Commentary Magazine


Posts For: April 18, 2011

Rolling Stone Slams Pentagon for Relying upon Anonymous Sources

A Pentagon investigation has cast doubt on the Rolling Stones article that led to Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s termination last summer. Investigators were apparently unable to find witnesses who would verify that some of the controversial statements or conversations referenced in the article ever took place. As CBS News reports,

Specifically, the investigation could not confirm quotes attributed to “sources familiar” with a meeting between the president and the Pentagon brass at which McChrystal thought the then newly elected president looked “uncomfortable and intimidated,” and it could not confirm quotes attributed to “an adviser” stating that McChrystal was “pretty disappointed” with the president after a one-on-one meeting with the commander-in-chief.

Rolling Stone says that it stands by the story. In a prepared statement, the magazine also criticized the Pentagon’s probe, saying that it “offers no credible source—or indeed, any named source—contradicting the facts as reported in our story.” That’s certainly true, and it obviously leaves the investigation open to doubt. But it’s more than a little ironic that Rolling Stone is complaining about anonymous sources, since that’s what the bulk of its McChrystal exposé was based on. Not only was the anonymous sourcing a big part of what made the article so controversial in the first place, but also what increased the government’s difficulty in investigating the veracity of the claims.

The probe obviously doesn’t shut the door on this case. It’s possible that the article was accurate, and there are plenty of reasons why witnesses may have been hesitant to talk to investigators about the issue. But the investigation does go a long way toward clearing McChrystal’s name, at least officially.

A Pentagon investigation has cast doubt on the Rolling Stones article that led to Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s termination last summer. Investigators were apparently unable to find witnesses who would verify that some of the controversial statements or conversations referenced in the article ever took place. As CBS News reports,

Specifically, the investigation could not confirm quotes attributed to “sources familiar” with a meeting between the president and the Pentagon brass at which McChrystal thought the then newly elected president looked “uncomfortable and intimidated,” and it could not confirm quotes attributed to “an adviser” stating that McChrystal was “pretty disappointed” with the president after a one-on-one meeting with the commander-in-chief.

Rolling Stone says that it stands by the story. In a prepared statement, the magazine also criticized the Pentagon’s probe, saying that it “offers no credible source—or indeed, any named source—contradicting the facts as reported in our story.” That’s certainly true, and it obviously leaves the investigation open to doubt. But it’s more than a little ironic that Rolling Stone is complaining about anonymous sources, since that’s what the bulk of its McChrystal exposé was based on. Not only was the anonymous sourcing a big part of what made the article so controversial in the first place, but also what increased the government’s difficulty in investigating the veracity of the claims.

The probe obviously doesn’t shut the door on this case. It’s possible that the article was accurate, and there are plenty of reasons why witnesses may have been hesitant to talk to investigators about the issue. But the investigation does go a long way toward clearing McChrystal’s name, at least officially.

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The Democrats’ Bind

It is hard to see how President Obama in particular and the Democrats in general can offer a real deficit reduction plan based on spending cuts alone without fatally alienating their base. That base, after all, consists of the very interests that have been driving the federal budget towards the cliff for decades. That leaves them basically two options in the current political climate.

They can play with numbers, such as talking about spending reductions—as yet largely unspecified—over 12 years. As everyone who follows federal budget matters knows, budget outlooks come in 1-year, 5-year, and 10-year varieties. So when President Obama mentioned 12 years in his speech last Wednesday, a lot of red-light political claptrap alerts started flashing. And they were right, as Keith Hennessey points out. This sort of statistical three-card monte works well enough with the Washington press corps and the New York Times editorial board, but it is working less and less with the economic press, and as Abe observed this morning, it is not working with the green-eye-shade boys at Standard and Poor either. It is hard to see how a president who cost the country its 94-year-old AAA bond rating could survive in an election. The 30-second TV attack ads almost write themselves.

