Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 28, 2011

What’s Really Driving the “Pro-Choice” Movement?

At Slate, Amanda Marcotte frets about the right-wing “assault on reproductive rights,” and ticks off several “anti-choice” bills being introduced across the country. To hear Marcotte tell it, these bills are absolutely terrifying – one would require women to receive ultrasounds before undergoing an abortion and another would mandate abortion patients to submit to a 72-hour waiting period and a “listen to a lecture from an anti-choice activist” before having the procedure.

If these are actually two of the most brutal attacks on the abortion industry in this country, then the “pro-choice” movement can pretty much declare victory and call it a day. Because once you strip away Marcotte’s hyperbole, it turns out that the actual bills are aimed at fostering choice, not obstructing it. Requiring women to receive an ultrasound is the opposite of pro-choice. After all, making a “choice” simply means deciding between two options, based on the information available. Women’s rights advocates like Marcotte should be lobbying for doctors to arm female patients with as many facts as possible. Instead she seems to be arguing that this piece of information (ultrasounds) shouldn’t be included because it’s too persuasive.

As for the bill mandating a 72-hour waiting period and meeting with an “anti-choice activist” (actually a crisis pregnancy center representative), that doesn’t seem particularly objectionable, either. Regardless of your opinion on abortion, few can deny that it’s a difficult and weighty decision that shouldn’t be made recklessly. Anyone who would change her mind about it in three days probably wasn’t completely confident with her decision initially. And the purpose of the meeting at the crisis pregnancy center is simply to inform women of their non-medical options – adoption, childcare, and other issues that can factor into the decision.

It’s fine if Marcotte wants to argue against these laws, but it’s not really accurate to frame them as attacks on “choice.” When it comes to this decision, too much information is never a bad thing.

At Slate, Amanda Marcotte frets about the right-wing “assault on reproductive rights,” and ticks off several “anti-choice” bills being introduced across the country. To hear Marcotte tell it, these bills are absolutely terrifying – one would require women to receive ultrasounds before undergoing an abortion and another would mandate abortion patients to submit to a 72-hour waiting period and a “listen to a lecture from an anti-choice activist” before having the procedure.

If these are actually two of the most brutal attacks on the abortion industry in this country, then the “pro-choice” movement can pretty much declare victory and call it a day. Because once you strip away Marcotte’s hyperbole, it turns out that the actual bills are aimed at fostering choice, not obstructing it. Requiring women to receive an ultrasound is the opposite of pro-choice. After all, making a “choice” simply means deciding between two options, based on the information available. Women’s rights advocates like Marcotte should be lobbying for doctors to arm female patients with as many facts as possible. Instead she seems to be arguing that this piece of information (ultrasounds) shouldn’t be included because it’s too persuasive.

As for the bill mandating a 72-hour waiting period and meeting with an “anti-choice activist” (actually a crisis pregnancy center representative), that doesn’t seem particularly objectionable, either. Regardless of your opinion on abortion, few can deny that it’s a difficult and weighty decision that shouldn’t be made recklessly. Anyone who would change her mind about it in three days probably wasn’t completely confident with her decision initially. And the purpose of the meeting at the crisis pregnancy center is simply to inform women of their non-medical options – adoption, childcare, and other issues that can factor into the decision.

It’s fine if Marcotte wants to argue against these laws, but it’s not really accurate to frame them as attacks on “choice.” When it comes to this decision, too much information is never a bad thing.

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Obama Versus Bibi: The Next Showdown?

The world is rightly focusing on events in Libya and maybe in a few days, and more dissident deaths later, we’ll even start caring about the possibility of Syria’s tyrannical masters employing mass murder in order to stay in power. But whatever the outcome of the Arab Spring turns out to be, another conflict is looming just over the horizon: the next confrontation between the Obama administration and Israel.

Last week’s terrorist attack in Jerusalem and the increase in missile attacks on southern Israel from Gaza barely registered as U.S. forces took part in the Libya intervention. But whether or not this leads eventually to another war with Hamas or that other troublemaking Iranian ally Hezbollah in Lebanon, the real question hanging over the region is what the United States will do in the coming months. Read More

The world is rightly focusing on events in Libya and maybe in a few days, and more dissident deaths later, we’ll even start caring about the possibility of Syria’s tyrannical masters employing mass murder in order to stay in power. But whatever the outcome of the Arab Spring turns out to be, another conflict is looming just over the horizon: the next confrontation between the Obama administration and Israel.

Last week’s terrorist attack in Jerusalem and the increase in missile attacks on southern Israel from Gaza barely registered as U.S. forces took part in the Libya intervention. But whether or not this leads eventually to another war with Hamas or that other troublemaking Iranian ally Hezbollah in Lebanon, the real question hanging over the region is what the United States will do in the coming months.

That’s the question posed by the Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl, who believes that despite the many other more pressing foreign policy issues facing the country, Obama and his team are still obsessing about the moribund peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. One would think that the experience he has gained in his first two years in office would have cured Obama of his belief that the Palestinian Authority wants to sign a peace agreement with Israel and that the best way to achieve this end is for the United States to pressure Israel to make even greater concessions than the ones it has been making ever since the Oslo process began in 1993.

Obama began his administration with an attempt to twist Israel’s arm about settlements, and rather than expediting negotiations this tactic helped derail them. But despite the obvious evidence that PA leader Mahmoud Abbas has no interest in ever coming to terms with Israel (just as his predecessor Yasir Arafat had none), Diehl believes that Obama still thinks that the Palestinian will sign a deal and that Israel, which offered the Palestinians a state in the West Bank and Gaza, and a share of Jerusalem in 2000, 2001, and again in 2008, hasn’t made a “serious territorial offer.”

This is shocking since Abbas’s refusal to negotiate with Israel seriously embarrassed the president last year. After Obama had to back away from the fight he picked with Prime Minister Netanyahu over Jerusalem, many observers felt that he had learned his lesson about the Palestinians. Diehl thinks otherwise, and goes as far as to say that it appears Obama will attempt to pressure Netanyahu to accept a return to the 1949 armistice lines as the basis for peace talks. Doing so would not only, as Diehl points out, give away Israel’s only bargaining chip before the talks begin, but place the nation in grave strategic danger.

Is it possible that with his re-election effort looming next year, Obama would throw Israel under the bus in this fashion? Doing so would be bad policy as well as bad politics but given the way that Obama has already twice made unprecedented attacks on Israel’s rights in Jerusalem (which would be forfeit under a return to the old lines), it makes sense that this is something he would seriously consider.

