Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 17, 2011

Vote to Defund NPR a Blow Struck for Liberty

The House voted today to defund National Public Radio in what turned out to be a party-line 228-192 vote, with only seven Republicans and all Democrats present opposed. It is unlikely to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate, and there is always the possibility of a presidential veto if it does make it through the upper chamber. But though this may be a symbolic vote, it was a gesture worth making. The argument for government-subsidized broadcasting is weak and getting weaker all the time.

Despite the brouhaha over the recent embarrassing statements made by NPR execs and their disgraceful behavior during the firing of Juan Williams last year, those controversies are simply symbols for what is truly wrong with the network. There is simply no rationale for taxpayers to be financing the left-leaning NPR. The sense of entitlement to taxpayer dollars for their pet projects is such that liberal mouthpieces like the New York Times not only don’t seem to understand why this practice is inherently illegitimate but also don’t think they even have to bother making an argument on behalf of preserving this sinecure. In its editorial denouncing the House for even considering axing NPR funding, the Gray Lady claims that criticism of the network is “politicized” even as they acknowledge its liberal bias. They think that just because they believe it is a quality news source, it is entitled to be subsidized by everyone, including those who find its slanted coverage appalling.

The Times claims that NPR’s audience is growing and that even a lot of Republicans listen to it. If that is so, then we have to ask why it cannot compete in the marketplace against privately owned stations that have no hold on the nation’s purse strings. Contrary to the Times’s assertion, the vote against NPR was indeed a “blow for liberty.” It may be just the first chapter of a long fight that may only be concluded in a future congressional session, but it is worth fighting and there is little question about the ultimate outcome. Government-funded liberal radio is on the way out. It’s just a question of time before NPR is forced to fend for itself in the marketplace of ideas — the way our founders intended a free press to operate.

The House voted today to defund National Public Radio in what turned out to be a party-line 228-192 vote, with only seven Republicans and all Democrats present opposed. It is unlikely to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate, and there is always the possibility of a presidential veto if it does make it through the upper chamber. But though this may be a symbolic vote, it was a gesture worth making. The argument for government-subsidized broadcasting is weak and getting weaker all the time.

Despite the brouhaha over the recent embarrassing statements made by NPR execs and their disgraceful behavior during the firing of Juan Williams last year, those controversies are simply symbols for what is truly wrong with the network. There is simply no rationale for taxpayers to be financing the left-leaning NPR. The sense of entitlement to taxpayer dollars for their pet projects is such that liberal mouthpieces like the New York Times not only don’t seem to understand why this practice is inherently illegitimate but also don’t think they even have to bother making an argument on behalf of preserving this sinecure. In its editorial denouncing the House for even considering axing NPR funding, the Gray Lady claims that criticism of the network is “politicized” even as they acknowledge its liberal bias. They think that just because they believe it is a quality news source, it is entitled to be subsidized by everyone, including those who find its slanted coverage appalling.

The Times claims that NPR’s audience is growing and that even a lot of Republicans listen to it. If that is so, then we have to ask why it cannot compete in the marketplace against privately owned stations that have no hold on the nation’s purse strings. Contrary to the Times’s assertion, the vote against NPR was indeed a “blow for liberty.” It may be just the first chapter of a long fight that may only be concluded in a future congressional session, but it is worth fighting and there is little question about the ultimate outcome. Government-funded liberal radio is on the way out. It’s just a question of time before NPR is forced to fend for itself in the marketplace of ideas — the way our founders intended a free press to operate.

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China, Turkey, and a Waiting World: Armed and Active

Americans need less of a reminder today than we did a year ago that the world waiting beyond U.S. power and international consensus is not a gentle, stable one. But the reminders are accelerating. Two cropped up this week on opposite ends of Asia.

In Taiwan, Tsai Der-Sheng, the director of the National Security Bureau, briefed a legislative committee on China’s deployment across the strait of what he characterized as an entirely new type of ballistic missile. According to Tsai, the new missile’s destructive capacity is beyond anything previously deployed with the Chinese forces. The range of the missile, which he called the “Dongfeng-16,” would allow China to target U.S. facilities in Guam and Okinawa as well as Taiwan.

One Western analyst suggests that the new missile may be an upgraded version of the Dongfeng-15 (or DF-15), a tactical ballistic missile in service for some time with the Chinese army. That may be clarified in the coming days; what is more significant about this situation is that there has been no notice from foreign intelligence agencies that China was developing either a wholly new DF-16 or an upgrade like this one to the DF-15. The implication of that is that China’s missile-development cycle has been — at least in this case — considerably shorter than in the past, when Chinese development efforts were recognized and tracked for years before weapons were fielded with the operating forces. Read More

Americans need less of a reminder today than we did a year ago that the world waiting beyond U.S. power and international consensus is not a gentle, stable one. But the reminders are accelerating. Two cropped up this week on opposite ends of Asia.

In Taiwan, Tsai Der-Sheng, the director of the National Security Bureau, briefed a legislative committee on China’s deployment across the strait of what he characterized as an entirely new type of ballistic missile. According to Tsai, the new missile’s destructive capacity is beyond anything previously deployed with the Chinese forces. The range of the missile, which he called the “Dongfeng-16,” would allow China to target U.S. facilities in Guam and Okinawa as well as Taiwan.

One Western analyst suggests that the new missile may be an upgraded version of the Dongfeng-15 (or DF-15), a tactical ballistic missile in service for some time with the Chinese army. That may be clarified in the coming days; what is more significant about this situation is that there has been no notice from foreign intelligence agencies that China was developing either a wholly new DF-16 or an upgrade like this one to the DF-15. The implication of that is that China’s missile-development cycle has been — at least in this case — considerably shorter than in the past, when Chinese development efforts were recognized and tracked for years before weapons were fielded with the operating forces.

At the other end of Asia, Greece has lodged a complaint with Turkey for sending a warship to interfere with an Italian cable-tending ship operating in an international strait in the Aegean Sea. The Italian ship has Greece’s approval for its activities, which involve entering Greek waters. The delineation of territorial waters is a particularly sticky problem in the Aegean; it is not self-evident which competing interpretation — Turkey’s or Greece’s — is “correct.”  But the ascendancy of NATO and U.S. maritime power has held this and other such disputes in check for decades.

Not surprisingly, the cable-laying operation in question is related to an agreement between Italy and Israel to install an undersea communications cable linking the two countries. Industry analysts suggest that the cable will position Israel as the region’s most attractive high-speed communications hub. It’s becoming a pattern for a weapon system to pop up where economic activity is expected to benefit Israel — but the broader perspective on this trend is equally worrisome.