The second option is to follow the late Senator Russell Long’s formula for political success: “Don’t tax you and don’t tax me, tax that man behind the tree.” The man behind the tree in this case, of course, is “the rich.” But, as the Wall Street Journal noted this morning, you could do to the rich what Philip the Fair did to the Knights Templar when he needed their money, and it still wouldn’t be enough. The real money is with the middle class. That means either raising marginal rates or cutting out major deductions, such as property-tax and mortgage interest deductions, that millions of families factored into budgetary assumptions when they bought their houses and now cannot easily undo. Ending those deductions would also very adversely affect property values, not exactly the high-road to political success, especially when housing prices are already depressed.

So the Dems are in a bind in Tea-Party America. One thing, however, seems clear. If the President’s speech last Wednesday is any indication, 2012 is going to be one ugly campaign.

It is hard to see how President Obama in particular and the Democrats in general can offer a real deficit reduction plan based on spending cuts alone without fatally alienating their base. That base, after all, consists of the very interests that have been driving the federal budget towards the cliff for decades. That leaves them basically two options in the current political climate.

They can play with numbers, such as talking about spending reductions—as yet largely unspecified—over 12 years. As everyone who follows federal budget matters knows, budget outlooks come in 1-year, 5-year, and 10-year varieties. So when President Obama mentioned 12 years in his speech last Wednesday, a lot of red-light political claptrap alerts started flashing. And they were right, as Keith Hennessey points out. This sort of statistical three-card monte works well enough with the Washington press corps and the New York Times editorial board, but it is working less and less with the economic press, and as Abe observed this morning, it is not working with the green-eye-shade boys at Standard and Poor either. It is hard to see how a president who cost the country its 94-year-old AAA bond rating could survive in an election. The 30-second TV attack ads almost write themselves.

The second option is to follow the late Senator Russell Long’s formula for political success: “Don’t tax you and don’t tax me, tax that man behind the tree.” The man behind the tree in this case, of course, is “the rich.” But, as the Wall Street Journal noted this morning, you could do to the rich what Philip the Fair did to the Knights Templar when he needed their money, and it still wouldn’t be enough. The real money is with the middle class. That means either raising marginal rates or cutting out major deductions, such as property-tax and mortgage interest deductions, that millions of families factored into budgetary assumptions when they bought their houses and now cannot easily undo. Ending those deductions would also very adversely affect property values, not exactly the high-road to political success, especially when housing prices are already depressed.

So the Dems are in a bind in Tea-Party America. One thing, however, seems clear. If the President’s speech last Wednesday is any indication, 2012 is going to be one ugly campaign.

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Club for Growth vs. Donald Trump

Conservatives are growing increasingly impatient with Donald Trump’s recent publicity tour. Today, the free-market group Club for Growth fired the first major shot at the potential presidential candidate, pointing out that Trump’s attempt to paint himself as a fiscal conservative is laughable.

“Donald Trump for President? You’ve got to be joking,” said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola in a press release. “Donald Trump has advocated for massive tax increases that display a stunning lack of knowledge of how to create jobs.

The Club for Growth noted that Trump previously supported universal healthcare and is a major proponent of protectionism. He recently called for a 25 percent tax on Chinese imports and called for a trade-war with China.

“His love for a socialist-style universal health care system and his alarming obsession with protectionist policies are automatic disqualifiers among free-market conservatives,” said Chocola. “This publicity stunt will sputter and disappear just as quickly as the ‘The Apprentice’ is losing viewers.”

Unfortunately, the media hasn’t been doing a great job at publicizing Trump’s contradictory views. It’s important for more conservative groups to help get the message out, so voters are at least aware of his background.

Conservatives are growing increasingly impatient with Donald Trump’s recent publicity tour. Today, the free-market group Club for Growth fired the first major shot at the potential presidential candidate, pointing out that Trump’s attempt to paint himself as a fiscal conservative is laughable.

“Donald Trump for President? You’ve got to be joking,” said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola in a press release. “Donald Trump has advocated for massive tax increases that display a stunning lack of knowledge of how to create jobs.

The Club for Growth noted that Trump previously supported universal healthcare and is a major proponent of protectionism. He recently called for a 25 percent tax on Chinese imports and called for a trade-war with China.

