Iran, Obama goes mute. For now, I’ll choose the more favorable interpretation. Down the road, there will undoubtedly be events to test whether that judgment is the right one.

On Saturday, the Wall Street Journal devoted a fascinating article by David Feith that included an interview with the heroic Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky (Rick Richman has a nice post on Sharansky here).

Sharansky’s comments on Egypt are intelligent and insightful, as you would expect. And on U.S. policy, Sharansky says that, on Egypt, “the statements from the White House are improving with every day, especially in comparison with its catastrophic statements at the time of the Iranian revolution [in 2009].” In Sharansky’s opinion, the Obama administration’s position during the recent Iranian protests was “maybe one of the biggest betrayals of people’s freedom in modern history. … At the moment when millions were deciding whether to go to the barricades, the leader of the free world said ‘For us, the most important thing is engagement with the regime, so we don’t want a change of regime.’ Compared to this, there is very big progress [on Egypt today].”

That sounds right to me. The most favorable interpretation of events is that President Obama has learned in office and is now willing to show solidarity with movements for political liberation and human rights that he was silent on as recently as a year and a half ago. The least favorable interpretation is that he is more inclined to support revolutionary movements when its target is a pro-American regime (at least in some respects); when the object of contempt is a malevolent, anti-American one like Iran, Obama goes mute. For now, I’ll choose the more favorable interpretation. Down the road, there will undoubtedly be events to test whether that judgment is the right one.

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The Problem with Glenn Beck’s Theorizing on Egypt

Conservatives are divided over how to view the situation in Egypt. Some have taken the more prudent stance that the U.S. needs to help steer a strong transitional government in Egypt until democracy can be ensured. Others have taken an optimistic position closer to President Bush’s second inaugural address, arguing that the U.S. has a responsibility to support and encourage the will of the Egyptian people as it currently stands.

Both perspectives have their own merits, and both have been argued persuasively in recent pieces by Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer.

But as Americans grapple with these ideas, there’s one thing that is especially unhelpful to the discussion — and that’s the distribution of blatant misinformation. Glenn Beck, instead of taking a hard, sober look at a situation that will have major ramifications for the U.S., has been using his high-profile FOX and radio shows to, in fact, misinform. The new theory Beck appears to be pushing is that the Egyptian revolt is being controlled by an alliance between leftist American organizations and Islamists.

Like most misguided ideas, this theory is based in some truth. Leftist groups like ANSWER and Code Pink have inserted themselves into the Egyptian uprising, and there are indications that they’ve been reaching out to Islamist organizations. But so what? Many leftist groups are anti-American. Islamist groups are anti-American. That they’ve reached out to each other is not a particularly surprising, or significant, development.

The danger of Beck’s theorizing is that he’s spreading the misconception that the uprising in Egypt was initiated by anti-democratic groups, and that it’s Islamist at its core. While there’s no doubt that the Muslim Brotherhood and socialist organizations have become involved in the protests, they didn’t start the uprising, and that’s not what the protests are about.

Yes, there are many reasons to be concerned about Islamist groups, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, gaining control in Egypt. But there are also many reasons to be hopeful for democracy. It’s difficult enough to calculate the best course for Egypt based on the known facts. Throwing unknown, or inaccurate, “facts” into the mix doesn’t serve anyone’s interests.

Conservatives are divided over how to view the situation in Egypt. Some have taken the more prudent stance that the U.S. needs to help steer a strong transitional government in Egypt until democracy can be ensured. Others have taken an optimistic position closer to President Bush’s second inaugural address, arguing that the U.S. has a responsibility to support and encourage the will of the Egyptian people as it currently stands.

Both perspectives have their own merits, and both have been argued persuasively in recent pieces by Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer.

But as Americans grapple with these ideas, there’s one thing that is especially unhelpful to the discussion — and that’s the distribution of blatant misinformation. Glenn Beck, instead of taking a hard, sober look at a situation that will have major ramifications for the U.S., has been using his high-profile FOX and radio shows to, in fact, misinform. The new theory Beck appears to be pushing is that the Egyptian revolt is being controlled by an alliance between leftist American organizations and Islamists.

Like most misguided ideas, this theory is based in some truth. Leftist groups like ANSWER and Code Pink have inserted themselves into the Egyptian uprising, and there are indications that they’ve been reaching out to Islamist organizations. But so what? Many leftist groups are anti-American. Islamist groups are anti-American. That they’ve reached out to each other is not a particularly surprising, or significant, development.

The danger of Beck’s theorizing is that he’s spreading the misconception that the uprising in Egypt was initiated by anti-democratic groups, and that it’s Islamist at its core. While there’s no doubt that the Muslim Brotherhood and socialist organizations have become involved in the protests, they didn’t start the uprising, and that’s not what the protests are about.