In the past 40 years, the Mediterranean has been almost entirely free of the kind of maritime intimidation regularly attempted by China against its neighbors. A Turkish warship harassing one of Italy’s civilian cable ships, as it operates under contract to Alcatel-Lucent, is the kind of threat China has used against third parties’ marine assets in its economic disputes with Vietnam. No particular armed vigilance has been required to discourage such power moves in the Mediterranean — as long as the U.S. and other NATO leaders were perceived to have the will to counter them. Small incidents like this one in the Aegean are early indicators that that perception has changed.

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Ahmadinejad’s Chief of Staff Coming to U.S. Tomorrow

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, is planning to come to the U.S. tomorrow to attend a meeting at the United Nations, just days after the UN secretary-general released a report detailing the human-rights violations in Iran.

Mashaei, like other members of the Iranian regime, is culpable for the countless human-rights abuses that take place in his country, and it’s astounding and disturbing that the Obama administration would allow him to enter the U.S.

Mashaei’s visit has unsurprisingly sparked concern from Republican Sen. Mark Kirk, who plans to address this issue on the floor of the Senate this evening. According to Kirk’s prepared remarks, he’ll call on President Obama to designate Mashaei and others in the Iranian regime as human-rights abusers, under Executive Order 13553.

“Let there be no doubt — Mr. Mashaei, like his President, is directly responsible for human rights abuses in Iran. He should not be granted a visa to enter the United States — and he, like his President, should be designated under U.S. law as a human rights abuser in Iran,” Kirk is expected to say.

The senator will also outline the numerous abuses by the Iranian government outlined in the latest UN report, including the findings that “[a]t least 22 people charged with Mohareb [enmity against God] have been executed since January 2010. Journalists, bloggers, human rights defenders and lawyers continue to be arrested or subjected to travel bans. Blogs and websites are restricted and now more than 10 national dailies have been shut down for refusing to toe the official line.”

According to Kirk, the U.S. “cannot allow these violations to go unnoticed. Nor can we continue to turn a blind eye to the countless prisoners of conscience fighting for basic human dignity in this brutal dictatorship.”

Will the Obama administration support the people of Iran by barring Mashaei from the country? Or will he be allowed to travel with impunity? If he does come to New York, it will be most interesting to see if activist groups like Human Rights Watch — which regularly attempt to arrest U.S. and Israeli politicians for “war crimes” — will protest the arrival of an actual human-rights abuser. Somehow, I doubt it.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, is planning to come to the U.S. tomorrow to attend a meeting at the United Nations, just days after the UN secretary-general released a report detailing the human-rights violations in Iran.

Mashaei, like other members of the Iranian regime, is culpable for the countless human-rights abuses that take place in his country, and it’s astounding and disturbing that the Obama administration would allow him to enter the U.S.

Mashaei’s visit has unsurprisingly sparked concern from Republican Sen. Mark Kirk, who plans to address this issue on the floor of the Senate this evening. According to Kirk’s prepared remarks, he’ll call on President Obama to designate Mashaei and others in the Iranian regime as human-rights abusers, under Executive Order 13553.

“Let there be no doubt — Mr. Mashaei, like his President, is directly responsible for human rights abuses in Iran. He should not be granted a visa to enter the United States — and he, like his President, should be designated under U.S. law as a human rights abuser in Iran,” Kirk is expected to say.

The senator will also outline the numerous abuses by the Iranian government outlined in the latest UN report, including the findings that “[a]t least 22 people charged with Mohareb [enmity against God] have been executed since January 2010. Journalists, bloggers, human rights defenders and lawyers continue to be arrested or subjected to travel bans. Blogs and websites are restricted and now more than 10 national dailies have been shut down for refusing to toe the official line.”

According to Kirk, the U.S. “cannot allow these violations to go unnoticed. Nor can we continue to turn a blind eye to the countless prisoners of conscience fighting for basic human dignity in this brutal dictatorship.”

Will the Obama administration support the people of Iran by barring Mashaei from the country? Or will he be allowed to travel with impunity? If he does come to New York, it will be most interesting to see if activist groups like Human Rights Watch — which regularly attempt to arrest U.S. and Israeli politicians for “war crimes” — will protest the arrival of an actual human-rights abuser. Somehow, I doubt it.

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Boycotting Some Jews but Not Others Is Not Part of the Pro-Israel Consensus

As Alana has noted, pro-Israel organizations face some difficult dilemmas when dealing with Jewish groups that support some boycotts of Israelis but not others.

I understand the position enunciated by Martin Raffel of the Jewish Council on Public Affairs, who has been organizing the Israel Action Network that was set up to fight the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement aimed at isolating Israel. Along with the rest of the organized Jewish world, he is hoping to build as broad a coalition as possible to fight the BDS crowd while still drawing a clear distinction between those who support Israel’s right to exist and those who don’t. And to do that, he needs to bring in left-wingers who are opposed to Israel’s settlement movement, since the goal of BDS is not to force Israel out of the West Bank or even Jerusalem but to eliminate it entirely.

Anyone who counts himself a supporter of Israel, no matter where their opinion might be about settlements, ought to be welcome in the battle to stop BDS. The problem here is not whether to attempt to build a broad-based coalition that might include some individuals or groups whose opinions about Israel are strongly opposed by the rest of the pro-Israel community. The problem is that coalitions tend to be ruled by their extremes. And if in order to maintain a consensus to oppose the economic war on Israel’s existence mainstream groups have to kowtow to leftists who seek to delegitimize some Israelis, there is a grave danger that such a position may be wrongly portrayed as part of a community consensus when it is nothing of the kind. Read More

As Alana has noted, pro-Israel organizations face some difficult dilemmas when dealing with Jewish groups that support some boycotts of Israelis but not others.

I understand the position enunciated by Martin Raffel of the Jewish Council on Public Affairs, who has been organizing the Israel Action Network that was set up to fight the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement aimed at isolating Israel. Along with the rest of the organized Jewish world, he is hoping to build as broad a coalition as possible to fight the BDS crowd while still drawing a clear distinction between those who support Israel’s right to exist and those who don’t. And to do that, he needs to bring in left-wingers who are opposed to Israel’s settlement movement, since the goal of BDS is not to force Israel out of the West Bank or even Jerusalem but to eliminate it entirely.

