Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 11, 2011

Victory in Madison, Echoes in the Liberal Media

Not surprisingly, the liberal establishment is unhappy with what the Wisconsin legislature and governor have wrought. Robert Reich, absurdly, calls it a coup d’état. But if there was anything extralegal in what has transpired over the past month in  Madison, it was the vamoosing of the Democratic caucus of the Senate across a state line to prevent the Senate from conducting lawful business. The New York Times, at least, admits that what happened was the product of democratic government: “the outcome was probably inevitable given the Republican success in the 2010 elections.”

Both Reich and the Times claim that severing the collective bargaining reforms from the fiscal aspects of the bill — made necessary by the Democratic flight to Illinois — lays bare the real, nefarious purposes Governor Scott Walker and the Republican legislators were seeking. Reich wrote: “By severing the financial part of the bill (which couldn’t be passed without absent Democrats) from the part eliminating the collective bargaining rights of public employees (which could be), and then doing the latter, Wisconsin Republicans have made it crystal clear that their goal has had nothing whatever to do with the state budget. It’s been to bust the unions.” Says the Times: “they reluctantly exposed the real truth behind the maneuver: stripping the unions of their rights was never about the budget, especially once the unions had agreed to significant concessions on pensions and health care. It was always about politics.”

How passing one bill that calls for X and Y differs from passing two bills, one of which calls for X and the other for Y, Reich and the Times don’t bother to explain.

And, of course, in what is now inevitable in almost every liberal comment on American politics, it was all the fault of the Koch brothers. Reich hopes that the people of Wisconsin — who last November voted resoundingly for Republicans who promised to curb union power — will now see that “Walker and his cohorts are extremists willing to go to any lengths for their big-business patrons (including the billionaire Koch brothers).” The Times echoes: “Undermining public unions — and the support they give to Democrats — has been a long-sought goal of the Republican Party and many of its corporate backers. Koch Industries, one of the party’s biggest supporters, spent $1.2 million last year to help elect Mr. Walker.”

The nice thing about liberal political commentary these days, apparently, is that you only have to read one to know what all the others say as well.

Not surprisingly, the liberal establishment is unhappy with what the Wisconsin legislature and governor have wrought. Robert Reich, absurdly, calls it a coup d’état. But if there was anything extralegal in what has transpired over the past month in  Madison, it was the vamoosing of the Democratic caucus of the Senate across a state line to prevent the Senate from conducting lawful business. The New York Times, at least, admits that what happened was the product of democratic government: “the outcome was probably inevitable given the Republican success in the 2010 elections.”

Both Reich and the Times claim that severing the collective bargaining reforms from the fiscal aspects of the bill — made necessary by the Democratic flight to Illinois — lays bare the real, nefarious purposes Governor Scott Walker and the Republican legislators were seeking. Reich wrote: “By severing the financial part of the bill (which couldn’t be passed without absent Democrats) from the part eliminating the collective bargaining rights of public employees (which could be), and then doing the latter, Wisconsin Republicans have made it crystal clear that their goal has had nothing whatever to do with the state budget. It’s been to bust the unions.” Says the Times: “they reluctantly exposed the real truth behind the maneuver: stripping the unions of their rights was never about the budget, especially once the unions had agreed to significant concessions on pensions and health care. It was always about politics.”

How passing one bill that calls for X and Y differs from passing two bills, one of which calls for X and the other for Y, Reich and the Times don’t bother to explain.

And, of course, in what is now inevitable in almost every liberal comment on American politics, it was all the fault of the Koch brothers. Reich hopes that the people of Wisconsin — who last November voted resoundingly for Republicans who promised to curb union power — will now see that “Walker and his cohorts are extremists willing to go to any lengths for their big-business patrons (including the billionaire Koch brothers).” The Times echoes: “Undermining public unions — and the support they give to Democrats — has been a long-sought goal of the Republican Party and many of its corporate backers. Koch Industries, one of the party’s biggest supporters, spent $1.2 million last year to help elect Mr. Walker.”

The nice thing about liberal political commentary these days, apparently, is that you only have to read one to know what all the others say as well.

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For Obama, Appearances Substitute for Leadership

Having watched President Obama’s press conference from earlier today, I would say, on the matter of Libya, several things: (a) Colonel Qaddafi should come away from it deeply reassured; (b) Libyans courageously fighting to end Qaddafi’s tyranny should come away from it deeply dispirited; and (c) world leaders who are inclined to do something real and concrete to help the forces of liberation in Libya should assume they’ll have to lead. America will be of little help.

The president spoke a lot about being in “close consultation” on this and about engaging in a “series of conversations” on that. He said that he was going to take a look at a “wide range of actions” and he wasn’t going to “take any options off the table.”

Of course not.

Mr. Obama also reassured us that he’s going to “consider” a no-fly zone and that Americans are going to meet — next Tuesday! — to “discuss” that option. Thankfully there’s no rush.

The president, you see, is concerned about what’s happening in Libya. Really, he is. He’s just not willing to do anything that will alter the course of events. Not now, anyway. But don’t despair; the president is giving the appearance of doing something. Because that’s very important. Even if we don’t do anything substantial, after all, it’s important to look like you are. Because optics are everything, don’t you know?