“His love for a socialist-style universal health care system and his alarming obsession with protectionist policies are automatic disqualifiers among free-market conservatives,” said Chocola. “This publicity stunt will sputter and disappear just as quickly as the ‘The Apprentice’ is losing viewers.”

Unfortunately, the media hasn’t been doing a great job at publicizing Trump’s contradictory views. It’s important for more conservative groups to help get the message out, so voters are at least aware of his background.

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A Digital Passover Mix Tape!

Courtesy of the Idelsohn Society, an exciting new effort to archive Jewish music in an entirely new way, comes a digital Passover mix tape for your listening enjoyment. It’s 56 minutes long, and delightful in its entirety. You can listen to it and download it here.


Courtesy of the Idelsohn Society, an exciting new effort to archive Jewish music in an entirely new way, comes a digital Passover mix tape for your listening enjoyment. It’s 56 minutes long, and delightful in its entirety. You can listen to it and download it here.


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Obama’s Tepid Libyan Prediction

During an interview with the AP on Friday, President Obama repeatedly tried to put a positive spin on the floundering intervention in Libya, saying that “it’s only been three weeks.” Actually, Friday marked the 28th day of the intervention, but who’s counting?

“I didn’t expect that in three weeks, suddenly as a consequence of the air campaign, that Qaddafi would necessarily be gone,” Obama told the AP. “What I said was that under the U.N. mandate we had an obligation to protect civilians from potential atrocities. And we have succeeded in that.”

While he begrudgingly acknowledged that it’s “true that some civilians may be still getting killed,” he added that “we don’t have wholesale slaughter in places like Benghazi, a city of 700,000, that Qaddafi said he would show no mercy on because that’s a site of a lot of opposition.”

Yup, no “wholesale slaughters” in Benghazi. Just in Misrata, where regular sieges by Qaddafi forces have pushed the death toll into the hundreds.

Regardless, Obama said he was pleased with NATO’s progress so far, and wasn’t planning on broadening the U.S.’s role, as some other countries have hoped for. While he noted that there was a “stalemate on the ground,” he argued that, “Qaddafi is still getting squeezed in all kinds of other ways. He’s running out of money. He is running out of supplies. The noose is tightening, and he is becoming more and more isolated.”

Obama also made a prediction: “I think over the long term, Qaddafi will go and we will be successful. But again, it’s only been three weeks.” He thinks? Over the long term? You really can’t get more tepid than that.

During an interview with the AP on Friday, President Obama repeatedly tried to put a positive spin on the floundering intervention in Libya, saying that “it’s only been three weeks.” Actually, Friday marked the 28th day of the intervention, but who’s counting?

“I didn’t expect that in three weeks, suddenly as a consequence of the air campaign, that Qaddafi would necessarily be gone,” Obama told the AP. “What I said was that under the U.N. mandate we had an obligation to protect civilians from potential atrocities. And we have succeeded in that.”

While he begrudgingly acknowledged that it’s “true that some civilians may be still getting killed,” he added that “we don’t have wholesale slaughter in places like Benghazi, a city of 700,000, that Qaddafi said he would show no mercy on because that’s a site of a lot of opposition.”

Yup, no “wholesale slaughters” in Benghazi. Just in Misrata, where regular sieges by Qaddafi forces have pushed the death toll into the hundreds.

Regardless, Obama said he was pleased with NATO’s progress so far, and wasn’t planning on broadening the U.S.’s role, as some other countries have hoped for. While he noted that there was a “stalemate on the ground,” he argued that, “Qaddafi is still getting squeezed in all kinds of other ways. He’s running out of money. He is running out of supplies. The noose is tightening, and he is becoming more and more isolated.”

Obama also made a prediction: “I think over the long term, Qaddafi will go and we will be successful. But again, it’s only been three weeks.” He thinks? Over the long term? You really can’t get more tepid than that.

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The S&P Outlook and Obama

Standard & Poor’s lowered its outlook for the United States from “stable” to “negative,” and said there is a one in three chance it will downgrade the U.S.’s triple-A credit rating in the next couple of years. We’ve enjoyed that credit rating since 1917. Barack Obama can cook up entitlement schemes as much as he likes, but if America loses its ability to borrow money on favorable terms there will be no safety net big enough to catch us all.