Yes, there are many reasons to be concerned about Islamist groups, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, gaining control in Egypt. But there are also many reasons to be hopeful for democracy. It’s difficult enough to calculate the best course for Egypt based on the known facts. Throwing unknown, or inaccurate, “facts” into the mix doesn’t serve anyone’s interests.

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Change in Egypt Doesn’t Make an Unlikely Peace Plan Any More Likely

While most of the world is riveted by the ongoing drama of the revolt in Egypt, there’s no distracting those who are obsessed by the chimera of an Israeli-Palestinian peace from their favorite fantasies. This is the case with Bernard Avishai, who has been pleading for years for the United States to “save” Israel from itself. By this he means that Washington must overturn the verdict of Israeli democracy and impose a peace deal on the Jewish state that he thinks the Palestinians will accept even though the latter have repeatedly shown that they have no interest in such a thing.

Avishai’s latest version of this peace fantasy will be on display in next Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, but the editors of the Gray Lady think it is so important that they have already made it available on their website.

While Avishai leads with a couple of paragraphs about what is going on in Egypt, his main point is to complain that the tumult in Tunis and Cairo is distracting everyone from concentrating on the chance for peace that he claims was made evident by the revelation contained in Al Jazeera’s so-called Palestine Papers and former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert’s memoirs. Avishai claims that the unrest in Cairo means “Obama’s hand in Israel has been strengthened.” Despite the fact that the unrest in Tunisia and Egypt had nothing to do with Israel, it is his assertion that a new peace initiative will “transform American status in the region” as well as help Israel.

But the bad news for those who take the trouble to read this 4,500-word essay in hopes of finding the solution to an otherwise insoluble puzzle is that there is nothing new here. It is merely a rehash of much of the recent reporting about the negotiations between the Olmert government and the Palestinian Authority in 2007 and 2008, which was, in itself, nothing new since we already knew the outlines of those talks long before Al Jazeera outed PA leader Abbas as a “traitor” to his people for even discussing “concessions” to the Jews that he never made good on.

Avishai takes the unprecedented concessions that Olmert made on Jerusalem, borders, and refugees as proof that peace is possible, though he considers them as merely the starting points for further retreats imposed by Obama that would “bridge” the gap between those positions and further demands that Abbas made. The assumption being that if only the Israelis go a little further, then the long-sought peace will soon be signed. Read More

While most of the world is riveted by the ongoing drama of the revolt in Egypt, there’s no distracting those who are obsessed by the chimera of an Israeli-Palestinian peace from their favorite fantasies. This is the case with Bernard Avishai, who has been pleading for years for the United States to “save” Israel from itself. By this he means that Washington must overturn the verdict of Israeli democracy and impose a peace deal on the Jewish state that he thinks the Palestinians will accept even though the latter have repeatedly shown that they have no interest in such a thing.

Avishai’s latest version of this peace fantasy will be on display in next Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, but the editors of the Gray Lady think it is so important that they have already made it available on their website.

While Avishai leads with a couple of paragraphs about what is going on in Egypt, his main point is to complain that the tumult in Tunis and Cairo is distracting everyone from concentrating on the chance for peace that he claims was made evident by the revelation contained in Al Jazeera’s so-called Palestine Papers and former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert’s memoirs. Avishai claims that the unrest in Cairo means “Obama’s hand in Israel has been strengthened.” Despite the fact that the unrest in Tunisia and Egypt had nothing to do with Israel, it is his assertion that a new peace initiative will “transform American status in the region” as well as help Israel.

But the bad news for those who take the trouble to read this 4,500-word essay in hopes of finding the solution to an otherwise insoluble puzzle is that there is nothing new here. It is merely a rehash of much of the recent reporting about the negotiations between the Olmert government and the Palestinian Authority in 2007 and 2008, which was, in itself, nothing new since we already knew the outlines of those talks long before Al Jazeera outed PA leader Abbas as a “traitor” to his people for even discussing “concessions” to the Jews that he never made good on.

Avishai takes the unprecedented concessions that Olmert made on Jerusalem, borders, and refugees as proof that peace is possible, though he considers them as merely the starting points for further retreats imposed by Obama that would “bridge” the gap between those positions and further demands that Abbas made. The assumption being that if only the Israelis go a little further, then the long-sought peace will soon be signed.

However, as even the Obama administration has come to understand, Abbas never had any intention of making a deal. If he had, he would have accepted Olmert’s concessions and taken the Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza, and part of Jerusalem. But instead, he walked away from Olmert’s offer. His reasons were obvious. Any such agreement, no matter where it placed Israel’s borders, would have required him to accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state and end the Palestinian dream of its eradication. And that is something that would require a bigger transformation of the political culture of the Palestinians than the one happening in Egypt.