Anyone who counts himself a supporter of Israel, no matter where their opinion might be about settlements, ought to be welcome in the battle to stop BDS. The problem here is not whether to attempt to build a broad-based coalition that might include some individuals or groups whose opinions about Israel are strongly opposed by the rest of the pro-Israel community. The problem is that coalitions tend to be ruled by their extremes. And if in order to maintain a consensus to oppose the economic war on Israel’s existence mainstream groups have to kowtow to leftists who seek to delegitimize some Israelis, there is a grave danger that such a position may be wrongly portrayed as part of a community consensus when it is nothing of the kind.

In combating BDS, it needs to be understood that Israel’s foes make no distinction between even the most remote West Bank settlement and Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem. Indeed, most see little difference between unpopulated West Bank hilltop outposts and a city inside the green line like Tel Aviv, whose inhabitants largely oppose settlements. That is why those who oppose settlements for what they believe are Zionist reasons ought to reconsider support for boycotts of them, because they lend legitimacy to attacks on Israel as a whole. Indeed, it is somewhat ironic for left-wing Jews who seek to ostracize the right-wing settlers to complain about the mainstream pro-Israel community ostracizing them because of their willingness to boycott some Jews but not others.

BDS is an attack not just on Israelis but on the Jewish people as a whole, since their national liberation movement is singled out for ostracism in a way that no other people’s rights are treated. What this assault on the legitimacy of Zionism ought to remind us of is that the internal Jewish squabbles about where to draw Israel’s borders are irrelevant to this existential struggle for Israel’s survival. Thus, while I don’t oppose the Jewish Action Network’s desire to cast as wide a net as possible in organizing opposition to BDS, its leaders need to clearly enunciate a position that deprecates the boycotting of any pro-Zionist Jew or any Israeli because of his politics or where she lives. We can agree to disagree about the wisdom of maintaining the settlements, but we should not be neutral about delegitimizing fellow members of the pro-Israel community.

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Muslim Woman Removed from Flight Blames Rep. Peter King

Rep. Peter King has held only one hearing on homegrown Muslim radicalization, and already he’s being blamed for alleged injustices occurring in California:

A Muslim woman said Wednesday that she wants a Southwest Airlines crew disciplined for removing her from a flight for wearing a headscarf. …

[Irum] Abbasi attributed her removal to growing anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S. and said that it was a direct result of the congressional hearing called by Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., on the radicalization of U.S. Muslims.

Abbasi’s case is being taken up by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which has been the focus of criticism at the hearings.

It’s safe to assume that the people screaming the loudest about the King hearing never even watched it. Because if they had tuned in, they’d have seen that a great deal of the hearing was spent praising the Muslim community and the Islamic religion. They’d have seen that half the witnesses were Muslim, and that the Democrats used their speaking time to whine continuously about their objections to the hearing, to ramble about the Constitution, and to proclaim that Christians could be terrorists too (as if anyone had ever tried to argue otherwise).

The main object of concern at the hearing were corrupt self-proclaimed Muslim leaders like CAIR, not general members of the Islamic community. And that’s why it won’t be a surprise if CAIR starts ramping up its efforts to tie the hearings to “Islamophobic” incidents. The end goal, of course, is to put an end to such inquiries altogether.

By the way, if Rep. King is directly responsible for anti-Muslim incidents on airplanes, then who’s to blame for Jews getting kicked off planes for praying with tefillin?

Rep. Peter King has held only one hearing on homegrown Muslim radicalization, and already he’s being blamed for alleged injustices occurring in California:

A Muslim woman said Wednesday that she wants a Southwest Airlines crew disciplined for removing her from a flight for wearing a headscarf. …

[Irum] Abbasi attributed her removal to growing anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S. and said that it was a direct result of the congressional hearing called by Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., on the radicalization of U.S. Muslims.

Abbasi’s case is being taken up by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which has been the focus of criticism at the hearings.

It’s safe to assume that the people screaming the loudest about the King hearing never even watched it. Because if they had tuned in, they’d have seen that a great deal of the hearing was spent praising the Muslim community and the Islamic religion. They’d have seen that half the witnesses were Muslim, and that the Democrats used their speaking time to whine continuously about their objections to the hearing, to ramble about the Constitution, and to proclaim that Christians could be terrorists too (as if anyone had ever tried to argue otherwise).

The main object of concern at the hearing were corrupt self-proclaimed Muslim leaders like CAIR, not general members of the Islamic community. And that’s why it won’t be a surprise if CAIR starts ramping up its efforts to tie the hearings to “Islamophobic” incidents. The end goal, of course, is to put an end to such inquiries altogether.

By the way, if Rep. King is directly responsible for anti-Muslim incidents on airplanes, then who’s to blame for Jews getting kicked off planes for praying with tefillin?

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Libya Provides Obama and America with Another Conscience Check

Time may be running out to do something to prevent Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi from crushing a popular rebellion. While Qaddafi recovered from the initial shock of the revolt, President Obama characteristically dithered over what to do about it. Weeks after even the New York Times editorial page endorsed imposing a no-fly zone in Libya, the administration is finally asking the United Nations to approve such a measure, even though it would almost certainly serve only to salve our consciences, since it will be too little and too late to stop Qaddafi.

Obama’s inaction was to be expected. His administration came into office believing that the promotion of a democracy agenda abroad, let alone supporting regime change in Arab autocracies and Islamist tyrannies, was a discredited George W. Bush policy that should be avoided at all costs. The result of this belief was America’s timid response to the brutal crackdown in Iran following a stolen election and the half-hearted and uncertain reaction to the recent wave of uprisings in the Middle East. The president and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hoped Qaddafi would be eliminated as easily as were dictators in Tunisia and Egypt, but the Libyan’s grim determination to hold on has provided the United States with yet another conscience check that we appear to be failing.

An unlikely source of some good sense about this strategy comes from the New York Times’s Roger Cohen, who writes today that a no-fly zone is a half-measure that will likely accomplish nothing, just as a similar tactic employed against the Serbs was no bar to the continuance of atrocities in Bosnia. A no-fly zone also failed to help the Kurds in Iraq after the first Gulf War. But like Obama, Cohen’s desire to help the Libyans is overwhelmed by his core belief that almost any American intervention is, a priori, illegitimate. Cohen rightly notes that the Rwandan genocide was made possible because America’s intervention in the Sudan had soured the Clinton administration on foreign adventures. He wonders whether what he considers the “fiasco” of Iraq (since he ignores the fact that American forces ultimately prevailed following the 2007 surge) will allow “rivers of blood” to flow in Sudan. Cohen is right when he suggests that the only viable options available to the United States are inaction or an all-out military push to overthrow Qaddafi. Though he lays out the pros and cons of intervention, it is clear that his disbelief in the possibility of anything good coming from the employment of U.S. power is strong enough to overcome his sympathy for Qaddafi’s victims. Read More

Time may be running out to do something to prevent Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi from crushing a popular rebellion. While Qaddafi recovered from the initial shock of the revolt, President Obama characteristically dithered over what to do about it. Weeks after even the New York Times editorial page endorsed imposing a no-fly zone in Libya, the administration is finally asking the United Nations to approve such a measure, even though it would almost certainly serve only to salve our consciences, since it will be too little and too late to stop Qaddafi.