The president will go on consulting and ruminating and conversing and considering. Meanwhile, the people of Libya will go on dying. And if Qaddafi does prevail in this struggle, there will be a cost to pay — not just for Libya but, as Michael Rubin laid out so well, for America as well.

Having watched President Obama’s press conference from earlier today, I would say, on the matter of Libya, several things: (a) Colonel Qaddafi should come away from it deeply reassured; (b) Libyans courageously fighting to end Qaddafi’s tyranny should come away from it deeply dispirited; and (c) world leaders who are inclined to do something real and concrete to help the forces of liberation in Libya should assume they’ll have to lead. America will be of little help.

The president spoke a lot about being in “close consultation” on this and about engaging in a “series of conversations” on that. He said that he was going to take a look at a “wide range of actions” and he wasn’t going to “take any options off the table.”

Of course not.

Mr. Obama also reassured us that he’s going to “consider” a no-fly zone and that Americans are going to meet — next Tuesday! — to “discuss” that option. Thankfully there’s no rush.

The president, you see, is concerned about what’s happening in Libya. Really, he is. He’s just not willing to do anything that will alter the course of events. Not now, anyway. But don’t despair; the president is giving the appearance of doing something. Because that’s very important. Even if we don’t do anything substantial, after all, it’s important to look like you are. Because optics are everything, don’t you know?

The president will go on consulting and ruminating and conversing and considering. Meanwhile, the people of Libya will go on dying. And if Qaddafi does prevail in this struggle, there will be a cost to pay — not just for Libya but, as Michael Rubin laid out so well, for America as well.

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Questions Surfacing About NPR Sting Videos

Yesterday, James O’Keefe released an audiotape that appeared to prove that NPR was willing to accept money from a conservative activist posing as the leader of a Muslim Brotherhood–affiliated organization.

But now NPR says that there’s more to the story. The news organization has released e-mail exchanges between its executives and the conservative activists that show that the conversation on the audiotape may be a bit misleading. Dave Weigel weighs in:

NPR’s representatives are polite, and never say they’re going to flat turn down the money. They just hint, very politely and strongly, that they can’t unless they know more. That doesn’t satisfy the complaint that conservatives have here — that the network should have turned down a donation from a group whose representatives were biased against Jews, etc — but it validates what NPR’s been saying.

In one of the e-mails, former NPR CEO Vivian Schiller writes that the group’s donation “would not need to be reported in the public part of the 990 but it would need to be reported to the IRS, including the name of the donating institution” — indicating that NPR wasn’t willing to shield donors from federal scrutiny, as the audiotape suggested.

This isn’t the first of the NPR sting videos to come under question. The Blaze, a conservative news site, watched the unedited video of former NPR executive Ron Schiller’s lunch meeting and found several inconsistencies.

For example, in the edited video, Schiller appears to be ranting about the Tea Party. But according to the Blaze, “the raw video reveals that he is largely recounting the views expressed to him by two top Republicans, one a former ambassador, who admitted to him that they voted for Obama.”

The Blaze also notes that there are two “glitches” in the video where the audio reloops, as well as another lost section of the video that the filmmaker claims was “redacted” for the “safety of a reporter in another country.” While these are likely and legitimate claims, there’s still no way to know what was said during that lapse in time.

This new information certainly doesn’t debunk the videos, but it does raise some concerns about the editing process. O’Keefe will probably release more NPR sting tapes in the coming days, and Republicans lawmakers should be careful about promoting those videos before they have a chance to be properly scrutinized.

Yesterday, James O’Keefe released an audiotape that appeared to prove that NPR was willing to accept money from a conservative activist posing as the leader of a Muslim Brotherhood–affiliated organization.

But now NPR says that there’s more to the story. The news organization has released e-mail exchanges between its executives and the conservative activists that show that the conversation on the audiotape may be a bit misleading. Dave Weigel weighs in:

NPR’s representatives are polite, and never say they’re going to flat turn down the money. They just hint, very politely and strongly, that they can’t unless they know more. That doesn’t satisfy the complaint that conservatives have here — that the network should have turned down a donation from a group whose representatives were biased against Jews, etc — but it validates what NPR’s been saying.

In one of the e-mails, former NPR CEO Vivian Schiller writes that the group’s donation “would not need to be reported in the public part of the 990 but it would need to be reported to the IRS, including the name of the donating institution” — indicating that NPR wasn’t willing to shield donors from federal scrutiny, as the audiotape suggested.

This isn’t the first of the NPR sting videos to come under question. The Blaze, a conservative news site, watched the unedited video of former NPR executive Ron Schiller’s lunch meeting and found several inconsistencies.

For example, in the edited video, Schiller appears to be ranting about the Tea Party. But according to the Blaze, “the raw video reveals that he is largely recounting the views expressed to him by two top Republicans, one a former ambassador, who admitted to him that they voted for Obama.”

The Blaze also notes that there are two “glitches” in the video where the audio reloops, as well as another lost section of the video that the filmmaker claims was “redacted” for the “safety of a reporter in another country.” While these are likely and legitimate claims, there’s still no way to know what was said during that lapse in time.