Of course, Diehl isn’t the only one who thinks so. The other believer in Obama’s eventual betrayal of Israel is Abbas. Rather than talk to Israel, Abbas is hoping to use the United Nations to go around the negotiations and delegitimize Israel. For that to work, he will need for Obama to follow up his recent half-hearted support of Israel in the UN Security Council with a further retreat from the alliance with the Jewish state.

Diehl thinks this puts Netanyahu on the spot to lay out his vision for peace in a scheduled address to Congress in May. But the real question is not whether the Israeli will ably put forward a coherent and reasonable position affirming his nation’s desire for a two-state solution based on security and respect for the rights of both peoples. The question is whether, in the coming months, Jewish Democrats will make it clear to their party’s leader that a betrayal of Israel is not only wrong but political suicide.

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Walking Away from a “Sort of” War

In a recent story in the New York Times, we read this:

Mr. Obama’s administration, however, has clearly tried to avoid the debate over a strategy beyond that by shifting the burden of enforcing the United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing force on to France, Britain and other allies, including Arab nations like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, which on Thursday said that it would contribute warplanes to the effort. In other words, the American exit strategy is not necessarily the coalition’s exit strategy.

“We didn’t want to get sucked into an operation with uncertainty at the end,” the senior administration official said. “In some ways, how it turns out is not on our shoulders.”

This is a cast of mind that is almost alien to America’s conception of itself. It also happens to border on being criminally negligent.

No nation, but especially the United States, should enter a war and immediately abdicate responsibility for its outcome to others. If that is the mindset of the president and his administration, then it is better never to have engaged in the conflict in the first place. Whether the Obama administration wants to accept responsibility or not, how Libya turns out does rest on our shoulders. Not alone and not completely; but we certainly share the burden and the responsibility for the outcome of events.

Just as a man can’t get a woman “sort of” pregnant, the United States can’t engage in a “sort of” war in which we duck responsibility for its denouement.

One might argue that a senior administration official who holds such a view as the one expressed to the Times should be fired. The layers of ineptness that we’re seeing from the Obama administration on Libya (and not just Libya) is striking. But that ineptness is being matched by a staggering moral indifference and dereliction of duty.

In a recent story in the New York Times, we read this:

Mr. Obama’s administration, however, has clearly tried to avoid the debate over a strategy beyond that by shifting the burden of enforcing the United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing force on to France, Britain and other allies, including Arab nations like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, which on Thursday said that it would contribute warplanes to the effort. In other words, the American exit strategy is not necessarily the coalition’s exit strategy.

“We didn’t want to get sucked into an operation with uncertainty at the end,” the senior administration official said. “In some ways, how it turns out is not on our shoulders.”

This is a cast of mind that is almost alien to America’s conception of itself. It also happens to border on being criminally negligent.

No nation, but especially the United States, should enter a war and immediately abdicate responsibility for its outcome to others. If that is the mindset of the president and his administration, then it is better never to have engaged in the conflict in the first place. Whether the Obama administration wants to accept responsibility or not, how Libya turns out does rest on our shoulders. Not alone and not completely; but we certainly share the burden and the responsibility for the outcome of events.

Just as a man can’t get a woman “sort of” pregnant, the United States can’t engage in a “sort of” war in which we duck responsibility for its denouement.

One might argue that a senior administration official who holds such a view as the one expressed to the Times should be fired. The layers of ineptness that we’re seeing from the Obama administration on Libya (and not just Libya) is striking. But that ineptness is being matched by a staggering moral indifference and dereliction of duty.

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Turkey into the Breach

Someone else always wants the mantle of leadership disavowed by the self-effacing great power. In the case of the intervention in Libya, the NATO ally now showing the greatest energy in that regard is Turkey. The Recep Tayyip Erdogan government spent most of March opposing foreign intervention in Libya. On Thursday, however, the Turkish assembly voted in a closed-door session to join the NATO effort there, and Erdogan has now jumped in with both feet.

Most NATO participants are sending one or two warships to enforce the naval embargo of Libya; Turkey is sending four frigates, a supply ship, and a submarine. Turkey has reversed course on the use of its airfields to support NATO operations in Libya, offering the major base at Izmir as a command center for the air forces. (A base in Italy would make more sense, so I’m skeptical about this offer being accepted.) Read More

Someone else always wants the mantle of leadership disavowed by the self-effacing great power. In the case of the intervention in Libya, the NATO ally now showing the greatest energy in that regard is Turkey. The Recep Tayyip Erdogan government spent most of March opposing foreign intervention in Libya. On Thursday, however, the Turkish assembly voted in a closed-door session to join the NATO effort there, and Erdogan has now jumped in with both feet.

Most NATO participants are sending one or two warships to enforce the naval embargo of Libya; Turkey is sending four frigates, a supply ship, and a submarine. Turkey has reversed course on the use of its airfields to support NATO operations in Libya, offering the major base at Izmir as a command center for the air forces. (A base in Italy would make more sense, so I’m skeptical about this offer being accepted.)

According to Al-Jazeera, Erdogan announced this weekend that Turkey would take over the operation of the civil airport in Benghazi to facilitate the distribution of humanitarian aid. In case it’s not clear, the tactical centrality of that position is unsurpassed. Whoever occupies it will have a significant capacity to shape the support to the groups opposing Qaddafi. We may hope NATO will assign at least two nations to operate the Benghazi airport; perhaps Italy or Greece will recognize the unwisdom of consigning the whole task to Erdogan’s Turkey, even if France and Britain don’t.

Erdogan proposes, moreover, that Turkey function as mediator between the parties in Libya, a role he is willing to undertake on behalf of NATO, the African Union, or the Arab League. Regional observers identify some spite for Nicolas Sarkozy in this Turkish activism, after the French president excluded Turkey from the Libya conference he sponsored in Paris on March 19, the day the air strikes began. The African Union declined to attend that conference, feeling that its membership had been insufficiently consulted on the European plans for an intervention. From its own first round of negotiations with a Qaddafi delegation this weekend, the African Union has produced a “roadmap” to reconciliation and free elections in Libya, which lacks only buy-in from the Libyan opposition and explicit support from other governments. (In other words, it’s not worth much, at least for now.)

In the absence of U.S.-led multilateralism, the messy business of leaders-for-a-day is inevitable; Britain and France, according to European editorial perceptions, have each overplayed a hand. Turkey may be doing so with its attempt to put itself at the center of mediation and logistics for the Libya intervention. The Arab press is certainly suspicious, and Western observers (including U.S. diplomats in Turkey) have been concerned about “Neo-Ottoman” aspirations in the Erdogan government for some time.