Obama’s inaction was to be expected. His administration came into office believing that the promotion of a democracy agenda abroad, let alone supporting regime change in Arab autocracies and Islamist tyrannies, was a discredited George W. Bush policy that should be avoided at all costs. The result of this belief was America’s timid response to the brutal crackdown in Iran following a stolen election and the half-hearted and uncertain reaction to the recent wave of uprisings in the Middle East. The president and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hoped Qaddafi would be eliminated as easily as were dictators in Tunisia and Egypt, but the Libyan’s grim determination to hold on has provided the United States with yet another conscience check that we appear to be failing.

An unlikely source of some good sense about this strategy comes from the New York Times’s Roger Cohen, who writes today that a no-fly zone is a half-measure that will likely accomplish nothing, just as a similar tactic employed against the Serbs was no bar to the continuance of atrocities in Bosnia. A no-fly zone also failed to help the Kurds in Iraq after the first Gulf War. But like Obama, Cohen’s desire to help the Libyans is overwhelmed by his core belief that almost any American intervention is, a priori, illegitimate. Cohen rightly notes that the Rwandan genocide was made possible because America’s intervention in the Sudan had soured the Clinton administration on foreign adventures. He wonders whether what he considers the “fiasco” of Iraq (since he ignores the fact that American forces ultimately prevailed following the 2007 surge) will allow “rivers of blood” to flow in Sudan. Cohen is right when he suggests that the only viable options available to the United States are inaction or an all-out military push to overthrow Qaddafi. Though he lays out the pros and cons of intervention, it is clear that his disbelief in the possibility of anything good coming from the employment of U.S. power is strong enough to overcome his sympathy for Qaddafi’s victims.

As disturbing as Cohen’s conclusion may be, his column is a step up from the commentary we hearing from most liberal pundits about Libya these days. Of course, anything would sound sophisticated when compared with the ranting of his Times colleague Maureen Dowd about the subject, but even more considered writers such as Politico’s Roger Simon, who asks good questions about the Libyan rebels, doesn’t consider either the strategic or the moral consequences of American passivity.

The consequences of a Qaddafi victory will be terrible for Libya, but they will also present grave problems for the United States. In recent years, after America’s post 9/11 interventions in the Middle East, Qaddafi raised the white flag after decades of anti-Western misbehavior. He abandoned funding for terrorists, as well as his WMD programs. A post-revolt Qaddafi regime may well return to his earlier predilection for deadly mischief (think the Lockerbie plane-bombing), since he will probably feel, with good reason, that the West will have proved unwilling to stop him.

The decision that President Obama faces is a difficult one fraught with perils. But merely standing by while “rivers of blood” are shed is a poor excuse for a foreign policy, especially when such inaction will also heighten threats to American security. If Obama, and by extension America, fails this test collective test of conscience, it won’t only be Libyans who will wind up paying for it.

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With Friends Like These: Jewish Federation’s ‘Anti-Boycott’ Group Says Israel Boycotts Are Acceptable

Yesterday, the Jewish Week ran an article that claimed there was a “consensus” forming in the Jewish community that it’s perfectly fine to boycott the settlements. In the article, Israel Action Network leader Martin Raffel says that boycotts of Israel are acceptable as long as they are targeted at the settlements.

The fact that Jewish leaders are making this argument is bad enough on its own. But here’s the bigger problem: the Israel Action Network is no shabby left-wing gang of activists. It’s a multimillion-dollar project funded by the Jewish Federations of North America, created for the sole purpose of combating the boycott movement. Here’s the description of the group from the Jewish Federation’s press release last October:

UJA-Federation is a lead supporter of the Israel Action Network, an initiative of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) in cooperation with the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA). The Israel Action Network is a major initiative to protect Israel against a campaign that seeks to isolate the Jewish state in the international arena, and which uses boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) as its principal tool.

Through the Israel Action Network, JFNA will help prepare communities to both meet urgent situations and develop long-term strategies to promote a fair and balanced understanding of Israel and Middle East issues.

And as the leader of this anti-boycott initiative, Raffel seems to be finding ways to apologize for and excuse delegitimizers instead of combating them.

“If a person believes that Israel ought to do more to achieve peace based on a two-state formula, the question is, will boycotting a settlement advance the day that there will be peace? I’d argue that no, it will only harden positions and be counterproductive,” Raffel told the Jewish Week in December, “but being misguided in one’s policies doesn’t mean one necessarily has become part of the ranks of the delegitimizers.”

This week, Raffel told the paper that the group Meretz USA, which supports a targeted boycott of products made in the settlements, “is fully supportive of the Jewish state and it repudiates the BDS movement.”

How is a targeted boycott of settlement goods not a part of the BDS movement? And what exactly is the point of sinking millions of dollars of Jewish communal money into a task force to fight Israeli boycotts if this task force ends up legitimizing the delegitimizers?

The Israel Action Network was founded on a good premise, but if Raffel’s statements are indicative of the sort of “action” the group will be taking, then it doesn’t seem to be serving the best interests of American Jewry.

Yesterday, the Jewish Week ran an article that claimed there was a “consensus” forming in the Jewish community that it’s perfectly fine to boycott the settlements. In the article, Israel Action Network leader Martin Raffel says that boycotts of Israel are acceptable as long as they are targeted at the settlements.

The fact that Jewish leaders are making this argument is bad enough on its own. But here’s the bigger problem: the Israel Action Network is no shabby left-wing gang of activists. It’s a multimillion-dollar project funded by the Jewish Federations of North America, created for the sole purpose of combating the boycott movement. Here’s the description of the group from the Jewish Federation’s press release last October:

UJA-Federation is a lead supporter of the Israel Action Network, an initiative of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) in cooperation with the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA). The Israel Action Network is a major initiative to protect Israel against a campaign that seeks to isolate the Jewish state in the international arena, and which uses boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) as its principal tool.

Through the Israel Action Network, JFNA will help prepare communities to both meet urgent situations and develop long-term strategies to promote a fair and balanced understanding of Israel and Middle East issues.