The relative strength of Hamas, which continues to rule Gaza, and the weakness of Abbas, are not, as Avishai claims, mere details to be overcome by American pressure on Israel. Though, as Avishai claims, perhaps rightly, a transformation of Egypt will further isolate Israel, the fall of Mubarak also helps Hamas and weakens Abbas, making it even less likely than before that the PA will feel strong enough to risk the fallout that an agreement with Israel will entail.

No matter what happens in Egypt, the idea that it will make peace with the Palestinians more likely is absurd. Recent events also prove again that the idea that the conflict with Israel is at the heart of all of the Muslim world’s woes is a myth. There may be some in the administration and at the New York Times, who still believe that hammering Israel will bring peace. But it is likely that after the last two years, even Obama has learned his lesson about the Palestinians.

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New START and the Russians: That Didn’t Take Long

The New START treaty took effect last week, commemorated in a ceremony featuring Hillary Clinton and her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. The Russians, emerging from the near-silence they maintained during the ratification process, have promptly begun clarifying that, from their perspective, the treaty does not do what President Obama has been arguing it will. It is not a stepping-stone to a nuclear-free world, nor does it generate momentum for good-faith negotiations on the unresolved issue of short-range missiles. But it does give the Russians a pretext for demanding constraints on U.S. missile-defense programs.

On Sunday, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov told reporters the following at the Munich Security Conference:

This treaty does not envision any duties on Russia except the necessity of observing the limits it stipulates … Russia, like the United States, reserves the right to continue to develop its strategic forces in the future … the New START Treaty slaps no restrictions on the two sides’ strategic offensive arms levels.

Ivanov then helpfully enumerated Russia’s strategic-weapons development programs, concluding with his opinion that, as the report puts it, “the United States is all but sure to respond in kind and this is only natural … [considering] the importance of developing the strategic offensive arms.”

The Russians, it seems, see the New START treaty as consistent with the continuation of a robust strategic arms competition — and they expect us to do the same. They don’t see it, however, as a momentum-builder for negotiations on short-range missiles. Their foreign ministry said on Monday that it would be “premature” to set a date for such negotiations. The issue that must be resolved first is Russia’s concern about U.S. missile-defense programs.

Deploying the threat of the opt-out clause in the New START treaty, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov gave this statement to Russian news agencies on Monday:

If the U.S. increases the qualitative and quantitative potential of its missile defense … a question will arise whether Russia should further abide by the treaty or would have to take other measures to respond to the situation, including military-technical measures.

New START is the opposite of its eponymous promise: it goes beyond perpetuating current conditions to resurrecting the effectively one-sided elements of pre-START arms treaties. Having negotiated warhead limits that impose no meaningful constraints on its weapons programs, Russia will continue to field new strategic weapons and hold all further agreements hostage to U.S. concessions on missile defense.

This outcome was never inevitable. But some amount of the START legacy has now been squandered. If Obama wants to get from here to where he says he wants to go — a nuclear-free world — he will have to detour back through the route laid out by Reagan: incentivizing Russia, through a non-negotiable strengthening of America’s own defense posture, to make real concessions.

The New START treaty took effect last week, commemorated in a ceremony featuring Hillary Clinton and her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. The Russians, emerging from the near-silence they maintained during the ratification process, have promptly begun clarifying that, from their perspective, the treaty does not do what President Obama has been arguing it will. It is not a stepping-stone to a nuclear-free world, nor does it generate momentum for good-faith negotiations on the unresolved issue of short-range missiles. But it does give the Russians a pretext for demanding constraints on U.S. missile-defense programs.

On Sunday, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov told reporters the following at the Munich Security Conference:

This treaty does not envision any duties on Russia except the necessity of observing the limits it stipulates … Russia, like the United States, reserves the right to continue to develop its strategic forces in the future … the New START Treaty slaps no restrictions on the two sides’ strategic offensive arms levels.

Ivanov then helpfully enumerated Russia’s strategic-weapons development programs, concluding with his opinion that, as the report puts it, “the United States is all but sure to respond in kind and this is only natural … [considering] the importance of developing the strategic offensive arms.”

The Russians, it seems, see the New START treaty as consistent with the continuation of a robust strategic arms competition — and they expect us to do the same. They don’t see it, however, as a momentum-builder for negotiations on short-range missiles. Their foreign ministry said on Monday that it would be “premature” to set a date for such negotiations. The issue that must be resolved first is Russia’s concern about U.S. missile-defense programs.

Deploying the threat of the opt-out clause in the New START treaty, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov gave this statement to Russian news agencies on Monday:

If the U.S. increases the qualitative and quantitative potential of its missile defense … a question will arise whether Russia should further abide by the treaty or would have to take other measures to respond to the situation, including military-technical measures.