This new information certainly doesn’t debunk the videos, but it does raise some concerns about the editing process. O’Keefe will probably release more NPR sting tapes in the coming days, and Republicans lawmakers should be careful about promoting those videos before they have a chance to be properly scrutinized.

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Brandeis Jewish Groups Spar Over Anti-Israel Boycotts

The campus Hillel at Brandeis, to its credit, has rejected the anti-Israel group Jewish Voice for Peace’s application for membership. JVP has supported boycotts of Israeli products, and if it had became a member of Hillel, it would then have been eligible for funding through the organization:

This week, in the latest clash on the Waltham campus over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Hillel at Brandeis refused to accept Jewish Voice for Peace, which urges divestment from companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories and urges boycotts of goods made there.

In its decision, Hillel’s 11-member student board cited the international Hillel organization’s policy against affiliating with groups that “support boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the State of Israel.’’

This entire incident smacks of a publicity stunt, especially since it’s playing out during “Israel Apartheid Week.”

According to the Boston Globe, JVP “said the rejection showed that Hillel, an international organization that supports Jewish life on more than 500 campuses, had imposed an ideological litmus test for inclusion.”

J Street U, the campus arm of J Street, has also criticized Hillel’s decision. While J Street has claimed to be opposed to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, it has recently indicated that it’s becoming more open to the campaign. At the J Street national conference last month, the group held a panel on BDS that included supporters of the movement.

The campus Hillel at Brandeis, to its credit, has rejected the anti-Israel group Jewish Voice for Peace’s application for membership. JVP has supported boycotts of Israeli products, and if it had became a member of Hillel, it would then have been eligible for funding through the organization:

This week, in the latest clash on the Waltham campus over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Hillel at Brandeis refused to accept Jewish Voice for Peace, which urges divestment from companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories and urges boycotts of goods made there.

In its decision, Hillel’s 11-member student board cited the international Hillel organization’s policy against affiliating with groups that “support boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the State of Israel.’’

This entire incident smacks of a publicity stunt, especially since it’s playing out during “Israel Apartheid Week.”

According to the Boston Globe, JVP “said the rejection showed that Hillel, an international organization that supports Jewish life on more than 500 campuses, had imposed an ideological litmus test for inclusion.”

J Street U, the campus arm of J Street, has also criticized Hillel’s decision. While J Street has claimed to be opposed to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, it has recently indicated that it’s becoming more open to the campaign. At the J Street national conference last month, the group held a panel on BDS that included supporters of the movement.

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Will Obama Give Stealth-Fighter Secrets to Iran and China?

Plans continue apace to sell Turkey our next generation F-35 Joint Strike fighter. While Turkey is part of a consortium and will help build the fuselage, its participation is a diplomatic nicety rather than a necessity. Even so, the fuselage does not contain the top-secret electronics and other technology that the increasingly antagonistic Turks might share with their new partners in Iran and China. After all, Turkey’s new intelligence head is known to be an Islamic Republic groupie, and Turkey earlier hosted aerial war games with the Chinese air force without first informing the Pentagon or NATO.

Against this backdrop, it is good news that the Turks are now complaining that the United States is reluctant to give them flight codes for the new fighters. Let’s hope that President Obama will not concede when Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, calls to complain.

Given the propensity and ability of both the Iranians and Chinese to reverse-engineer, it would be far better if the United States declined to sell any F-35s to Turkey. Alas, Senators Carl Levin and John McCain are asleep at the switch: the Senate Armed Services Committee has not even required that the Pentagon report to Congress on the vulnerability of F-35 technology leakage should the United States sell any planes to Turkey.

Plans continue apace to sell Turkey our next generation F-35 Joint Strike fighter. While Turkey is part of a consortium and will help build the fuselage, its participation is a diplomatic nicety rather than a necessity. Even so, the fuselage does not contain the top-secret electronics and other technology that the increasingly antagonistic Turks might share with their new partners in Iran and China. After all, Turkey’s new intelligence head is known to be an Islamic Republic groupie, and Turkey earlier hosted aerial war games with the Chinese air force without first informing the Pentagon or NATO.

Against this backdrop, it is good news that the Turks are now complaining that the United States is reluctant to give them flight codes for the new fighters. Let’s hope that President Obama will not concede when Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, calls to complain.

Given the propensity and ability of both the Iranians and Chinese to reverse-engineer, it would be far better if the United States declined to sell any F-35s to Turkey. Alas, Senators Carl Levin and John McCain are asleep at the switch: the Senate Armed Services Committee has not even required that the Pentagon report to Congress on the vulnerability of F-35 technology leakage should the United States sell any planes to Turkey.

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State Department Spokesman: Bradley Manning Is Being ‘Mistreated’ in Prison

It’s hard to believe that the State Department spokesman, P.J. Crowley, not exactly one to shoot from the hip, would come out with a statement like this. But the Guardian is reporting that during a lecture an MIT, Crowley had some surprisingly harsh words about the Pentagon’s treatment of accused WikiLeaks leaker Pfc. Bradley Manning:

Hillary Clinton’s spokesman has launched a public attack on the Pentagon for the way it is treating military prisoner Bradley Manning, the US soldier suspected of handing the US embassy cables to WikiLeaks.