And as the leader of this anti-boycott initiative, Raffel seems to be finding ways to apologize for and excuse delegitimizers instead of combating them.

“If a person believes that Israel ought to do more to achieve peace based on a two-state formula, the question is, will boycotting a settlement advance the day that there will be peace? I’d argue that no, it will only harden positions and be counterproductive,” Raffel told the Jewish Week in December, “but being misguided in one’s policies doesn’t mean one necessarily has become part of the ranks of the delegitimizers.”

This week, Raffel told the paper that the group Meretz USA, which supports a targeted boycott of products made in the settlements, “is fully supportive of the Jewish state and it repudiates the BDS movement.”

How is a targeted boycott of settlement goods not a part of the BDS movement? And what exactly is the point of sinking millions of dollars of Jewish communal money into a task force to fight Israeli boycotts if this task force ends up legitimizing the delegitimizers?

The Israel Action Network was founded on a good premise, but if Raffel’s statements are indicative of the sort of “action” the group will be taking, then it doesn’t seem to be serving the best interests of American Jewry.

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The Bystander Presidency

The National Republican Congressional Committee has a new ad, “All Talk, No Action,” which criticizes President Obama on the deficit. Whether it’s effective or not, I’m not sure; but it is playing into a larger, and potentially dangerous, narrative about Obama: that he’s disengaged, passive, a bystander, a better commentator on than shaper of events. We have seen his weakness and ambivalence on Libya, on Egypt, and in regard to the 2009 uprising in Iran. And of course, we’re seeing it now in our entitlement crisis, where Obama is worse than Missing in Action. He actually has taken steps to make the problem significantly worse, most especially with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and is now laying in the weeds, waiting for congressional Republicans to address the problem.

Whether this approach proves effective will depend on events and the condition of the country. If voters perceive things to be getting better as we approach the 2012 election, then Obama’s posture will be seen by many people as prudent. But if things appear to be drifting out of control — if Obama looks like a cork being tossed about in the sea — then this impression can be politically lethal.

As a general matter, Americans want their presidents to be strong, principled people who lead rather than follow. They’re not used to taking a back seat to, say, the Arab League and the French when it comes to taking a stand and shaping the course of events. It increasingly appears that we have in Obama a man who, in many cases at least, is inclined to vote “present.”

My hunch is that’s a problem, one that will eventually catch up with him.

The National Republican Congressional Committee has a new ad, “All Talk, No Action,” which criticizes President Obama on the deficit. Whether it’s effective or not, I’m not sure; but it is playing into a larger, and potentially dangerous, narrative about Obama: that he’s disengaged, passive, a bystander, a better commentator on than shaper of events. We have seen his weakness and ambivalence on Libya, on Egypt, and in regard to the 2009 uprising in Iran. And of course, we’re seeing it now in our entitlement crisis, where Obama is worse than Missing in Action. He actually has taken steps to make the problem significantly worse, most especially with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and is now laying in the weeds, waiting for congressional Republicans to address the problem.

Whether this approach proves effective will depend on events and the condition of the country. If voters perceive things to be getting better as we approach the 2012 election, then Obama’s posture will be seen by many people as prudent. But if things appear to be drifting out of control — if Obama looks like a cork being tossed about in the sea — then this impression can be politically lethal.

As a general matter, Americans want their presidents to be strong, principled people who lead rather than follow. They’re not used to taking a back seat to, say, the Arab League and the French when it comes to taking a stand and shaping the course of events. It increasingly appears that we have in Obama a man who, in many cases at least, is inclined to vote “present.”

My hunch is that’s a problem, one that will eventually catch up with him.

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Clinton Peeved Over Obama’s ‘Amateur Night’ Foreign Policy Shop

President Obama’s inaction on Libya isn’t baffling just the international community — it’s also causing major conflicts within his own administration, according to the Daily. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was unhappy with how Obama handled the uprising in Egypt, but it is his waffling on Libya that has sent her over the edge, the Daily reports:

Fed up with a president “who can’t make his mind up” as Libyan rebels are on the brink of defeat, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is looking to the exits.

At the tail end of her mission to bolster the Libyan opposition, which has suffered days of losses to Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s forces, Clinton announced that she’s done with Obama after 2012 — even if he wins again.

And that clash with Obama may have led to Clinton’s decision to step down from the State Department in 2012. She told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer yesterday that she wouldn’t take on a second term as secretary of state or serve in another capacity in the administration.

“Obviously, she’s not happy with dealing with a president who can’t decide if today is Tuesday or Wednesday, who can’t make his mind up,” a Clinton insider told the Daily. “She’s exhausted, tired.”

The source compared Clinton’s job to “playing sports with a bunch of amateurs.”

It sounds like Clinton is tired of taking the fall for Obama’s poor decisions. As Peter Wehner noted, the secretary of state was snubbed by an Egyptian youth-group coalition during her visit to Cairo this week, because the coalition felt that the U.S. didn’t support the protest movement quickly enough.

And the Daily points out how close Clinton has grown to the Libyan opposition movement, even allowing the former members of the Libyan Embassy to work out of offices in the State Department. If that’s any indication of where her sympathies lie, then she’s sure to be fuming over Obama’s nonchalance on the issue.

President Obama’s inaction on Libya isn’t baffling just the international community — it’s also causing major conflicts within his own administration, according to the Daily. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was unhappy with how Obama handled the uprising in Egypt, but it is his waffling on Libya that has sent her over the edge, the Daily reports:

Fed up with a president “who can’t make his mind up” as Libyan rebels are on the brink of defeat, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is looking to the exits.

At the tail end of her mission to bolster the Libyan opposition, which has suffered days of losses to Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s forces, Clinton announced that she’s done with Obama after 2012 — even if he wins again.

And that clash with Obama may have led to Clinton’s decision to step down from the State Department in 2012. She told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer yesterday that she wouldn’t take on a second term as secretary of state or serve in another capacity in the administration.

“Obviously, she’s not happy with dealing with a president who can’t decide if today is Tuesday or Wednesday, who can’t make his mind up,” a Clinton insider told the Daily. “She’s exhausted, tired.”

The source compared Clinton’s job to “playing sports with a bunch of amateurs.”

It sounds like Clinton is tired of taking the fall for Obama’s poor decisions. As Peter Wehner noted, the secretary of state was snubbed by an Egyptian youth-group coalition during her visit to Cairo this week, because the coalition felt that the U.S. didn’t support the protest movement quickly enough.