New START is the opposite of its eponymous promise: it goes beyond perpetuating current conditions to resurrecting the effectively one-sided elements of pre-START arms treaties. Having negotiated warhead limits that impose no meaningful constraints on its weapons programs, Russia will continue to field new strategic weapons and hold all further agreements hostage to U.S. concessions on missile defense.

This outcome was never inevitable. But some amount of the START legacy has now been squandered. If Obama wants to get from here to where he says he wants to go — a nuclear-free world — he will have to detour back through the route laid out by Reagan: incentivizing Russia, through a non-negotiable strengthening of America’s own defense posture, to make real concessions.

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Make a Clean Break with Mubarak

When Frank Wisner said at the Munich Security Conference that his old friend Hosni Mubarak “must stay in office” to oversee a transition, it was suggested that he was speaking out of turn. Not so fast. Now it seems that Secretary of State Clinton, who sent Wisner as a personal administration envoy to Mubarak, seems to be taking the same line. She has now expressed support for an “orderly” process led by Omar Suleiman, Mubarak’s long-time right-hand man.

This may be explained as a tilt toward “safety” and “stability” by the administration. But it is hardly clear that the new administration line is in fact the safest course to take. There is no guarantee that Suleiman will preside over a transition to a genuine democracy; he may very well work to keep the same ruling clique in power with a new front man — possibly himself. As long as a corrupt oligarchy continues to rule, the people will seethe with discontent. These conditions create a fertile breeding ground for the Muslim Brotherhood, as the past three decades have already shown.

At this point, the safest option may well be to make a clean break with Mubarak, inaugurate a transition government, lift the state of emergency, and allow the full blooming of democratic politics. Most analysts knowledgeable about Egyptian politics believe that, under those conditions, the Brotherhood will emerge as a minority party; it has flourished only in an atmosphere of repression because the mosque has been the one part of Egyptian society not fully controlled by the state.

But for that to happen, the administration would have to find the spine to force Mubarak from power. That’s hardly impossible to do since we provide Egypt with some $2 billion in aid. Threaten that money and the incentive for the Egyptian army to toss Mubarak out of office would increase dramatically. So far, however, the administration has not been willing to do that. The result, unfortunately, is to prolong the current crisis and to leave an impression of American impotence.

When Frank Wisner said at the Munich Security Conference that his old friend Hosni Mubarak “must stay in office” to oversee a transition, it was suggested that he was speaking out of turn. Not so fast. Now it seems that Secretary of State Clinton, who sent Wisner as a personal administration envoy to Mubarak, seems to be taking the same line. She has now expressed support for an “orderly” process led by Omar Suleiman, Mubarak’s long-time right-hand man.

This may be explained as a tilt toward “safety” and “stability” by the administration. But it is hardly clear that the new administration line is in fact the safest course to take. There is no guarantee that Suleiman will preside over a transition to a genuine democracy; he may very well work to keep the same ruling clique in power with a new front man — possibly himself. As long as a corrupt oligarchy continues to rule, the people will seethe with discontent. These conditions create a fertile breeding ground for the Muslim Brotherhood, as the past three decades have already shown.

At this point, the safest option may well be to make a clean break with Mubarak, inaugurate a transition government, lift the state of emergency, and allow the full blooming of democratic politics. Most analysts knowledgeable about Egyptian politics believe that, under those conditions, the Brotherhood will emerge as a minority party; it has flourished only in an atmosphere of repression because the mosque has been the one part of Egyptian society not fully controlled by the state.

But for that to happen, the administration would have to find the spine to force Mubarak from power. That’s hardly impossible to do since we provide Egypt with some $2 billion in aid. Threaten that money and the incentive for the Egyptian army to toss Mubarak out of office would increase dramatically. So far, however, the administration has not been willing to do that. The result, unfortunately, is to prolong the current crisis and to leave an impression of American impotence.

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Should Jeb Bush Run in 2012?

The field for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination is full of imperfect candidates. Mitt Romney, the Republican front-runner according to the most recent Rasmussen poll, has a reputation for flip-flopping. Sarah Palin, the grassroots favorite, is seen by many as too divisive to win in a general election. And social conservative Mike Huckabee is considered unpalatable to many libertarians and East Coast conservatives.

So is now the perfect time for Jeb Bush — whose hindrance is obviously his last name — to throw his hat into the ring? Rich Lowry has a persuasive column at National Review Online on why Jeb should run for president now, as opposed to waiting until 2016.

Lowry’s most convincing point is that 2016 will be too late; Jeb would have been out of office for 10 years, and a new crowd of candidates — Chris Christie, Marco Rubio — will be ready to run.