But if Erdogan is overplaying his hand, that won’t be established without a hardening of divisions within NATO. The longer the Libya intervention goes on, the greater will be the opportunities for Turkey – and eventually other interested parties – to inaugurate new patterns of force deployment and influence. Only the U.S. has the stature to neutralize such ventures in their early stages, but it is increasingly clear that the Obama administration sees no need to.

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Anti-Muslim Bigotry

Here is an excerpt from Herman Cain, who was asked if he would be comfortable appointing a Muslim either in his cabinet or as a federal judge. His answer:

No, I would not. And here’s why. There is this creeping attempt, there is this attempt to gradually ease Sharia law and the Muslim faith into our government. It does not belong in our government. This is what happened in Europe. And little by little, to try and be politically correct, they made this little change, they made this little change. And now they’ve got a social problem that they don’t know what to do with hardly.

This is an ugly and undiluted form of bigotry. Read More

Here is an excerpt from Herman Cain, who was asked if he would be comfortable appointing a Muslim either in his cabinet or as a federal judge. His answer:

No, I would not. And here’s why. There is this creeping attempt, there is this attempt to gradually ease Sharia law and the Muslim faith into our government. It does not belong in our government. This is what happened in Europe. And little by little, to try and be politically correct, they made this little change, they made this little change. And now they’ve got a social problem that they don’t know what to do with hardly.

This is an ugly and undiluted form of bigotry. It assumes, against the overwhelming evidence, that every Muslim believes in the most radical interpretation of Sharia law, when in fact millions of American Muslims are fully reconciled with democracy and the protection of minority rights. I’ve dilated on this issue before, so there’s no need to do so again.

This isn’t to say that assimilation isn’t important; it is (see here). Nor is it to deny that there are many people in the world, of the Islamic faith, who embrace a 7th-century, Taliban-like interpretation of Sharia law. No one is asking anyone to bury his head in the ground. But this is quite different from declaring anyone of the Muslim faith to be unqualified for a judgeship or a cabinet post simply because of that person’s religious faith. That is the antithesis of American law and corrosive to the spirit that animated the American founding.

On August 17, 1790, the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, wrote to President Washington expressing its gratitude that the government of the United States gave “to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.” To which Washington replied, “The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy; a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights.”

Washington went on to say:

May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants, while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.

Religious liberty is one of the rare and remarkable achievements by the United States. It was difficult to achieve – and it’s easier to lose than we might think. For public figures to stoke the embers of Muslim bigotry – to believe, in Michael Gerson’s phrase, that every serious Muslim is a recruit for sedition – is a moral offense. And be forewarned: it won’t stay confined. Bigotry rarely does.

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Not Yet a Doctrine, But…

There are certain patterns emerging from President Obama’s response to the Arab uprisings that may form the foundation of a broader foreign policy doctrine. His speech tonight on Libya will give us some more clues, but here are some of his positions so far:

National security interests and philosophical values alone do not legitimize U.S. military action. Approval from multilateral institutions is key, and the U.S. can’t justly go to war without it. The intervention in Libya was a prime example – President Obama bypassed the Congressional authorization process and instead devoted his energy to amassing support from the UN Security Council and the Arab League. Whether this was due to time constraints or Obama’s unwillingness to defend the moral or strategic necessity of the war to Congress, it indicates that approval from the international community is a non-negotiable prerequisite for going to war. Read More

There are certain patterns emerging from President Obama’s response to the Arab uprisings that may form the foundation of a broader foreign policy doctrine. His speech tonight on Libya will give us some more clues, but here are some of his positions so far:

National security interests and philosophical values alone do not legitimize U.S. military action. Approval from multilateral institutions is key, and the U.S. can’t justly go to war without it. The intervention in Libya was a prime example – President Obama bypassed the Congressional authorization process and instead devoted his energy to amassing support from the UN Security Council and the Arab League. Whether this was due to time constraints or Obama’s unwillingness to defend the moral or strategic necessity of the war to Congress, it indicates that approval from the international community is a non-negotiable prerequisite for going to war.

And even though national interest plays a role in Obama’s decision-making, it seems to be given far less weight than in previous administrations. When asked on Sunday if the U.S. would consider taking military action in Syria, Hillary Clinton said the only way this would happen was “if there were a coalition of the international community, if there was the passage of a Security Council resolution, if there were a call by the Arab League, [and] if there was a condemnation that was universal.” Noticeably absent from this string of “if’s” were any mentions of our own national security interests or humanitarian values.

The U.S. should be an active participant, not an active leader.

As domestic pressure increased for Obama to take a stance on Libya, the president filibustered until France and Britain finally took the lead and called for an intervention. The U.S. controlled the Libya mission by necessity at the beginning, but its role was reluctant leader – the Obama administration repeatedly made it clear that America was acting as part of a “coalition” and that it would hand over the reins to NATO as soon as possible.

This unwillingness to take the lead has been a characteristic of Obama’s response to the Arab uprisings. He was slow to take a position on Mubarak, slower to call on Qaddafi to step down, and he has yet to condemn Assad. Obama is not a non-interventionist, but he’s not a hawk either. He seems comfortable with actively participating in internationally-approved interventions, but has avoided taking an active or aggressive leadership role.

Covert warfare is preferable to overt warfare.

Obama isn’t opposed to American military power, he’s opposed to what he perceives as chauvinistic displays of that power. He realizes the importance of Bush’s counterterrorism policies and continues to use most of them.

In fact, in some regards he’s even increased the use of covert intelligence operations, in order to make up for his reduction of overt military operations. Under his administration, the U.S. has increasingly used drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan, may have used cyber warfare against the Iranian nuclear program, and sent Special Forces on clandestine military operations across the Middle East and Africa.

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Justice Delayed But Not Denied

In an editorial for the Weekly Standard, I recapitulate the gruesome human rights record of Muammar Qaddafi and conclude it this way:

The United States, having gone to war against the Libyan regime, now has to decide whether or not to allow Qaddafi to stay in power. Acquiescing to Qaddafi’s continued rule in Tripoli not only would be a disgrace, but a moral and strategic error of enormous consequence. The only decent outcome that can emerge from Operation Odyssey Dawn is to see Qaddafi gone. A person of unusual cruelty, the Libyan tyrant has built a grotesque and soul-destroying regime. Four decades-plus in power have been more than enough. It is time for the Butcher of Tripoli to leave the stage.