PJ Crowley, the assistant secretary of state for public affairs at the US state department, has said Manning is being “mistreated” in the military brig at Quantico, Virginia. “What is being done to Bradley Manning is ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid on the part of the department of defence.”

But how accurate is this report? There were no recordings of the event, and Crowley’s statement was written up by blogger Philippa Thomas, a former BBC correspondent who is now a Neiman Journalism Fellow at Harvard.

While there’s no reason to doubt Thomas’s account, it’s unclear what the context of Crowley’s statement was. He said that “[w]hat is being done to Bradley Manning is ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid on the part of the Department of Defense” — but what exactly was he referring to? Was Crowley unhappy about the treatment of Manning, or about how that treatment was handled from a public-relations perspective? It’s hard to tell from that sentence alone.

Either way, the “Free Manning” movement is continuing to gain traction. Yesterday, Amnesty International slammed the Obama administration over Manning’s alleged mistreatment in prison. This Manning issue, along with President Obama’s recent continuation of military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay, already seems to be driving a wedge between the administration and the antiwar left.

It’s hard to believe that the State Department spokesman, P.J. Crowley, not exactly one to shoot from the hip, would come out with a statement like this. But the Guardian is reporting that during a lecture an MIT, Crowley had some surprisingly harsh words about the Pentagon’s treatment of accused WikiLeaks leaker Pfc. Bradley Manning:

Hillary Clinton’s spokesman has launched a public attack on the Pentagon for the way it is treating military prisoner Bradley Manning, the US soldier suspected of handing the US embassy cables to WikiLeaks.

PJ Crowley, the assistant secretary of state for public affairs at the US state department, has said Manning is being “mistreated” in the military brig at Quantico, Virginia. “What is being done to Bradley Manning is ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid on the part of the department of defence.”

But how accurate is this report? There were no recordings of the event, and Crowley’s statement was written up by blogger Philippa Thomas, a former BBC correspondent who is now a Neiman Journalism Fellow at Harvard.

While there’s no reason to doubt Thomas’s account, it’s unclear what the context of Crowley’s statement was. He said that “[w]hat is being done to Bradley Manning is ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid on the part of the Department of Defense” — but what exactly was he referring to? Was Crowley unhappy about the treatment of Manning, or about how that treatment was handled from a public-relations perspective? It’s hard to tell from that sentence alone.

Either way, the “Free Manning” movement is continuing to gain traction. Yesterday, Amnesty International slammed the Obama administration over Manning’s alleged mistreatment in prison. This Manning issue, along with President Obama’s recent continuation of military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay, already seems to be driving a wedge between the administration and the antiwar left.

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Update on Afghanistan

In his Washington Post column, Michael Gerson, writing from Helmand Province, gives his assessment of the Afghanistan war. According to Gerson: “The Afghan surge — involving about 40,000 additional coalition forces and more than 70,000 new recruits to the Afghan army and police — has made swift progress. And these advances are accumulating into a strategy. Coalition forces are moving north up the Helmand River valley, connecting their gains to Kandahar next door, hoping to expand the security bubble toward Kabul.”

“For the first time since the [earliest stage] of the Afghan war,” Secretary Gates told Gerson, we have “the resources, both civilian and military, and the strategy in place … to actually put us on the path to success, rather than sort of holding our own.” The mission, in his view, has been refocused on achievable goals: “Deny the Taliban control of populated areas. Degrade their capabilities. And expand Afghan national security forces to the point where they can handle a degraded Taliban threat.” And when asked how this fighting season differs from that past 10, Gates said, “When [the Taliban forces] come back this spring, it’s no longer their home-court advantage. We hold the home-court advantage now.”

On the same subject, Afghanistan, Jack Keane (along with several others) was interviewed by Charlie Rose earlier this week. General Keane, who just returned from Afghanistan, where he did an assessment, was asked for his views. General Keane said he’s seen a “dramatic turnaround in the momentum in security,” particularly in Helmand and Kandahar Provinces. According to Keane, areas the Taliban used to control are now controlled by us. We’ve taken out the Taliban’s logistical infrastructure, and the Afghanistan people are aligning with us. Hence we’ve seen a “major momentum shift in our favor.”

This doesn’t mean the war is won, by any stretch of the imagination, and certainly problems (like corruption) with the Karzai government remain. But progress is being made, even as much of the country, and even some within the conservative movement, grow tired of this war. Thankfully, those in charge of actually waging the war have not grown weary in doing good.

In his Washington Post column, Michael Gerson, writing from Helmand Province, gives his assessment of the Afghanistan war. According to Gerson: “The Afghan surge — involving about 40,000 additional coalition forces and more than 70,000 new recruits to the Afghan army and police — has made swift progress. And these advances are accumulating into a strategy. Coalition forces are moving north up the Helmand River valley, connecting their gains to Kandahar next door, hoping to expand the security bubble toward Kabul.”

“For the first time since the [earliest stage] of the Afghan war,” Secretary Gates told Gerson, we have “the resources, both civilian and military, and the strategy in place … to actually put us on the path to success, rather than sort of holding our own.” The mission, in his view, has been refocused on achievable goals: “Deny the Taliban control of populated areas. Degrade their capabilities. And expand Afghan national security forces to the point where they can handle a degraded Taliban threat.” And when asked how this fighting season differs from that past 10, Gates said, “When [the Taliban forces] come back this spring, it’s no longer their home-court advantage. We hold the home-court advantage now.”