Jeb also doesn’t seem to have a very compelling reason not to run though the problems that some in his immediate family have had with the law may be an impediment that the press is ignoring. If he’s waiting until the Bush name is rehabilitated, there’s no guarantee that four extra years will have a major impact. Plus, as Lowry notes, “Jeb is different from his patrician dad and different from his thoroughly Texan brother. As soon as people see him on the national stage, they’ll realize he’s his own person and has to be taken on his own terms.”

There’s also this reason for him to run: without a position in public office, Jeb will have a hard time keeping himself on the national radar. Even if he’s unable to win the 2012 nomination, he can still maintain some prominence while giving voters a chance to become familiar with him and his issues. Then, if Obama wins re-election, Jeb will be in a prime position to run again four years later.

The field for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination is full of imperfect candidates. Mitt Romney, the Republican front-runner according to the most recent Rasmussen poll, has a reputation for flip-flopping. Sarah Palin, the grassroots favorite, is seen by many as too divisive to win in a general election. And social conservative Mike Huckabee is considered unpalatable to many libertarians and East Coast conservatives.

So is now the perfect time for Jeb Bush — whose hindrance is obviously his last name — to throw his hat into the ring? Rich Lowry has a persuasive column at National Review Online on why Jeb should run for president now, as opposed to waiting until 2016.

Lowry’s most convincing point is that 2016 will be too late; Jeb would have been out of office for 10 years, and a new crowd of candidates — Chris Christie, Marco Rubio — will be ready to run.

Jeb also doesn’t seem to have a very compelling reason not to run though the problems that some in his immediate family have had with the law may be an impediment that the press is ignoring. If he’s waiting until the Bush name is rehabilitated, there’s no guarantee that four extra years will have a major impact. Plus, as Lowry notes, “Jeb is different from his patrician dad and different from his thoroughly Texan brother. As soon as people see him on the national stage, they’ll realize he’s his own person and has to be taken on his own terms.”

There’s also this reason for him to run: without a position in public office, Jeb will have a hard time keeping himself on the national radar. Even if he’s unable to win the 2012 nomination, he can still maintain some prominence while giving voters a chance to become familiar with him and his issues. Then, if Obama wins re-election, Jeb will be in a prime position to run again four years later.

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The Freedom Agenda After Egypt

The Washington Post editorial-page editor, Fred Hiatt, has joined others in pointing out that the situation in Egypt is a vindication of President Bush’s freedom agenda. He also notes that Hillary Clinton has indicated that democracy promotion may play a bigger role in the administration’s foreign policy.

But what would that mean beyond Egypt? Hiatt points to Azerbaijan and China, where the Obama administration has turned a blind eye to human-rights issues in order to pursue other strategic interests:

In Azerbaijan, another secular Muslim dictator, Ilham Aliyev, plays on U.S. fears of Islamic radicalism and the U.S. need for oil to win indulgence when he rigs elections and locks up journalists. Will U.S. officials tell him the status quo is not sustainable?

In China, the Communist Party imprisons or exiles anyone who advocates pluralism in the political system, but the administration has tried to keep human rights issues from interfering with discussions on Iran, currency or trade. Will President Obama be more likely to raise the case of imprisoned Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo the next time he meets with President Hu Jintao?

It’s a great sign that the Obama administration is showing a willingness to evolve its foreign-policy strategies based on the situation in Egypt. But the U.S. needs to adopt these changes even in situations where it may be difficult. As Hiatt writes, under Bush, democracy promotion was viewed by some as simply a “feel good” policy. Now, after Egypt, the Obama administration needs to begin to view it as a strategic interest.

The Washington Post editorial-page editor, Fred Hiatt, has joined others in pointing out that the situation in Egypt is a vindication of President Bush’s freedom agenda. He also notes that Hillary Clinton has indicated that democracy promotion may play a bigger role in the administration’s foreign policy.

But what would that mean beyond Egypt? Hiatt points to Azerbaijan and China, where the Obama administration has turned a blind eye to human-rights issues in order to pursue other strategic interests:

In Azerbaijan, another secular Muslim dictator, Ilham Aliyev, plays on U.S. fears of Islamic radicalism and the U.S. need for oil to win indulgence when he rigs elections and locks up journalists. Will U.S. officials tell him the status quo is not sustainable?

In China, the Communist Party imprisons or exiles anyone who advocates pluralism in the political system, but the administration has tried to keep human rights issues from interfering with discussions on Iran, currency or trade. Will President Obama be more likely to raise the case of imprisoned Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo the next time he meets with President Hu Jintao?

It’s a great sign that the Obama administration is showing a willingness to evolve its foreign-policy strategies based on the situation in Egypt. But the U.S. needs to adopt these changes even in situations where it may be difficult. As Hiatt writes, under Bush, democracy promotion was viewed by some as simply a “feel good” policy. Now, after Egypt, the Obama administration needs to begin to view it as a strategic interest.