And the Daily points out how close Clinton has grown to the Libyan opposition movement, even allowing the former members of the Libyan Embassy to work out of offices in the State Department. If that’s any indication of where her sympathies lie, then she’s sure to be fuming over Obama’s nonchalance on the issue.

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Poll Shows Majority Against Government Shutdown

A CNN/Opinion Research poll contains a set of numbers that are somewhat problematic for Republicans. Asked whether a government shutdown for a few days is a good thing or a bad thing, 59 percent of those questioned said it was bad, while 36 percent said it was good. The split among independents is 59 percent (bad) vs. 35 percent (good). But among Tea Party members, the figure is flipped: 62 percent think a government shutdown would be a good thing, while 34 percent do not.

What you have, then, is a very active element within the GOP base advocating something most of the public opposes.

My own view is that the attention and focus on the Continuing Resolution (CR) and a government shutdown are secondary to the much larger issue we face: whether and how to reform entitlements. For Tea Party activists in particular, that should be the focus of their attention and energy. Shutting down the government for a few days or a few weeks may or may not be a good idea on substance (I think a shutdown would be a net negative), but in the larger scheme of things, it’s of almost no importance at all. Yet among conservative activists, one can sense the growing unhappiness, even antipathy, for House Republicans’ refusal to cut more from the CR and failure to embrace the prospect of a government shutdown. There is almost an eagerness to give up on House Republicans even before the fiscal fight has been fully engaged.

That is, I think, a mistake — or at least premature. In a matter of weeks, Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan will be releasing the FY2012 budget, which will include entitlement reforms. That will be the time to judge the fiscal seriousness of the new GOP House leadership. And that will also be the time to judge the level of seriousness not just of congressional Republicans but also of conservative activists. Will they mobilize for reforms in Medicare with the same enthusiasm that they want to cut NPR and the Legal Services Corporation?

I’m all for cutting domestic programs. But we shouldn’t kid ourselves: entitlements are where the action is. And House Republicans are about to go where no previous Congress has ever gone. On this, the acid test of limited government, I hope the Tea Party and conservative activists will be willing to engage the debate with vigor and passion.

A CNN/Opinion Research poll contains a set of numbers that are somewhat problematic for Republicans. Asked whether a government shutdown for a few days is a good thing or a bad thing, 59 percent of those questioned said it was bad, while 36 percent said it was good. The split among independents is 59 percent (bad) vs. 35 percent (good). But among Tea Party members, the figure is flipped: 62 percent think a government shutdown would be a good thing, while 34 percent do not.

What you have, then, is a very active element within the GOP base advocating something most of the public opposes.

My own view is that the attention and focus on the Continuing Resolution (CR) and a government shutdown are secondary to the much larger issue we face: whether and how to reform entitlements. For Tea Party activists in particular, that should be the focus of their attention and energy. Shutting down the government for a few days or a few weeks may or may not be a good idea on substance (I think a shutdown would be a net negative), but in the larger scheme of things, it’s of almost no importance at all. Yet among conservative activists, one can sense the growing unhappiness, even antipathy, for House Republicans’ refusal to cut more from the CR and failure to embrace the prospect of a government shutdown. There is almost an eagerness to give up on House Republicans even before the fiscal fight has been fully engaged.

That is, I think, a mistake — or at least premature. In a matter of weeks, Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan will be releasing the FY2012 budget, which will include entitlement reforms. That will be the time to judge the fiscal seriousness of the new GOP House leadership. And that will also be the time to judge the level of seriousness not just of congressional Republicans but also of conservative activists. Will they mobilize for reforms in Medicare with the same enthusiasm that they want to cut NPR and the Legal Services Corporation?

I’m all for cutting domestic programs. But we shouldn’t kid ourselves: entitlements are where the action is. And House Republicans are about to go where no previous Congress has ever gone. On this, the acid test of limited government, I hope the Tea Party and conservative activists will be willing to engage the debate with vigor and passion.

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House to Vote on NPR Funding Today

Capping off a bad couple of weeks for National Public Radio, the House is set to vote on whether to defund the news organization today:

The House of Representatives has scheduled a vote Thursday on a bill that would bar federal funding for National Public Radio.

The move to pull funds from the public broadcasting outlet comes after a conservative activist secretly taped an NPR executive criticizing Tea Party supporters and saying NPR would be better off without federal money.

The bill is likely to pass in the House, but has almost no chance of passing in the Senate. And while Republicans have largely avoided tying the bill to the recent NPR sting tapes released by James O’Keefe, Democrats are apparently using the videos in an attempt to rally opposition to the bill:

Oregon Democratic Rep Earl Blumenauer circulated a letter to House members Tuesday citing press reports that he said demonstrated the conservative activist who set up the taping, James O’Keefe, “deceptively edited” the video to target NPR.

Today O’Keefe released his latest NPR sting video, which appears to show that George Soros’s Open Society Institute was a long-time donor to the news organization. While Soros’s $1.8 million donation to NPR last October was heavily publicized at the time, the extent of his contributions to the news organization weren’t widely known:

In conservative James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas’s third major National Public Radio (NPR) sting tape release, Betsy Liley, the taxpayer-funded radio network’s director of institutional giving is heard saying controversial left-wing billionaire George Soros has donated to the organization before last October’s $1.8 million gift.

On the tape, Liley is heard telling one of the conservative activists that “I think the first gift [from Soros] was within the first year he set up the Foundation, which was 10 or 15 years ago. … But, it was a different political situation and current events were a little different, and so, it went through — I was not here, but I think it went — there wasn’t a press hullabaloo.”

This isn’t exactly a bombshell. It’s common knowledge that Soros has contributed to NPR, and unless the news organization had previously denied that he was a donor (which it hasn’t, as far as I know), then it’s not really an issue.

Capping off a bad couple of weeks for National Public Radio, the House is set to vote on whether to defund the news organization today:

The House of Representatives has scheduled a vote Thursday on a bill that would bar federal funding for National Public Radio.

The move to pull funds from the public broadcasting outlet comes after a conservative activist secretly taped an NPR executive criticizing Tea Party supporters and saying NPR would be better off without federal money.

The bill is likely to pass in the House, but has almost no chance of passing in the Senate. And while Republicans have largely avoided tying the bill to the recent NPR sting tapes released by James O’Keefe, Democrats are apparently using the videos in an attempt to rally opposition to the bill:

Oregon Democratic Rep Earl Blumenauer circulated a letter to House members Tuesday citing press reports that he said demonstrated the conservative activist who set up the taping, James O’Keefe, “deceptively edited” the video to target NPR.