Whether that exit is accomplished by means of exile or cruise missile or hangman’s noose is irrelevant. In this instance justice may be delayed. But it need not be denied.

You can read the whole thing here.

In an editorial for the Weekly Standard, I recapitulate the gruesome human rights record of Muammar Qaddafi and conclude it this way:

The United States, having gone to war against the Libyan regime, now has to decide whether or not to allow Qaddafi to stay in power. Acquiescing to Qaddafi’s continued rule in Tripoli not only would be a disgrace, but a moral and strategic error of enormous consequence. The only decent outcome that can emerge from Operation Odyssey Dawn is to see Qaddafi gone. A person of unusual cruelty, the Libyan tyrant has built a grotesque and soul-destroying regime. Four decades-plus in power have been more than enough. It is time for the Butcher of Tripoli to leave the stage.

Whether that exit is accomplished by means of exile or cruise missile or hangman’s noose is irrelevant. In this instance justice may be delayed. But it need not be denied.

You can read the whole thing here.

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The Worst Environmental Pest of All

Every so often the ugly secret at the heart of modern-day environmentalism–a profound misanthropy–peeks out for all to see. In yesterday’s New York Times, for instance there was an article on wildflowers that used to bloom in New York City but are now extirpated there. None of them are extinct, just no longer found in one of the most densely populated cities in the world (17,300  per square mile). What a surprise. The article notes that while one-eighth of the city is reserved for forests, marshes and meadows, which strikes me as a very generous proportion indeed, only 778 of the 1357 native plant species once recorded there remain.

When you stand in the middle of Times Square, it is easy  to forget that the colonists settled in New York City because of its bounty of  natural resources. Before there were skyscrapers and restaurants, the city’s  wealth was measured in flora and fauna. Early Dutch sailors were disoriented  by the scent of wildflowers wafting out to sea from Manhattan. Read More

Every so often the ugly secret at the heart of modern-day environmentalism–a profound misanthropy–peeks out for all to see. In yesterday’s New York Times, for instance there was an article on wildflowers that used to bloom in New York City but are now extirpated there. None of them are extinct, just no longer found in one of the most densely populated cities in the world (17,300  per square mile). What a surprise. The article notes that while one-eighth of the city is reserved for forests, marshes and meadows, which strikes me as a very generous proportion indeed, only 778 of the 1357 native plant species once recorded there remain.

When you stand in the middle of Times Square, it is easy  to forget that the colonists settled in New York City because of its bounty of  natural resources. Before there were skyscrapers and restaurants, the city’s  wealth was measured in flora and fauna. Early Dutch sailors were disoriented  by the scent of wildflowers wafting out to sea from Manhattan.

Actually the Dutch settled in New York City because of its superb natural harbor and its easy access to the deep interior via the Hudson River. And the city’s wealth was never measured in flora and fauna, but in beaver skins and flour. It is beavers and flour barrels that adorn the city’s seal to this day, not gentians and eel grass, delightful as they may be.

The hustlily-bustlily, lets-make-a-deal Dutch who founded New York City 386 years ago would be very proud of what they created. New York City takes up only about .8 percent of New York State’s area but produces about half of its GDP, making it one of the world’s greatest engines of wealth creation. It is that wealth that allows New York State to set aside fully 15 percent of its area just to Adirondack State Park alone, declaring it, in the state constitution no less, to be “forever wild.” Every one of the species mentioned as no longer found in the .8 percent that is New York City is found in the 99.2 percent that is the rest of New York State.

But that, of course, is not enough for those who claim a monopoly on environmental virtue. As the authors of the article see it, “There are various reasons for their [the wildflowers’] disappearance, but always the causal factor is human — a pest we accidentally introduced, a habitat we made unwelcoming or destroyed altogether.”

Is there any doubt that, as far as they are concerned, the worst pest of all is the species Homo sapiens? If we would only get back on our rocket ships and return to Mars where we came from, planet earth would flourish once again.

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Krugman’s Fantasy: Liberals Are Being Persecuted on Campus

The New York Times’s Paul Krugman has won a Nobel Prize for Economics but anyone reading his column today, which alleges that liberals are being persecuted on American college campuses, must think that his next award will be for science fiction. Krugman writes about William Cronon, a liberal professor at the University of Wisconsin who is getting some heat from people who didn’t care for his using his academic perch as a launching point for partisan invective at his state’s Republican governor. Some think that Cronon, a state employee, ought to be called to account for possibly conducting partisan political activity while being paid by the state, a violation of law in Wisconsin as well as most other places. Republicans are using the state’s Open Records Law to try and find out whether he used his university email to send out an op-ed published by the Times last week.

Are the Republicans nit-picking about Cronon’s use of his e-mail account? Sure. But none of us should be in any doubt as to whether the left would give the same treatment to a right-winger who attacked Democrats in the same manner as Cronon did. Liberals who have used freedom of information laws whenever it served their interests should not be crying foul over the Republicans doing so. Read More

The New York Times’s Paul Krugman has won a Nobel Prize for Economics but anyone reading his column today, which alleges that liberals are being persecuted on American college campuses, must think that his next award will be for science fiction. Krugman writes about William Cronon, a liberal professor at the University of Wisconsin who is getting some heat from people who didn’t care for his using his academic perch as a launching point for partisan invective at his state’s Republican governor. Some think that Cronon, a state employee, ought to be called to account for possibly conducting partisan political activity while being paid by the state, a violation of law in Wisconsin as well as most other places. Republicans are using the state’s Open Records Law to try and find out whether he used his university email to send out an op-ed published by the Times last week.

Are the Republicans nit-picking about Cronon’s use of his e-mail account? Sure. But none of us should be in any doubt as to whether the left would give the same treatment to a right-winger who attacked Democrats in the same manner as Cronon did. Liberals who have used freedom of information laws whenever it served their interests should not be crying foul over the Republicans doing so.

But Krugman goes a bit further than that. Krugman, a left-winger so partisan that he burned Senator John McCain in effigy at a famous party for fellow academics at Princeton University on election night 2008, is not only offended that any anyone would try and trip up someone who agrees with him about the recent dustup in Wisconsin. He actually wrote today claiming that Cronon’s predicament is an illustration of how Republican “thought police” are persecuting liberals on American campuses. He says the “witch hunt” being conducted against Cronon shows how Republicans are trying to shut down free discourse in academia.

To put it mildly, this is preposterous.