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As Egypt Remains an Open Question, Progress Is Seen in Afghanistan

Egypt has dominated the news for the last few weeks — understandably so. The events taking place there are of great importance not only for Egypt but for the United States as well. But amid the focus on the continuing Egyptian revolution, one of the subjects that has gotten lost is Afghanistan. That’s not a bad thing, because when Afghanistan makes news, it usually tends to mean that something bad has occurred; counterinsurgency is a time-intensive, difficult task that is easier to carry out without the kind of white-hot media glare that Iraq, for example, received. But there have been several important articles in recent days that highlight some of the progress that U.S. forces are making in Afghanistan, as well as the obstacles that remain:

• Hamid Karzai, speaking at the Munich Security Conference, complained “that the teams led by the United States and its allies that work to bolster local governments were undermining his government in Kabul.” That’s actually a backhanded endorsement of the work that Provincial Reconstruction Teams are doing. It means that they are bolstering local power centers that are outside the control of Karzai and his cronies. That’s exactly what they should be doing. Read More

Egypt has dominated the news for the last few weeks — understandably so. The events taking place there are of great importance not only for Egypt but for the United States as well. But amid the focus on the continuing Egyptian revolution, one of the subjects that has gotten lost is Afghanistan. That’s not a bad thing, because when Afghanistan makes news, it usually tends to mean that something bad has occurred; counterinsurgency is a time-intensive, difficult task that is easier to carry out without the kind of white-hot media glare that Iraq, for example, received. But there have been several important articles in recent days that highlight some of the progress that U.S. forces are making in Afghanistan, as well as the obstacles that remain:

• Hamid Karzai, speaking at the Munich Security Conference, complained “that the teams led by the United States and its allies that work to bolster local governments were undermining his government in Kabul.” That’s actually a backhanded endorsement of the work that Provincial Reconstruction Teams are doing. It means that they are bolstering local power centers that are outside the control of Karzai and his cronies. That’s exactly what they should be doing.

• A new report from two-Afghanistan based authors, Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn, claims that the “Afghan Taliban have been wrongly perceived as close ideological allies of Al Qaeda, and they could be persuaded to renounce the global terrorist group.” Count me as unconvinced. It is worth noting that the authors have collaborated with a leading Taliban figure on his autobiography and have publicly opposed the American-led war effort in Afghanistan. Their “report” reads suspiciously like the Taliban propaganda line. There is no doubt that the Taliban and al-Qaeda are distinct organizations. But there is also no doubt that they are closely linked — even more so now than they were in 2001, when the Taliban could have remained in power if they had simply handed over Osama bin Laden to the United States. Mullah Omar refused to do that, and he has steadfastly refused to renounce al-Qaeda in the years since, when it would be very much to his advantage to do so. Why would Mullah Omar & Co. suddenly turn on al-Qaeda if they were back in power? Talk about wishful thinking.

• The Washington Post‘s Joshua Partlow reports on an outpost of the Afghan Local Police, a new initiative led by U.S. Special Forces to set up armed neighborhood-watch organizations across Afghanistan to bolster the Afghan Security Forces. U.S. commanders place great stock in this initiative which is projected to grow from 3,000 participants to as many as 20,000 by the end of the year. Partlow’s report highlights the gains that can come from this work as well as the risks. He writes of one ALP leader: “By empowering Haq and his allies, the U.S. Special Forces have essentially chosen sides in a complex web of long-standing feuds and rivalries. These Pashtuns have enemies in their villages and the government, particularly among other ethnic groups, and their growing power risks provoking as much hostility as it alleviates.” If not handled carefully, such American interventions into tribal dynamics have the potential to exacerbate, not improve, the situation. But if done right, the ALP could significantly swing the odds in favor of the Afghan government and its allies. The key is to make this part of a larger tribal engagement, to avoid the risk of setting loose unaccountable militia.

• The New York Times‘s Chris Chivers reports from Ghazni province on the structure of the Taliban’s shadow government. The whole article is interesting, but I found one point in particular to be important: the fact that “the Taliban fighters of eastern Ghazni appear to be entirely local men.” There has been much focus on the importance of Pakistan sanctuaries for the Taliban, and rightly so. But Chivers’s report squares with everything else I have heard and read: namely that the Taliban fighters tend to operate in their own neighborhoods. That suggests that the Pakistan sanctuaries, important as they are, are not an insuperable obstacle to defeating the insurgency, which is fueled primarily by local grievances. The key is to improve Afghan governance and make it more accountable. Of vital importance is to avoid further warping the governance dynamics as the Afghan Local Police program could do if not skillfully handled.