Today O’Keefe released his latest NPR sting video, which appears to show that George Soros’s Open Society Institute was a long-time donor to the news organization. While Soros’s $1.8 million donation to NPR last October was heavily publicized at the time, the extent of his contributions to the news organization weren’t widely known:

In conservative James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas’s third major National Public Radio (NPR) sting tape release, Betsy Liley, the taxpayer-funded radio network’s director of institutional giving is heard saying controversial left-wing billionaire George Soros has donated to the organization before last October’s $1.8 million gift.

On the tape, Liley is heard telling one of the conservative activists that “I think the first gift [from Soros] was within the first year he set up the Foundation, which was 10 or 15 years ago. … But, it was a different political situation and current events were a little different, and so, it went through — I was not here, but I think it went — there wasn’t a press hullabaloo.”

This isn’t exactly a bombshell. It’s common knowledge that Soros has contributed to NPR, and unless the news organization had previously denied that he was a donor (which it hasn’t, as far as I know), then it’s not really an issue.

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Answering Mark Levin’s Challenge

On his Facebook page, Mark Levin takes exception to some of us who have said critical words about Sarah Palin.

In his response, Mark groups Karl Rove, David Frum, and me, all of whom served in the Bush administration. While having gracious words to say about me, Mark argues that “Bush’s record, at best, is marginally conservative, and depending on the issue, worse.” He raises this point not to compare Bush to Palin, he says, but “to point out only a few of the situational aspects of the criticism from the Bush community corner.” He adds parenthetically that “If necessary, and if challenged, I will take the time to lay out the case in all its particulars, as well as other non-conservative Bush policies and statements. No Republican president is perfect, of course, but certainly some are more perfect that others, if you will.”

The gold standard for Levin is Ronald Reagan, which got me to thinking: from a conservative policy perspective, how does Bush’s record stand up to Reagan’s?

Let’s start with illegal immigration. Levin has excoriated Bush for being weak on illegal immigration — but Reagan, at least by the Levin standard, was far weaker. Reagan, after all, signed a bill granting amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants, something Bush never supported. And in a 1984 campaign debate, Reagan went so far as to say, “I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and lived here, even though sometime back they may have entered illegally.”

Regarding the Supreme Court, Reagan appointed Antonin Scalia, among the greatest jurists in history. But he also appointed Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy, both of whom turned out to be fairly problematic from an originalist perspective. Bush appointed two terrific conservative jurists to the High Court, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, and no O’Connor or Kennedy clones. Read More

On his Facebook page, Mark Levin takes exception to some of us who have said critical words about Sarah Palin.

In his response, Mark groups Karl Rove, David Frum, and me, all of whom served in the Bush administration. While having gracious words to say about me, Mark argues that “Bush’s record, at best, is marginally conservative, and depending on the issue, worse.” He raises this point not to compare Bush to Palin, he says, but “to point out only a few of the situational aspects of the criticism from the Bush community corner.” He adds parenthetically that “If necessary, and if challenged, I will take the time to lay out the case in all its particulars, as well as other non-conservative Bush policies and statements. No Republican president is perfect, of course, but certainly some are more perfect that others, if you will.”

The gold standard for Levin is Ronald Reagan, which got me to thinking: from a conservative policy perspective, how does Bush’s record stand up to Reagan’s?

Let’s start with illegal immigration. Levin has excoriated Bush for being weak on illegal immigration — but Reagan, at least by the Levin standard, was far weaker. Reagan, after all, signed a bill granting amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants, something Bush never supported. And in a 1984 campaign debate, Reagan went so far as to say, “I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and lived here, even though sometime back they may have entered illegally.”

Regarding the Supreme Court, Reagan appointed Antonin Scalia, among the greatest jurists in history. But he also appointed Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy, both of whom turned out to be fairly problematic from an originalist perspective. Bush appointed two terrific conservative jurists to the High Court, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, and no O’Connor or Kennedy clones.

How about taxes? Reagan was the architect of the historic 1981 tax cut, one of the most significant pieces of economic legislation in American history. Bush cut taxes multiple times as well, though the cuts were not nearly as large. At the same time, Reagan, unlike Bush, increased taxes many times during his presidency — including what was then the largest tax increase in American history (the TEFRA tax).

What about entitlements? The complaint about Bush is that he was the architect of a prescription-drug entitlement. Fair enough, though it should be said that because of free-market reforms, the cost of the plan was 40 percent below the estimates, an unheard of achievement. But even if one opposed the Medicare prescription-drug plan, one should take into account Bush’s decision to put his political capital behind Social Security reform, including personal retirement accounts. The effort was unsuccessful but politically courageous. No president, including Reagan, attempted reforms nearly as far-reaching. Reagan agreed to a plan to save Social Security that included large payroll-tax increases. In addition, Reagan enacted what at the time was the most dramatic expansion of Medicare coverage since its inception, including a complex system of price controls.

President Reagan gets the nod over Bush on federal spending, especially in his first year, when Reagan made a real run at cutting domestic spending. Still, under Reagan, spending increased by around one-quarter in real terms. Federal spending as a percentage of the economy was higher during the Reagan years than during the Bush years, though Bush inherited a more advantageous starting position. Under Reagan, the national debt increased from just over $700 billion to more than $2 trillion (this included the defense build-up at the end of the Cold War); for Bush, the figure increased from $3.4 trillion to $5.8 trillion (including the costs of two wars).

Some conservatives are highly critical of Bush’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), though history will vindicate that decision because much of the TARP money has been repaid, and its cost to taxpayers is lower than even its strongest early supporters expected (see here).

On social issues, both presidents were rock solid on abortion — though Bush probably has the policy advantage given his judicial nominations, his stand on embryonic stem cell research, his support for the Born Alive Infants Protection Act, and his opposition to partial-birth abortion and human cloning. Bush also promoted a constitutional amendment opposing same-sex marriage, an issue Reagan didn’t confront. On gun control, Reagan favored the Brady bill, while Bush was a stalwart defender of the Second Amendment.

How about terrorism? Reagan was impressive in some respects, including ordering the bombing of Libya in the wake of the 1986 discotheque bombing in West Berlin. On the flip side, Reagan retreated from Lebanon after the 1983 bombing of a U.S. Marine barracks. (In one of his fatwas, Osama bin Laden cited the pullout as evidence of American weakness.) Reagan also agreed to sell arms for hostages — and not just to any nation, but to the Iranian regime led by Ayatollah Khomeini. Bush, in contrast, was unyielding on terrorism.