First, anyone who watched the coverage of the debate in Wisconsin knows that it was the Democrats, and the unions and their supporters, who were attempting to shut down free discourse. Not only did the Democrats in the state senate flee the state to avoid allowing a debate and vote on the Republican proposals, but hordes of thuggish pro-union demonstrators did their best not to allow the legislature to function at all because they disagreed with the opinions of the recently elected majority.

Second, if there is any group on American campuses that has a right to feel isolated, persecuted, and shut out, it is conservatives. As even Krugman himself has noted, liberals dominate at American universities. Indeed it is common knowledge that at many schools and departments it is virtually impossible for a declared conservative or Republican to be hired, let alone gain tenure. Indeed, the one form of “diversity” that is not welcome on most campuses is political diversity. And that is just fine with people like Krugman, who has written that it is natural that most academics are liberals and that discrimination has nothing to do with it, presumably because as a liberal — and therefore an open-minded person — he thinks that all people who disagree with him are either insane or stupid.

It’s not enough for Krugman to claim that Republicans are wrong on the Wisconsin budget battle or to say that Cronon should be given a pass for his possible indiscretion. He must claim that conservatives are setting up thought police which is another way of saying that they must be silenced. Far from defending academic freedom, Krugman is a defender of an academia in which only one political philosophy is permissible, and of a public square in which liberals can smear their opponents and conservatives must never answer back.

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Nir Rosen, Out of Another Job

Just two days after controversial anti-Israel journalist Nir Rosen announced he was starting a fellowship at the London School of Economics, a spokesperson for the school says that he has resigned: “Nir Rosen today resigned his temporary visiting fellowship at LSE – which was an unpaid position. LSE had already made clear it condemned the offensive comments he made about Lara Logan and others.”

After the awful press LSE has been getting for allowing its professors to basically act as PR reps for the Qaddafi regime, it’s a surprise that it would even make this contentious hire in the first place – especially since it’s barely been a month since Rosen was booted from NYU for his comments about CBS reporter Lara Logan. Considering Rosen’s praise of Hezbollah, it wouldn’t be overly shocking if a school like University of Johannesburg hired him, but what was LSE thinking?

Just two days after controversial anti-Israel journalist Nir Rosen announced he was starting a fellowship at the London School of Economics, a spokesperson for the school says that he has resigned: “Nir Rosen today resigned his temporary visiting fellowship at LSE – which was an unpaid position. LSE had already made clear it condemned the offensive comments he made about Lara Logan and others.”

After the awful press LSE has been getting for allowing its professors to basically act as PR reps for the Qaddafi regime, it’s a surprise that it would even make this contentious hire in the first place – especially since it’s barely been a month since Rosen was booted from NYU for his comments about CBS reporter Lara Logan. Considering Rosen’s praise of Hezbollah, it wouldn’t be overly shocking if a school like University of Johannesburg hired him, but what was LSE thinking?

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Why There Is No Neutral

Nadia Schadlow has a fine essay at Foreign Policy which points out that many of the NGOs on which the U.S. and its allies are relying to contribute to the “Build” phase of the counterinsurgency strategy proclaim that they refuse to take sides in the conflict. It’s not just the Red Cross that believes it is “essential to provide neutral and impartial assistance to all populations.” Most of the others follow suit. Many NGOs go beyond simply providing aid to all civilians, and – in the words of the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office – argue that NGOs have “nothing to gain and much to lose” by interacting with ISAF, which in their view only wants to “[leverage] advantage from [NGO] activities.” This is not the neutralism of helping the poor, no matter who they be: it is political neutrality.

Schadlow does an excellent job of skewering the contradictions inherent in this attitude. The U.S. itself accepts the NGOs’ self-defined role, but simultaneously relies on developing relations with the local population. It does not want to create a neutral environment in which everyone can function: it wants to squeeze the Taliban out. They, in turn, benefit from the creation of so-called neutral spaces, where they can divert resources provided by NGOs to advance their own cause as they intimidate the population. That is why, as Schadlow points out, insurgents target ISAF-built schools but not NGO-built ones. The supposed neutrality of the NGOs thus has a profoundly un-neutral outcome. With the U.S. relying ever more on building Afghan capacity, our reliance on NGOs who refuse to take sides makes less and less sense. Our military has rebuilt its counter-insurgency capacity: it’s too bad, Schadlow concludes, that our NGOs have not undertaken a similar reassessment. Read More

Nadia Schadlow has a fine essay at Foreign Policy which points out that many of the NGOs on which the U.S. and its allies are relying to contribute to the “Build” phase of the counterinsurgency strategy proclaim that they refuse to take sides in the conflict. It’s not just the Red Cross that believes it is “essential to provide neutral and impartial assistance to all populations.” Most of the others follow suit. Many NGOs go beyond simply providing aid to all civilians, and – in the words of the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office – argue that NGOs have “nothing to gain and much to lose” by interacting with ISAF, which in their view only wants to “[leverage] advantage from [NGO] activities.” This is not the neutralism of helping the poor, no matter who they be: it is political neutrality.

Schadlow does an excellent job of skewering the contradictions inherent in this attitude. The U.S. itself accepts the NGOs’ self-defined role, but simultaneously relies on developing relations with the local population. It does not want to create a neutral environment in which everyone can function: it wants to squeeze the Taliban out. They, in turn, benefit from the creation of so-called neutral spaces, where they can divert resources provided by NGOs to advance their own cause as they intimidate the population. That is why, as Schadlow points out, insurgents target ISAF-built schools but not NGO-built ones. The supposed neutrality of the NGOs thus has a profoundly un-neutral outcome. With the U.S. relying ever more on building Afghan capacity, our reliance on NGOs who refuse to take sides makes less and less sense. Our military has rebuilt its counter-insurgency capacity: it’s too bad, Schadlow concludes, that our NGOs have not undertaken a similar reassessment.

The problem is even larger than Schadlow acknowledges. The idea of neutrality (or impartiality) of aid is hardly a new one: the Red Cross as it was founded in 1863 emphasized the importance of providing aid on a politically neutral basis. That was a good and valuable principle, but it operated within a particular context: the international state system. The Red Cross’s founding delegates came from places like Austria, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Prussia, and the United Kingdom. They were working within a world of respectable, sovereign states, and in that world, the concept of neutrality made sense. Humanitarian workers could be provided with protections akin to diplomats, and the entire structure of aid built up as part of an international system of well-governed states. It is a truism to point out that the restraints did not invariably work in practice – e.g. Germany’s use of gas in World War I – but they were at least thinkable.