On the same subject, Afghanistan, Jack Keane (along with several others) was interviewed by Charlie Rose earlier this week. General Keane, who just returned from Afghanistan, where he did an assessment, was asked for his views. General Keane said he’s seen a “dramatic turnaround in the momentum in security,” particularly in Helmand and Kandahar Provinces. According to Keane, areas the Taliban used to control are now controlled by us. We’ve taken out the Taliban’s logistical infrastructure, and the Afghanistan people are aligning with us. Hence we’ve seen a “major momentum shift in our favor.”

This doesn’t mean the war is won, by any stretch of the imagination, and certainly problems (like corruption) with the Karzai government remain. But progress is being made, even as much of the country, and even some within the conservative movement, grow tired of this war. Thankfully, those in charge of actually waging the war have not grown weary in doing good.

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The Costs of Obama’s Libya Inaction

It never ceases to amaze me how those who publicly embrace human rights the most are also the most willing to stand aside as massacres occur. Bill Clinton and Kofi Annan stood down as Rwandan thugs massacred hundreds of thousands along tribal lines, and Jimmy Carter continues to kowtow to the worst dictatorships in Asia and Africa. That these leaders still demonize the younger Bush for liberating some 40 million people is simply the icing on the cake.

Still, many serious analysts argue that, human rights aside, American involvement in Libya is simply not a U.S. interest. While I disagree with him, National Review’s Andy McCarthy is always worth reading, and he expresses this view eloquently here.

The problem with passivity, however, is that should Qaddafi reconsolidate control in Libya, he will not simply return to the status quo ante. Qaddafi may have suspended terror sponsorship, but he never acknowledged terrorism’s illegitimacy. Traveling through Europe on his first trip to the continent since Lockerbie, Qaddafi threatened to return to violence should he not get his way diplomatically. “We do hope that we shall not be obliged or forced one day to go back to those days where we bomb our cars or put explosive belts around our beds and around our women,” he told a Brussels press conference. Revelations that Qaddafi squirreled billions of dollars away suggest that the Libyan leader did not intend to adhere to his nuclear commitments. When Saddam Hussein reconsolidated power in 1991 and when Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez returned to power in 2002, both Iraq and Venezuela became engines for far greater destabilization. Read More

It never ceases to amaze me how those who publicly embrace human rights the most are also the most willing to stand aside as massacres occur. Bill Clinton and Kofi Annan stood down as Rwandan thugs massacred hundreds of thousands along tribal lines, and Jimmy Carter continues to kowtow to the worst dictatorships in Asia and Africa. That these leaders still demonize the younger Bush for liberating some 40 million people is simply the icing on the cake.

Still, many serious analysts argue that, human rights aside, American involvement in Libya is simply not a U.S. interest. While I disagree with him, National Review’s Andy McCarthy is always worth reading, and he expresses this view eloquently here.

The problem with passivity, however, is that should Qaddafi reconsolidate control in Libya, he will not simply return to the status quo ante. Qaddafi may have suspended terror sponsorship, but he never acknowledged terrorism’s illegitimacy. Traveling through Europe on his first trip to the continent since Lockerbie, Qaddafi threatened to return to violence should he not get his way diplomatically. “We do hope that we shall not be obliged or forced one day to go back to those days where we bomb our cars or put explosive belts around our beds and around our women,” he told a Brussels press conference. Revelations that Qaddafi squirreled billions of dollars away suggest that the Libyan leader did not intend to adhere to his nuclear commitments. When Saddam Hussein reconsolidated power in 1991 and when Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez returned to power in 2002, both Iraq and Venezuela became engines for far greater destabilization.

When the delusional and paranoid Qaddafi returns to power, the United States, Europe, and Arab leaders must prepare for the scorned dictator to revert to his past behavior. Terrorists around the world, be they Abu Sayyaf bands in the Philippines; Palestinian radicals in Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, and the West Bank; brutal rebels in Liberia and Sierra Leone; or perhaps Irish extremists might once again win Libya’s largesse. Qaddafi will rightly conclude that the age of Reagan has passed: the United States and Europe are all talk, no action. Why not sponsor more Lockerbies? The worst that might happen is that some hapless Libyan bomber will have to spend 11.5 days in prison for every life he snuffs out.

Libya does not exist in isolation. If the lesson Middle Eastern regimes drew after the Egyptian and Tunisian uprisings was that reform could be the key to survival, Qaddafi’s return to power will signal the wisdom of pre-emptive repression. Both in Saudi Arabia and Iraqi Kurdistan, traditional American allies, authorities now fire into crowds at the slightest provocation. Qaddafi may be responsible for the massacres in Libya, and Barzani for the shootings in Iraqi Kurdistan, but ultimately Arabs and Kurds will blame America for supporting their respective madmen.

Should Qaddafi return to power, American interests will not win, nor will stability return to the region. The only winner might be someone like David Welch, one of the State Department’s best and brightest, who, with the moral compass too common among senior American Foreign Service officers, decided upon his retirement to cash in on the ties he cultivated with Qaddafi. Both Americans and Libyans deserve better.