• Saving the best for last, Carlotta Gall of the New York Times has a report from the Taliban heartland — Zhare district in Kandahar Province. She writes: “Three months ago the area was an uninhabited war zone where Taliban fighters roamed freely. A Taliban flag flew over the village. But since mid-November the Taliban have retreated, punched hard by the influx of thousands of American and Afghan forces into the area, and Zhare has enjoyed more than two months of calm. American and Afghan forces are setting up joint bases across the district, in a strategic and deeply symbolic victory that they hope is part of a turning point in the war. … Villagers say the insurgents were so convincingly routed in the fall that while American troops remain in the area, the Taliban will not venture back. The fear many villagers had of the Taliban has melted away, at least here close to the military outpost.”

That is very heartening news. The real test of these gains will come in the spring and summer, when the Taliban traditionally attack — but there is little doubt that U.S. and allied forces are making significant gains in ejecting the Taliban from their strongholds.

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David Cameron’s Warning

At the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, Prime Minister David Cameron delivered a significant speech on what he calls “the doctrine of state multiculturalism.”

Mr. Cameron spoke about the weakening of Britain’s collective identity as it relates to young Muslims. He laid out what needs to be done to defeat the home-grown Islamist threat in the UK, first by confronting it in all its forms, and second by creating a clear sense of shared national identity that is open to everyone.

On this second point, Cameron said this:

[W]e must build stronger societies and stronger identities at home. Frankly, we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and a much more active, muscular liberalism. A passively tolerant society says to its citizens, as long as you obey the law we will just leave you alone. It stands neutral between different values. But I believe a genuinely liberal country does much more; it believes in certain values and actively promotes them. Freedom of speech, freedom of worship, democracy, the rule of law, equal rights regardless of race, sex or sexuality. It says to its citizens, this is what defines us as a society: to belong here is to believe in these things. Now, each of us in our own countries, I believe, must be unambiguous and hard-nosed about this defence of our liberty.

What that means in concrete terms, Cameron says, is educating people in the elements of a common culture and curriculum. What he’s arguing for, in short, is assimilation — the importance of citizens of a nation sharing certain common principles, common memories, and a common language.

In 1992 the late historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. wrote a book, The Disuniting of America, in which he warned about the cult of ethnicity in America, including the danger of “the fragmentation, resegregation, and tribalization of American life.” The historic idea of a unifying American identity was in peril in many arenas, he warned. “Will the melting pot give way to the Tower of Babel?” he asked.

Schlesinger’s concern has touched down on distant shores. The United Kingdom and much of the Western world are now struggling with how a nation respects diversity while holding itself together.

E pluribus unum is more than a motto; it is a fundamental part of citizenship in a free society. If a nation loses that, it has lost something precious. This is what David Cameron was saying in so many words.

At the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, Prime Minister David Cameron delivered a significant speech on what he calls “the doctrine of state multiculturalism.”

Mr. Cameron spoke about the weakening of Britain’s collective identity as it relates to young Muslims. He laid out what needs to be done to defeat the home-grown Islamist threat in the UK, first by confronting it in all its forms, and second by creating a clear sense of shared national identity that is open to everyone.

On this second point, Cameron said this:

[W]e must build stronger societies and stronger identities at home. Frankly, we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and a much more active, muscular liberalism. A passively tolerant society says to its citizens, as long as you obey the law we will just leave you alone. It stands neutral between different values. But I believe a genuinely liberal country does much more; it believes in certain values and actively promotes them. Freedom of speech, freedom of worship, democracy, the rule of law, equal rights regardless of race, sex or sexuality. It says to its citizens, this is what defines us as a society: to belong here is to believe in these things. Now, each of us in our own countries, I believe, must be unambiguous and hard-nosed about this defence of our liberty.

What that means in concrete terms, Cameron says, is educating people in the elements of a common culture and curriculum. What he’s arguing for, in short, is assimilation — the importance of citizens of a nation sharing certain common principles, common memories, and a common language.

In 1992 the late historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. wrote a book, The Disuniting of America, in which he warned about the cult of ethnicity in America, including the danger of “the fragmentation, resegregation, and tribalization of American life.” The historic idea of a unifying American identity was in peril in many arenas, he warned. “Will the melting pot give way to the Tower of Babel?” he asked.

Schlesinger’s concern has touched down on distant shores. The United Kingdom and much of the Western world are now struggling with how a nation respects diversity while holding itself together.

E pluribus unum is more than a motto; it is a fundamental part of citizenship in a free society. If a nation loses that, it has lost something precious. This is what David Cameron was saying in so many words.

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NAACP Double Standards on Common Cause Rally

Last summer, the NAACP passed a resolution that charged the Tea Party movement with racism, despite a lack of evidence to support this claim.