Today, this model has no applicability. If the Taliban win in Afghanistan, they are not going to build a Westphalian state with a regular army, a diplomatic service, border guards, a well-ordered police force and court system, and a meaningful process of ratifying treaties. In the era when the Red Cross was established, armies fought armies. Now – at least in Afghanistan – armies fight to allow the creation of the building blocks of government and the state.

In their own narrow context, NGOs need to recognize that they rely on the existence of well-ordered, sovereign states to function. That is asking for a revolution, because most of them, being creatures of the left, are not just committed to neutrality: they strongly dislike the idea of sovereignty and regard the existence of sovereign states as a problem to be overcome. But the problem is a good deal bigger than that. The international system is riddled with so-called states that are only interested in gaming the system (Iran, for one), and with institutions that exist solely to give the system’s enemies a leg up (e.g. the UN Human Rights Council). Asking the NGOs to re-evaluate their working model is well and good, but the NGOs are really just a symptom of a much larger problem: the increasing tendency of everyone who has an investment in the system to forget it exists, and to fantasize about replacing it as they denigrate it in practice.

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Inside Giuliani’s “Potemkin Village” NH Campaign

Rudy Giuliani’s potential 2012 campaign may be doomed before it begins. In the New Hampshire Union Leader, the state’s former GOP chairman Fergus Cullen gives a harsh review of Rudy Giuliani’s performance there in 2008:

Giuliani’s was the Potemkin village of presidential campaigns: What looked like a campaign was just a facade for the cameras and national media. It was artifice, disrespectful of the process and the voters. Perhaps this is what campaigns in New York City are, where everything plays out on TV and in the tabloids, where no grassroots grow in the concrete jungle.

According to Cullen, the former New York City mayor arrived late to his only town hall meeting in the state, and then “took just four questions. Seeking softballs, he called on a child and a high schooler, filibustering to avoid questions from actual voters. It was awful.”

The ill will may be personal, though. Cullen recalls how the former mayor never remembered his name when he met him at campaign events. “I must have met Rudy Giuliani a half-dozen times…[but] he gave no indication of recognizing me,” he wrote. Of course, as a presidential candidate, having an amiable relationship with the New Hampshire party is pretty important, and this is a sign that there were probably other dysfunctions within the Giuliani campaign.

Cullen ends his column bluntly: “You had your chance, and much as we respect your resume, we’re just not interested in going out again.”

But despite the criticism, Giuliani has recently been reaching out to GOP leaders in New Hampshire, possibly in preparation for another run. The former mayor was in New Hampshire last week to give a speech, where he conceded that he should have been more focused on the state, and suggested that things would be different if he decides to run again.

Rudy Giuliani’s potential 2012 campaign may be doomed before it begins. In the New Hampshire Union Leader, the state’s former GOP chairman Fergus Cullen gives a harsh review of Rudy Giuliani’s performance there in 2008:

Giuliani’s was the Potemkin village of presidential campaigns: What looked like a campaign was just a facade for the cameras and national media. It was artifice, disrespectful of the process and the voters. Perhaps this is what campaigns in New York City are, where everything plays out on TV and in the tabloids, where no grassroots grow in the concrete jungle.

According to Cullen, the former New York City mayor arrived late to his only town hall meeting in the state, and then “took just four questions. Seeking softballs, he called on a child and a high schooler, filibustering to avoid questions from actual voters. It was awful.”

The ill will may be personal, though. Cullen recalls how the former mayor never remembered his name when he met him at campaign events. “I must have met Rudy Giuliani a half-dozen times…[but] he gave no indication of recognizing me,” he wrote. Of course, as a presidential candidate, having an amiable relationship with the New Hampshire party is pretty important, and this is a sign that there were probably other dysfunctions within the Giuliani campaign.

Cullen ends his column bluntly: “You had your chance, and much as we respect your resume, we’re just not interested in going out again.”

But despite the criticism, Giuliani has recently been reaching out to GOP leaders in New Hampshire, possibly in preparation for another run. The former mayor was in New Hampshire last week to give a speech, where he conceded that he should have been more focused on the state, and suggested that things would be different if he decides to run again.

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Hillary Clinton’s Falsehoods

On ABC’s “This Week,” host Jake Tapper asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in the context of the Libya operation, “Why not go to Congress?”

“Well, we would welcome congressional support,” Clinton said, “but I don’t think that this kind of internationally authorized intervention where we are one of a number of countries participating to enforce a humanitarian mission is the kind of unilateral action that either I or President Obama was speaking of several years ago.”

Secretary Clinton’s implication, of course, is that Iraq was a “unilateral action,” as opposed to what President Obama is doing in Libya.

This assertion is false on multiple levels. Let’s start by citing Josh Rogin in Foreign Policy, who referenced a chart listing all the countries that contributed at least some military assets to the five major military operations in which the United States participated in a coalition during the last 20 years: the 1991 Gulf War (32 countries participating), the 1995 Bosnia mission (24 countries), the 1999 Kosovo mission (19 countries), the 2002 invasion of Afghanistan (48 countries), and the 2003 invasion of Iraq (40 countries), at the height of the size of each coalition. “As of today,” Rogin writes, “only 15 countries, including the United States, have committed to providing a military contribution to the Libya war.” Read More

On ABC’s “This Week,” host Jake Tapper asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in the context of the Libya operation, “Why not go to Congress?”

“Well, we would welcome congressional support,” Clinton said, “but I don’t think that this kind of internationally authorized intervention where we are one of a number of countries participating to enforce a humanitarian mission is the kind of unilateral action that either I or President Obama was speaking of several years ago.”

Secretary Clinton’s implication, of course, is that Iraq was a “unilateral action,” as opposed to what President Obama is doing in Libya.

This assertion is false on multiple levels. Let’s start by citing Josh Rogin in Foreign Policy, who referenced a chart listing all the countries that contributed at least some military assets to the five major military operations in which the United States participated in a coalition during the last 20 years: the 1991 Gulf War (32 countries participating), the 1995 Bosnia mission (24 countries), the 1999 Kosovo mission (19 countries), the 2002 invasion of Afghanistan (48 countries), and the 2003 invasion of Iraq (40 countries), at the height of the size of each coalition. “As of today,” Rogin writes, “only 15 countries, including the United States, have committed to providing a military contribution to the Libya war.”