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Senators Call on State Department to Get Tough on Chinese Business Dealings with Iran

A bipartisan group of senators, led by Sen. John Kyl and Sen. Robert Menendez, is asking the State Department to crack down on Chinese companies doing business with Iran, Foreign Policy’s the Cable is reporting.

The lawmakers sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, asking for the results of a State Department investigation into the business dealings between Chinese and Iranian companies:

“It appears that Chinese firms in the energy and banking sectors have conducted significant activity in violation of U.S. law,” the senators stated. “We cannot afford to create the impression that China will be given free rein to conduct economic activity in Iran when more responsible nations have chosen to follow the course we have asked of them. We are sure you agree.”

The State Department’s Bob Einhorn is briefing senators on Capitol Hill on this very issue on Friday, a senior GOP Senate aide told The Cable.

In remarks at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on Wednesday, Einhorn addressed the issue directly, saying that “we continue to have concerns about the transfer of proliferation-sensitive equipment and materials to Iran by Chinese companies, there is substantial evidence that Beijing has taken a cautious, go-slow approach toward its energy cooperation with Iran.”

The Cable reports that the results of the State Department investigation, which began in late September, should be available by March 26. President Obama pledged to punish firms doing business with the regime last summer, and it’s time for the administration to follow through.

A bipartisan group of senators, led by Sen. John Kyl and Sen. Robert Menendez, is asking the State Department to crack down on Chinese companies doing business with Iran, Foreign Policy’s the Cable is reporting.

The lawmakers sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, asking for the results of a State Department investigation into the business dealings between Chinese and Iranian companies:

“It appears that Chinese firms in the energy and banking sectors have conducted significant activity in violation of U.S. law,” the senators stated. “We cannot afford to create the impression that China will be given free rein to conduct economic activity in Iran when more responsible nations have chosen to follow the course we have asked of them. We are sure you agree.”

The State Department’s Bob Einhorn is briefing senators on Capitol Hill on this very issue on Friday, a senior GOP Senate aide told The Cable.

In remarks at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on Wednesday, Einhorn addressed the issue directly, saying that “we continue to have concerns about the transfer of proliferation-sensitive equipment and materials to Iran by Chinese companies, there is substantial evidence that Beijing has taken a cautious, go-slow approach toward its energy cooperation with Iran.”

The Cable reports that the results of the State Department investigation, which began in late September, should be available by March 26. President Obama pledged to punish firms doing business with the regime last summer, and it’s time for the administration to follow through.

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Obama Declares Bond Between U.S. and Japan ‘Unshakeable’

Is there no statement so benign that these guys can’t turn it into a platitudinous mess?

President Obama sent his condolences to the people of Japan over the devastating 8.9 magnitude earthquake, and declared that the United States stands ready to offer aid because of the “unshakeable” (sic) bond between the two nations.

Pathos-laden prose is almost never good prose, and things have become pointedly bad when you can’t tell one from the other. You start off thinking you’re writing for a modern-day Pericles and instead you end up with Don Quixote.

Is there no statement so benign that these guys can’t turn it into a platitudinous mess?

President Obama sent his condolences to the people of Japan over the devastating 8.9 magnitude earthquake, and declared that the United States stands ready to offer aid because of the “unshakeable” (sic) bond between the two nations.

Pathos-laden prose is almost never good prose, and things have become pointedly bad when you can’t tell one from the other. You start off thinking you’re writing for a modern-day Pericles and instead you end up with Don Quixote.

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Environmentalists Against Iranian Nuclear Power?

John Podhoretz is right to note how the nuclear plant fire in Japan is going to impact the drive to renew nuclear power in the United States. One lesson to be drawn: perhaps nuclear power does not belong in earthquake zones. It is just a shame that so many on the left who profess true environmental concern remain so silent about Iran’s construction of nuclear power stations. Iran, after all, is one giant earthquake zone. Because of the prevailing winds, should an earthquake in Bushehr destroy the reactor, Qatar and Abu Dhabi are toast. Not to worry, however. The Russians helped with design and construction, so perhaps that’s grounds for the Greens’ extra confidence?

John Podhoretz is right to note how the nuclear plant fire in Japan is going to impact the drive to renew nuclear power in the United States. One lesson to be drawn: perhaps nuclear power does not belong in earthquake zones. It is just a shame that so many on the left who profess true environmental concern remain so silent about Iran’s construction of nuclear power stations. Iran, after all, is one giant earthquake zone. Because of the prevailing winds, should an earthquake in Bushehr destroy the reactor, Qatar and Abu Dhabi are toast. Not to worry, however. The Russians helped with design and construction, so perhaps that’s grounds for the Greens’ extra confidence?

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Re: The Unfolding Horror in Japan

Japan has suffered a quake so powerful that — when all is said and done — we’ll likely discover that it quite literally shook the Earth slightly off its axis. Dozens of aftershocks have registered above 6.0 on the Richter Scale, and of course the country has been hit by a devastating tsunami. At least one nuclear reactor is on fire, as are countless other energy facilities. The death toll will be in the hundreds if not — God forbid — the thousands.