George W. Bush was perhaps the greatest friend Israel ever had as president. Among other things, he effectively sidelined Yasir Arafat. Reagan was a strong supporter of Israel as well, though his administration did criticize the Jewish state for the 1981 bombing of Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor and was the first to open talks with the PLO.

On defense spending, Bush asked for and received the largest increase since the Reagan years. Both championed missile defense, with Reagan being the pathfinder. And while neither president withdrew U.S. support from the United Nations, neither one was terribly deferential to it. Bush also unilaterally withdrew from the ABM Treaty, withdrew from a treaty to establish an International Criminal Court, and pulled the United States out of the Kyoto Protocol.

There are many other issues on which one could compare and contrast the two men; over the course of two terms, after all, presidents deal with countless issues. One must also take into account other factors, from the composition of Congress during their presidencies to their speeches to their work on behalf of the conservative movement. Reagan, for example, was a product of the conservative movement in a way Bush never was, and Reagan articulated the case for conservatism in ways Bush never did. I wouldn’t dispute for a moment that in the totality of his acts, Reagan was the most influential conservative ever to serve as president. He also ranks as among the greatest presidents in our history.

What I would dispute is Levin’s characterization of Bush as “marginally conservative” or worse. Bush’s record, based on objective conservative yardsticks, stacks up quite well against Reagan’s. If people insist on making the comparison, then a disinterested analysis of the record is not a bad way to proceed.

I served in the Reagan administration and the Bush White House. Both men were principled and, when necessary, tactically flexible; impressive and imperfect; and people of dignity and decency. I have enormous respect for both presidents — and so, I would submit, should all conservatives, including my friend Mark Levin.

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Bahrain’s Crackdown

As the crackdown accelerates in Bahrain, both in violence and scope, we should consider that country the first example of a moderate Arab nation adopting the Qaddafi model. Rather than undercut protests with pre-emptive reform, Bahrain’s king, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, learned an important lesson from events in Libya: use mercenaries, crack down hard on opposition, and ignore Western protests, because the United States and its allies are paper tigers. Obama is all about empty rhetoric, and his discussion of multilateralism is just an elaborate way to explain inaction.

What’s next? The United States might have interceded in favor of limited, symbolic monarchy, but now Bahrain will be ever more a police state. Police states are failed models of stability and rotten foundations on which to base America’s national security. President Obama’s dawdling will convince the Bahraini Shiites, many of whom resented Iran, that Iranian protection is their only hope. Saddam Hussein famously expelled thousands of Iraqi Shiites to Iran in an effort to change the demographic balance; let’s hope that Sheikh Khalifa won’t now try the same strategy.

As the crackdown accelerates in Bahrain, both in violence and scope, we should consider that country the first example of a moderate Arab nation adopting the Qaddafi model. Rather than undercut protests with pre-emptive reform, Bahrain’s king, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, learned an important lesson from events in Libya: use mercenaries, crack down hard on opposition, and ignore Western protests, because the United States and its allies are paper tigers. Obama is all about empty rhetoric, and his discussion of multilateralism is just an elaborate way to explain inaction.

What’s next? The United States might have interceded in favor of limited, symbolic monarchy, but now Bahrain will be ever more a police state. Police states are failed models of stability and rotten foundations on which to base America’s national security. President Obama’s dawdling will convince the Bahraini Shiites, many of whom resented Iran, that Iranian protection is their only hope. Saddam Hussein famously expelled thousands of Iraqi Shiites to Iran in an effort to change the demographic balance; let’s hope that Sheikh Khalifa won’t now try the same strategy.

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Not Obama’s War—Our War

While driving two of my children to school yesterday, I tuned in to Chris Plante, who hosts a talk show on WMAL. The topic was Afghanistan, and within the first five minutes of the show, Plante referred to it as “Obama’s War” or some version of that around a half-dozen times. It was repetitive, relentless, and irresponsible.

I say that because this is not “Obama’s War”; it is America’s war. The effort to pin it on Obama is a barely disguised effort to encourage Republicans and conservatives to turn against the war. If it’s “Obama’s War,” after all, how can any true Republican or conservative support it? There is an almost mathematical quality to the commentary of some people: if Obama does it, then it must by definition be wrong.

I happen to think it would be a grave moral and geopolitical mistake to retreat in Afghanistan, particularly since demonstrable progress is being made under the command of General David Petraeus (see here and here). If others disagree, then the debate should be engaged. But to try to split the country along partisan lines in the way Plante is doing is troubling. It was wrong when the left did this with Iraq (“Bush’s War”), and it is wrong for conservatives to do it with Afghanistan.

I would add one other thing: whatever complaints conservatives have against Obama — and I’ve made mine clear on almost a daily basis since January 20, 2009 — Afghanistan is one area where he’s made the right decisions, from increasing the number of troops, to endorsing a more traditional counterinsurgency strategy, to asking Petraeus to oversee the war effort. The president has made errors, in my opinion, including his repeated emphasis in the past on withdrawing troops by the summer of 2011. But he’s backed away from that recently, and, overall, Obama has been quite strong on Afghanistan. It shouldn’t trouble conservatives too much to say so.

While driving two of my children to school yesterday, I tuned in to Chris Plante, who hosts a talk show on WMAL. The topic was Afghanistan, and within the first five minutes of the show, Plante referred to it as “Obama’s War” or some version of that around a half-dozen times. It was repetitive, relentless, and irresponsible.

I say that because this is not “Obama’s War”; it is America’s war. The effort to pin it on Obama is a barely disguised effort to encourage Republicans and conservatives to turn against the war. If it’s “Obama’s War,” after all, how can any true Republican or conservative support it? There is an almost mathematical quality to the commentary of some people: if Obama does it, then it must by definition be wrong.

I happen to think it would be a grave moral and geopolitical mistake to retreat in Afghanistan, particularly since demonstrable progress is being made under the command of General David Petraeus (see here and here). If others disagree, then the debate should be engaged. But to try to split the country along partisan lines in the way Plante is doing is troubling. It was wrong when the left did this with Iraq (“Bush’s War”), and it is wrong for conservatives to do it with Afghanistan.

I would add one other thing: whatever complaints conservatives have against Obama — and I’ve made mine clear on almost a daily basis since January 20, 2009 — Afghanistan is one area where he’s made the right decisions, from increasing the number of troops, to endorsing a more traditional counterinsurgency strategy, to asking Petraeus to oversee the war effort. The president has made errors, in my opinion, including his repeated emphasis in the past on withdrawing troops by the summer of 2011. But he’s backed away from that recently, and, overall, Obama has been quite strong on Afghanistan. It shouldn’t trouble conservatives too much to say so.

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