And while we’re on the topic of Iraq and historical revisionism, it’s worth pointing out that the attempts at diplomacy with Saddam Hussein lasted through 12 years, 17 UN Resolutions, and two administrations, including the Clinton administration (which went so far as to bomb Iraq in 1998 without UN or NATO approval). It ranks among history’s longer diplomatic efforts to avoid war. And under President Bush, five separate Iraq-related UN Security Council Resolutions were passed unanimously, including 1441, which found Iraq in material breach of its obligations and warned Iraq of “serious consequences” (which all parties understood to mean war) for continued violations. For four-and-a-half months, the United States and its allies worked within the Security Council to enforce that Council’s long-standing demands. Yet, some permanent members of the Security Council publicly announced they would veto any resolution that compelled the disarmament of Iraq. These governments shared America’s assessment of the danger but did not share America’s resolve to meet it. More than three dozen nations, however, did have the resolve to act against Saddam Hussein.

As for Iraq and Congress: On October 10-11, 2002, the House voted 296-133 in favor of the Use of Force Resolution, while the vote in the Senate was 77-23. All told, 110 Democrats in the House and Senate voted in favor of going to war – including then-Senator Hillary Clinton who, in speaking about the United Nations (whose support in the war she, like President Bush, preferred), said,

It often lacks the cohesion to enforce its own mandates. And when Security Council members use the veto, on occasion, for reasons of narrow-minded interests, it cannot act. In Kosovo, the Russians did not approve NATO military action because of political, ethnic, and religious ties to the Serbs. The United States therefore could not obtain a Security Council resolution in favor of the action necessary to stop the dislocation and ethnic cleansing of more than a million of Kosovar Albanians… In the case of Iraq, recent comments indicate that one or two Security Council members might never approve force against Saddam Hussein until he has actually used chemical, biological, or God forbid, nuclear weapons.

Which brings us back to Mrs. Clinton’s comments yesterday about “unilateral action.” Since the idea of a Clinton knowingly spreading untruths is inconceivable, we’ll simply assume that her charges of unilateralism are the product of extraordinary sloppiness and an unusual memory lapse.

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Thought Crime in Turkey and a Challenge to Prime Minister Erdogan

Turks have long complained that their prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is intolerant of criticism. Almost 70 Turkish journalists languish in prison; Turkey now ranks near the bottom of the world in media freedom, hovering right around Russia and below even Venezuela whose leader’s tactic of confiscating opposition media Erdogan now copies.

Last week, freedom in Turkey took another hit when Turkish police staged a raid on both a newspaper office and publisher to confiscate and destroy a book manuscript which was reputed both to be critical of Prime Minister Erdogan’s government and provide evidence that the Turkish police force had been infiltrated by Islamist cult leader Fethullah Gulen. The raid was illegal under Turkish law, but Erdogan sees himself as above the law. Turks have no recourse: With the Islamist takeover of Turkey’s courts, they have nowhere to turn. A bold Turkish columnist writes:

While democracy is advancing in Turkey, 68 journalists – at least for now – are imprisoned with hundreds more being prosecuted due to their journalistic activities. This country, which wishes to join the European Union one day in the future, ranks 138th in the Reporters Sans Frontiers index of countries in terms of free media.

While democracy is advancing in Turkey, alongside these journalists, hundreds of people from academia, civil society and the business world have been kept in prisons for years without any conviction. All are counted as members of a never officially recognized terror organization called Ergenekon and have already lost for their hopes of a fair prosecution. The court, with the unique approach of “all persons are guilty under proven innocent,” does not hesitate to reject appeals for their releases on the conditions of trial without arrest.

Meanwhile, Cengiz Candar, a Turkish columnist firmly in Erdogan’s pocket, has taken umbrage at my Contentions post from earlier this month. Reflecting the Turkish mindset which has transformed Turkey from a democracy to a dictatorship, Candar suggested that my criticism was evidence that I am a coup plotter, and that I belong in prison. Well, Mr. Candar, we have never met and so I do not know you. But I stand by my convictions. If I am invited to a conference in Turkey, I am more than happy to speak publicly about Turkish-American relations, or about the ruling party’s evisceration of Turkey’s democracy. I do not fear you or your prime minister’s fevered imagination, and dare you to arrest me for my analysis. In December, I called Iraqi Kurdish dictator Masud Barzani’s bluff to arrest me and, despite a Kurdish intelligence officer sitting in the front row, found out that Barzani was all bluster, no bite. It is time to stand up to Erdogan’s bullying and if Erdogan wants to create an international incident by arresting a foreign analyst, let’s see him do it.

Turks have long complained that their prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is intolerant of criticism. Almost 70 Turkish journalists languish in prison; Turkey now ranks near the bottom of the world in media freedom, hovering right around Russia and below even Venezuela whose leader’s tactic of confiscating opposition media Erdogan now copies.

Last week, freedom in Turkey took another hit when Turkish police staged a raid on both a newspaper office and publisher to confiscate and destroy a book manuscript which was reputed both to be critical of Prime Minister Erdogan’s government and provide evidence that the Turkish police force had been infiltrated by Islamist cult leader Fethullah Gulen. The raid was illegal under Turkish law, but Erdogan sees himself as above the law. Turks have no recourse: With the Islamist takeover of Turkey’s courts, they have nowhere to turn. A bold Turkish columnist writes:

While democracy is advancing in Turkey, 68 journalists – at least for now – are imprisoned with hundreds more being prosecuted due to their journalistic activities. This country, which wishes to join the European Union one day in the future, ranks 138th in the Reporters Sans Frontiers index of countries in terms of free media.

While democracy is advancing in Turkey, alongside these journalists, hundreds of people from academia, civil society and the business world have been kept in prisons for years without any conviction. All are counted as members of a never officially recognized terror organization called Ergenekon and have already lost for their hopes of a fair prosecution. The court, with the unique approach of “all persons are guilty under proven innocent,” does not hesitate to reject appeals for their releases on the conditions of trial without arrest.

Meanwhile, Cengiz Candar, a Turkish columnist firmly in Erdogan’s pocket, has taken umbrage at my Contentions post from earlier this month. Reflecting the Turkish mindset which has transformed Turkey from a democracy to a dictatorship, Candar suggested that my criticism was evidence that I am a coup plotter, and that I belong in prison. Well, Mr. Candar, we have never met and so I do not know you. But I stand by my convictions. If I am invited to a conference in Turkey, I am more than happy to speak publicly about Turkish-American relations, or about the ruling party’s evisceration of Turkey’s democracy. I do not fear you or your prime minister’s fevered imagination, and dare you to arrest me for my analysis. In December, I called Iraqi Kurdish dictator Masud Barzani’s bluff to arrest me and, despite a Kurdish intelligence officer sitting in the front row, found out that Barzani was all bluster, no bite. It is time to stand up to Erdogan’s bullying and if Erdogan wants to create an international incident by arresting a foreign analyst, let’s see him do it.