Despite all that, the trains in Tokyo are running again. Narita airport is allowing limited air traffic, and that includes commercial traffic. Disaster response has been orderly, up to and including finding time to formally notify the IAEA about the status of Japan’s nuclear reactors, which if Twitter is any guide seem to be holding their own when it comes to containing radiation.

This is how an industrialized society with a responsive government — and a decent civil society to keep that government responsive — handles disasters. As a small example: regulations can be onerous and often unnecessary, but everyone today is happy that Japan’s building codes are as stringent as they are. They’re why we’re not going to be talking about anything approaching the scale of devastation in Haiti. If nothing else, Japan will accept and distribute emergency aid on its own, and that’ll be that. Society won’t descend into anarchy.

In between, as we listen to commentary today about the fragility of humanity and the sublime power of nature, let’s keep in mind that the Japanese were very clearly not impotent in the face of today’s disaster. They were prepared, thanks to a stable government and civil institutions, and to long-term industrialization.

Whether those institutions can take hold anywhere — and what the prerequisites are for building them — is a different question. But that they can in some small way buttress humanity against nature’s pre-industrial fury seems undeniable, and the evidence for that is that the Ginza line is running right now.

Japan has suffered a quake so powerful that — when all is said and done — we’ll likely discover that it quite literally shook the Earth slightly off its axis. Dozens of aftershocks have registered above 6.0 on the Richter Scale, and of course the country has been hit by a devastating tsunami. At least one nuclear reactor is on fire, as are countless other energy facilities. The death toll will be in the hundreds if not — God forbid — the thousands.

Despite all that, the trains in Tokyo are running again. Narita airport is allowing limited air traffic, and that includes commercial traffic. Disaster response has been orderly, up to and including finding time to formally notify the IAEA about the status of Japan’s nuclear reactors, which if Twitter is any guide seem to be holding their own when it comes to containing radiation.

This is how an industrialized society with a responsive government — and a decent civil society to keep that government responsive — handles disasters. As a small example: regulations can be onerous and often unnecessary, but everyone today is happy that Japan’s building codes are as stringent as they are. They’re why we’re not going to be talking about anything approaching the scale of devastation in Haiti. If nothing else, Japan will accept and distribute emergency aid on its own, and that’ll be that. Society won’t descend into anarchy.

In between, as we listen to commentary today about the fragility of humanity and the sublime power of nature, let’s keep in mind that the Japanese were very clearly not impotent in the face of today’s disaster. They were prepared, thanks to a stable government and civil institutions, and to long-term industrialization.

Whether those institutions can take hold anywhere — and what the prerequisites are for building them — is a different question. But that they can in some small way buttress humanity against nature’s pre-industrial fury seems undeniable, and the evidence for that is that the Ginza line is running right now.

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Coming to the Rescue of a Jackal

At a congressional hearing yesterday, the director of National Intelligence (DNI), James Clapper, said about the regime of Muammar Qaddafi that “over the long term … the regime will prevail.”

The White House distanced itself from Clapper’s comments even as National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon said, “The president is very happy with the performance of General Clapper.”

It’s hard to imagine why.

General Clapper’s comments must have been an enormous encouragement to Colonel Qaddafi, increasing the odds that he’ll stay in power and continue massacring the Libyan opposition. And any progress we might have made at convincing the Libyan military to turn on Qaddafi has been completely washed away. Our DNI has now declared him to be the “strong horse” and the eventual winner in this conflict. Why would they turn on him now?

General Clapper’s comments also must have been a tremendous blow to those in Libya fighting to end the Qaddafi tyranny, making it clear to them that we believe their defeat is foreordained. That is not, in fact, the case. Clapper’s views may reflect his judgment, and the tide has certainly turned in the favor of Qaddafi in recent days. But things still hang in the balance, which is why actions the United States and our allies take in the next several days could be decisive. To have our DNI declare that the embattled Qaddafi is the winner actually makes that outcome more likely.

As for the signal Clapper’s comments sent to our allies: they came on the very day that, according to press reports, the French were urging air strikes against Qaddafi’s command headquarters, and Britain and France are drafting the no-fly zone resolution for possible consideration by the Security Council (“James Clapper says Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi will prevail,” a BBC headline read).

General Clapper’s comments need to be placed in a wider context. In Iran in 2009, during the popular uprising against the mullahs, President Obama early on cast his lot with Amadinejad, Khamenei, and Company, believing they would prevail. The president was concerned that speaking out for the forces of emancipation would hurt U.S. relations with the Iranian theocracy. So as the Iranian people pleaded for American assistance, even for American rhetorical support, they received almost nothing at all.

Now fast-forward to 2011, when the director of National Intelligence is, intentionally or not, tipping the scales against the forces of liberation in Libya. We are (unwittingly) coming to the rescue of a jackal.

These are not hard cases. Whatever form it takes, supporting opposition to the Iranian and Libyan regimes is not an instance of our moral values and national interests colliding. Quite the opposite. Yet the Obama administration is at best passive (Iran) and at worst unwittingly assisting (Libya) the forces of tyranny.