And what is the president’s message at this defining crisis moment? The New York Times reports, “Mr. Obama implored the crowd [in a speech today] not to lose heart, declaring that the vision of America he laid out in his fiscal speech — one in which ‘we are connected to one another; that I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper’— would animate his campaign and drive the debate in the 2012 election.”

The U.S. may lose its triple-A rating and the best Obama can do is peddle feel-good pop slogans in defense of suicidal entitlements. If only he believed what he was saying. Indeed, we are connected to one another. Which is why entitlements put all of us in debt, why taxing income for some of us will shrink our national tax base, and why every last one of us will go down with the ship unless the administration acquaints itself with reality. While the president preaches togetherness in service of class warfare, America nears an unprecedented downgrading.  He may think he’s being his brother’s keeper, but he shouldn’t be surprised if his brothers and sisters don’t see it that way in 2012.

Standard & Poor’s lowered its outlook for the United States from “stable” to “negative,” and said there is a one in three chance it will downgrade the U.S.’s triple-A credit rating in the next couple of years. We’ve enjoyed that credit rating since 1917. Barack Obama can cook up entitlement schemes as much as he likes, but if America loses its ability to borrow money on favorable terms there will be no safety net big enough to catch us all.

And what is the president’s message at this defining crisis moment? The New York Times reports, “Mr. Obama implored the crowd [in a speech today] not to lose heart, declaring that the vision of America he laid out in his fiscal speech — one in which ‘we are connected to one another; that I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper’— would animate his campaign and drive the debate in the 2012 election.”

The U.S. may lose its triple-A rating and the best Obama can do is peddle feel-good pop slogans in defense of suicidal entitlements. If only he believed what he was saying. Indeed, we are connected to one another. Which is why entitlements put all of us in debt, why taxing income for some of us will shrink our national tax base, and why every last one of us will go down with the ship unless the administration acquaints itself with reality. While the president preaches togetherness in service of class warfare, America nears an unprecedented downgrading.  He may think he’s being his brother’s keeper, but he shouldn’t be surprised if his brothers and sisters don’t see it that way in 2012.

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Re: Fashions in Forbidden Speech

David’s post below certainly shows the chill on speech that politically correct social theories can exert. For those concerned about this trend, Peter Berkowitz’s Wall Street Journal piece about Yale should be a must read. In short, some Yale students—upset at some students’ loutish behavior—have sparked a federal investigation into whether the university harbors a hostile sexual environment. What Berkowitz doesn’t say is that the investigation is only one of many now underway at America’s most elite universities.

Yale President Richard Levin has made conflict avoidance the hallmark of his two-decade tenure. The university’s lawyers now direct policy more than faculty. The Yale Corporation, nominally Yale’s governing body, has been more than willing to subordinate free speech to political considerations, a practice that has led Yale now to find itself ranked among the worst universities in the country for free speech issues.

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David’s post below certainly shows the chill on speech that politically correct social theories can exert. For those concerned about this trend, Peter Berkowitz’s Wall Street Journal piece about Yale should be a must read. In short, some Yale students—upset at some students’ loutish behavior—have sparked a federal investigation into whether the university harbors a hostile sexual environment. What Berkowitz doesn’t say is that the investigation is only one of many now underway at America’s most elite universities.

Yale President Richard Levin has made conflict avoidance the hallmark of his two-decade tenure. The university’s lawyers now direct policy more than faculty. The Yale Corporation, nominally Yale’s governing body, has been more than willing to subordinate free speech to political considerations, a practice that has led Yale now to find itself ranked among the worst universities in the country for free speech issues.