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The Wobbly Democracy of Kyrgyzstan

As the entire world watches the Arab Spring with a mixture of hope and fear, it is sobering to take note of the struggles that emerging democracies must endure. I have just come from one such place: the Kyrgyz Republic.

This tiny Central Asian state, with a population of fewer than six million people, attained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Its first president was Askar Akayev, a Soviet scientist who praised Adam Smith and was seen as a liberal.  But as the years progressed Akayev developed a taste for power and an aptitude for rigging elections. In 2005 Akayev was brought down in massive demonstrations as part of what became known as the Tulip Revolution. Hopes were raised that at least genuine democracy was taking root—and then just as quickly dashed. Read More

As the entire world watches the Arab Spring with a mixture of hope and fear, it is sobering to take note of the struggles that emerging democracies must endure. I have just come from one such place: the Kyrgyz Republic.

This tiny Central Asian state, with a population of fewer than six million people, attained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Its first president was Askar Akayev, a Soviet scientist who praised Adam Smith and was seen as a liberal.  But as the years progressed Akayev developed a taste for power and an aptitude for rigging elections. In 2005 Akayev was brought down in massive demonstrations as part of what became known as the Tulip Revolution. Hopes were raised that at least genuine democracy was taking root—and then just as quickly dashed.

His successor was Kurmanbek Bakiyev, a former prime minister and opposition figure who won the 2005 presidential election. But rather than institutionalize democracy, he too used his position to repress dissent and enrich himself and his relatives. In April 2010, he, too, was swept out by another “people power” revolution after his riot police fired on peaceful demonstrators, killing 80 of them.

Now Kyrgyzstan is once again trying—for the third time in the last 20 years–to consolidate democracy. It has the advantage now of having Roza Otubayeva as its president. A former foreign minister, she gives every sign of being more liberal and more honest than Akayev and Bakiyev. Already she has presided over free and fair parliamentary elections in October 2010. This October a presidential election is scheduled to take place and she has said she will not run for reelection. If she sticks to her word, Kyrgyzstan will achieve a peaceful transfer of power, always the key test of any democracy. Another good sign is that Kyrgyzstan has an independent press which is free to criticize the government—and does.

But the emergence of freedom has hardly solved all—or even most of—the country’s problems. Although the capital, Bishkek, is full of impressive-looking buildings, most of them are relics of the Russian empire. With a total GDP of just $12 billion and a per capita GDP of $2,200, Kyrgyzstan is one of the world’s poorest countries. It does not have the natural resources of its oil-rich neighbor Kazakhstan. Most of its foreign earnings come from one gold mine and from payments sent home by an estimated 800,000 Kyrgyz who have moved abroad, mostly to Kazakhstan or Russia, in search of work. Corruption remains endemic; little gets done without a bribe and anyone starting a business or entering into a contract is in danger of expropriation by a greedy government official.

I got an earful about these problems at a meeting with students of the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek. Most of the attendees argued that democracy isn’t producing results. Some said they were anxious to leave the country to pursue better opportunities elsewhere; others vowed to fight to consolidate the tenuous gains.

All of this matters to the U.S. in large part because Kyrgyzstan is home to a strategically important air base just outside Bishkek—the Manas Transit Center—which serves as a way station for troops entering and leaving Afghanistan. It also hosts aerial tankers which enable coalition aircraft to keep flying over Afghanistan.

In the Kyrgyz Republic, as in Bahrain and other countries, the U.S. has had to balance strategic and idealistic interests. Indeed one of the main charges lodged against the Bakiyev regime was that it had supposedly entered into corrupt deals to supply the U.S. military with fuel. It also threatened, under Russian pressure, to boot out the Manas air base unless we dramatically increased the amount of rent. Annual payments went up from $17 million to $60 million. When the April 2010 revolution occurred, there was real concern in the U.S. military that the new government would boot us out because we were so cozy with Bakiyev. That hasn’t happened; Manas today is as busy as ever.

It would be naïve to expect that the struggle for democracy will be any easier in the Middle East than in Kyrgyzstan which, although overwhelmingly Muslim, has the advantage of being extremely secular. (Miniskirts are much in evidence in Bishkek.) The U.S. should back democrats but we should not get our hopes up that a new Middle East will emerge overnight. Real democracy can take years of struggle—and many false starts—to attain.


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NATO Taking Over Libya Mission, But What’s Going to Change?

The U.S. has ceded control of the Libyan protection mission to NATO, which allows President Obama to address the American people while avoiding all of that nasty, rah-rah, pro-war rhetoric of his predecessor. After all, it wouldn’t look right for the Peace Prize-winning, anti-war movement darling to give one of his characteristic soaring speeches while the U.S. was leading missiles attacks on Libya.

So now America’s leadership of the mission is over – maybe.

It’s still not completely clear how the U.S. role in Libya will change with NATO  in charge. And there’s no doubt that we will still have deep involvement. As Ace of Spades notes, whoever is appointed to command the mission “will be working under the military head of NATO who happens to be…an American admiral.”

U.S. planes also account for over half of the aircraft involved in the mission. Hillary Clinton has said that there will be a significant reduction in U.S. planes, but will NATO allies really be able to pony up enough replacements?

There are benefits to NATO taking over, even if it’s just for appearances. And it certainly has to be a relief for Obama politically. But it also gives us another glimpse of the president’s discomfort with any show of American military power abroad.

The U.S. has ceded control of the Libyan protection mission to NATO, which allows President Obama to address the American people while avoiding all of that nasty, rah-rah, pro-war rhetoric of his predecessor. After all, it wouldn’t look right for the Peace Prize-winning, anti-war movement darling to give one of his characteristic soaring speeches while the U.S. was leading missiles attacks on Libya.

So now America’s leadership of the mission is over – maybe.

It’s still not completely clear how the U.S. role in Libya will change with NATO  in charge. And there’s no doubt that we will still have deep involvement. As Ace of Spades notes, whoever is appointed to command the mission “will be working under the military head of NATO who happens to be…an American admiral.”

U.S. planes also account for over half of the aircraft involved in the mission. Hillary Clinton has said that there will be a significant reduction in U.S. planes, but will NATO allies really be able to pony up enough replacements?

There are benefits to NATO taking over, even if it’s just for appearances. And it certainly has to be a relief for Obama politically. But it also gives us another glimpse of the president’s discomfort with any show of American military power abroad.

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