It’s hard to imagine how we are going to win over the hearts and minds of a new generation of Arabs when the United States is, for all practical purposes, taking the side of the oppressor, the dictator, the despot.

At a congressional hearing yesterday, the director of National Intelligence (DNI), James Clapper, said about the regime of Muammar Qaddafi that “over the long term … the regime will prevail.”

The White House distanced itself from Clapper’s comments even as National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon said, “The president is very happy with the performance of General Clapper.”

It’s hard to imagine why.

General Clapper’s comments must have been an enormous encouragement to Colonel Qaddafi, increasing the odds that he’ll stay in power and continue massacring the Libyan opposition. And any progress we might have made at convincing the Libyan military to turn on Qaddafi has been completely washed away. Our DNI has now declared him to be the “strong horse” and the eventual winner in this conflict. Why would they turn on him now?

General Clapper’s comments also must have been a tremendous blow to those in Libya fighting to end the Qaddafi tyranny, making it clear to them that we believe their defeat is foreordained. That is not, in fact, the case. Clapper’s views may reflect his judgment, and the tide has certainly turned in the favor of Qaddafi in recent days. But things still hang in the balance, which is why actions the United States and our allies take in the next several days could be decisive. To have our DNI declare that the embattled Qaddafi is the winner actually makes that outcome more likely.

As for the signal Clapper’s comments sent to our allies: they came on the very day that, according to press reports, the French were urging air strikes against Qaddafi’s command headquarters, and Britain and France are drafting the no-fly zone resolution for possible consideration by the Security Council (“James Clapper says Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi will prevail,” a BBC headline read).

General Clapper’s comments need to be placed in a wider context. In Iran in 2009, during the popular uprising against the mullahs, President Obama early on cast his lot with Amadinejad, Khamenei, and Company, believing they would prevail. The president was concerned that speaking out for the forces of emancipation would hurt U.S. relations with the Iranian theocracy. So as the Iranian people pleaded for American assistance, even for American rhetorical support, they received almost nothing at all.

Now fast-forward to 2011, when the director of National Intelligence is, intentionally or not, tipping the scales against the forces of liberation in Libya. We are (unwittingly) coming to the rescue of a jackal.

These are not hard cases. Whatever form it takes, supporting opposition to the Iranian and Libyan regimes is not an instance of our moral values and national interests colliding. Quite the opposite. Yet the Obama administration is at best passive (Iran) and at worst unwittingly assisting (Libya) the forces of tyranny.

It’s hard to imagine how we are going to win over the hearts and minds of a new generation of Arabs when the United States is, for all practical purposes, taking the side of the oppressor, the dictator, the despot.

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Revisiting Obama’s Cairo Speech

As President Obama abdicates both leadership and principle in the wake of Muammar Qaddafi’s slaughter of civilians in Libya, the Saudi Kingdom’s repression of dissent, and the shooting of protesters in Iraqi Kurdistan, it may be worthwhile for him to revisit his address to the Muslim world that he delivered in Cairo on June 4, 2009:

That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things:  the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. These are not just American ideas; they are human rights. And that is why we will support them everywhere. Read More

As President Obama abdicates both leadership and principle in the wake of Muammar Qaddafi’s slaughter of civilians in Libya, the Saudi Kingdom’s repression of dissent, and the shooting of protesters in Iraqi Kurdistan, it may be worthwhile for him to revisit his address to the Muslim world that he delivered in Cairo on June 4, 2009:

That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things:  the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. These are not just American ideas; they are human rights. And that is why we will support them everywhere.

Now, there is no straight line to realize this promise. But this much is clear: Governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments — provided they govern with respect for all their people. This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they’re out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others.

So no matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who would hold power: You must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.

It may be time for President Obama to reread his words and act more like a president than a pundit. George H.W. Bush gave the shameful Chicken Kiev speech but stepped up to the plate when it mattered. How unfortunate it is that President Obama is so willing to say the right things but sit on his hands when it matters.

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The Unfolding Horror in Japan

Two quick thoughts relating to the news out of Japan:

1. If the “nuclear emergency” at the power plant that is failing to cool its core gets worse, it will be the end of the renewed talk in the United States and elsewhere about the use of nuclear power, just as Three Mile Island ended the new construction of nuclear plants in the United States and Chernobyl slowed the progress worldwide.

2. At the dawn of the new millennium, in the wake of the 2004 tsunami and Katrina and now this earthquake-tsunami, the world is being reintroduced to the kind of feeling of powerlessness in the face of natural occurrences that characterized the human race from the dawn of time until the modern scientific era seemed to indicate we could control conditions that had formerly buffeted humanity.

Two quick thoughts relating to the news out of Japan:

1. If the “nuclear emergency” at the power plant that is failing to cool its core gets worse, it will be the end of the renewed talk in the United States and elsewhere about the use of nuclear power, just as Three Mile Island ended the new construction of nuclear plants in the United States and Chernobyl slowed the progress worldwide.

2. At the dawn of the new millennium, in the wake of the 2004 tsunami and Katrina and now this earthquake-tsunami, the world is being reintroduced to the kind of feeling of powerlessness in the face of natural occurrences that characterized the human race from the dawn of time until the modern scientific era seemed to indicate we could control conditions that had formerly buffeted humanity.

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