Ironically, the civil rights organization appears to be much more tolerant of well-documented racism at left-wing rallies. At a Common Cause–sponsored anti-Koch demonstration last week, protesters were caught on camera calling for Justice Clarence Thomas to be “sent back to the fields” and lynched. And yet, the Daily Caller is reporting, the NAACP has refused to address these comments:

In response to The Daily Caller’s request for comment on a video showing progressive protesters calling for somebody to “string up” African American Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, or “send him back into the fields” or “cut off all his toes and feed them to him one-by-one,” NAACP spokesman Hilary Shelton pointed to the organization’s recent resolution calling for a “civil political discourse.” …

Shelton would not, however, address the content of the video directly.

Shelton’s response to the Daily Caller seemed to imply that the statements at the Common Cause rally didn’t need to be addressed individually. But if the organization was focused on improving “civil discourse” in general, then why did the NAACP feel the need to single out the Tea Party at all?

Last July, the civil rights group condemned “the Tea Party’s continued tolerance for bigotry and bigoted statements” and said that “[t]he time has come for them to accept the responsibility that comes with influence and make clear there is no place for racism & anti-Semitism, homophobia and other forms of bigotry in their movement.”

The fact that the NAACP can’t do the same regarding the Common Cause rally — despite the fact that the bigoted statements were actually documented on camera — demonstrates a troubling double standard.

Last summer, the NAACP passed a resolution that charged the Tea Party movement with racism, despite a lack of evidence to support this claim.

Ironically, the civil rights organization appears to be much more tolerant of well-documented racism at left-wing rallies. At a Common Cause–sponsored anti-Koch demonstration last week, protesters were caught on camera calling for Justice Clarence Thomas to be “sent back to the fields” and lynched. And yet, the Daily Caller is reporting, the NAACP has refused to address these comments:

In response to The Daily Caller’s request for comment on a video showing progressive protesters calling for somebody to “string up” African American Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, or “send him back into the fields” or “cut off all his toes and feed them to him one-by-one,” NAACP spokesman Hilary Shelton pointed to the organization’s recent resolution calling for a “civil political discourse.” …

Shelton would not, however, address the content of the video directly.

Shelton’s response to the Daily Caller seemed to imply that the statements at the Common Cause rally didn’t need to be addressed individually. But if the organization was focused on improving “civil discourse” in general, then why did the NAACP feel the need to single out the Tea Party at all?

Last July, the civil rights group condemned “the Tea Party’s continued tolerance for bigotry and bigoted statements” and said that “[t]he time has come for them to accept the responsibility that comes with influence and make clear there is no place for racism & anti-Semitism, homophobia and other forms of bigotry in their movement.”

The fact that the NAACP can’t do the same regarding the Common Cause rally — despite the fact that the bigoted statements were actually documented on camera — demonstrates a troubling double standard.

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Even Cotton Mather Said, ‘Now Maybe That’s a Little Rough, Bad Rachel’

Bad Rachel, the Internet ID whose raging rhetoric makes Cotton Mather’s feel like nylon, offers a new piece of invective called “Dickens on the Potomac” on the follies of liberal presidencies so biting and ferocious you’d never guess she is her own family’s superego (she’s my sister). Sample:

There was no trace of Shakespeare, or Boston ward-heeling, or bootlegging, or vote-stealing, or Las Vegas crime-syndicating in the Clinton orbit, but Dickensian crudity there was in ample supply. That, if it occasionally seemed at odds with Bill’s rockin’-rollin’ technocraticism and Hillary’s holier-than-thou sexual-revolution priggishness—and their joint 1960s-born sense of entitlement—shimmered in the sub-tropical oleaginous Little Rock air, permeating their skins for nearly two decades before they arrived in Washington and unpacked the first generation of draft-dodging baby-boomers onto the White House lawn to grow there like Topsy.

Read the whole thing.

Bad Rachel, the Internet ID whose raging rhetoric makes Cotton Mather’s feel like nylon, offers a new piece of invective called “Dickens on the Potomac” on the follies of liberal presidencies so biting and ferocious you’d never guess she is her own family’s superego (she’s my sister). Sample:

There was no trace of Shakespeare, or Boston ward-heeling, or bootlegging, or vote-stealing, or Las Vegas crime-syndicating in the Clinton orbit, but Dickensian crudity there was in ample supply. That, if it occasionally seemed at odds with Bill’s rockin’-rollin’ technocraticism and Hillary’s holier-than-thou sexual-revolution priggishness—and their joint 1960s-born sense of entitlement—shimmered in the sub-tropical oleaginous Little Rock air, permeating their skins for nearly two decades before they arrived in Washington and unpacked the first generation of draft-dodging baby-boomers onto the White House lawn to grow there like Topsy.

Read the whole thing.

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