If there’s one lesson Yale should impart upon its students, it is that the proper response to any students’ insensitivity is argument, not lawyers. At Yale and after, students should not go running to Big Brother, and neither the administration (nor the Federal Government) should not allow itself to be used that way. Rather than legislate against the possibility that any Yale student will find his or her feelings hurt by another students’ words, Yale should simply encourage the students to respond with words of their own. Yale has no shortage of publications, after all. If Yale women feel themselves hurt by the speech of any Yale upperclassman, they should take to the pages of any Yale publication to name and shame those to whose loutish behavior they take offense. If I googled a potential hire and read that he had chanted, “No Means Yes and Yes Means Anal,” any further consideration of him would stop immediately.

Richard Levin may assess himself by the money he raises, but he is misguided. True leadership would have him stand up to the federal government and to the special interests for which there is always a reason to suppress free speech. And if Levin must direct Yale lawyers to take on the government in its various encroachments upon campus life, there could be no better use of 0.01 percent of Yale’s multibillion dollar endowment.

If administrators stopped trying to regulate every aspect of Yale life and the feelings Yalies should have toward one another, then Yale could trim perhaps two-thirds of its administrators and reinvest that money in education programs and research or, better yet, lower tuition to below inflation. Now that would be a legacy to be proud of.

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Why Not Support Syrian Democracy Out Loud?

The Obama administration has been rightly criticized for failing to speak out strongly in support of democratic reform in Syria. Ostensibly, this is to avoid the appearance that the democracy movement is being propped up by the U.S. But newly-released cables showing that the U.S. has, in fact, been assisting Syrian liberals illustrate exactly why this charade is unnecessary. As the Washington Post reported,

Barada TV is closely affiliated with the Movement for Justice and Development, a London-based network of Syrian exiles. Classified U.S. diplomatic cables show that the State Department has funneled as much as $6 million to the group since 2006 to operate the satellite channel and finance other activities inside Syria.

The financial support reportedly began under President George W. Bush, and had been continued by Obama despite his attempts at diplomacy with Syrian autocrat Bashar al-Assad. According to the Post, the funding is part of a “long-standing campaign to overthrow” Assad.

So now it all comes out. Not that Assad needed evidence of this anyway—since the uprisings in his country began he has blamed them on a “plot” by (wait for it) the U.S. and Israel. So why can’t we just drop the pretense?

After all, it’s not as if diplomacy with Syria has done us any good. The Obama administration’s deployment of an ambassador to Syria has been a complete bust. And our diplomatic relations with the regime haven’t prevented it from butchering protesters in the streets.

American support for pro-democracy programs is laudable. Let’s continue quietly to lend assistance to reformers, while also calling for democratic reform out loud. Autocrats are going to accuse us of fomenting these movements either way.

The Obama administration has been rightly criticized for failing to speak out strongly in support of democratic reform in Syria. Ostensibly, this is to avoid the appearance that the democracy movement is being propped up by the U.S. But newly-released cables showing that the U.S. has, in fact, been assisting Syrian liberals illustrate exactly why this charade is unnecessary. As the Washington Post reported,

Barada TV is closely affiliated with the Movement for Justice and Development, a London-based network of Syrian exiles. Classified U.S. diplomatic cables show that the State Department has funneled as much as $6 million to the group since 2006 to operate the satellite channel and finance other activities inside Syria.

The financial support reportedly began under President George W. Bush, and had been continued by Obama despite his attempts at diplomacy with Syrian autocrat Bashar al-Assad. According to the Post, the funding is part of a “long-standing campaign to overthrow” Assad.

So now it all comes out. Not that Assad needed evidence of this anyway—since the uprisings in his country began he has blamed them on a “plot” by (wait for it) the U.S. and Israel. So why can’t we just drop the pretense?

After all, it’s not as if diplomacy with Syria has done us any good. The Obama administration’s deployment of an ambassador to Syria has been a complete bust. And our diplomatic relations with the regime haven’t prevented it from butchering protesters in the streets.

American support for pro-democracy programs is laudable. Let’s continue quietly to lend assistance to reformers, while also calling for democratic reform out loud. Autocrats are going to accuse us of fomenting these movements either way.

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Another Orgy of Arab Anti-Semitism

When it comes to chronicling Israel’s demonization among the chattering classes of Europe, there is no more valuable website than Tom Gross’s Mideast Media Analysis. In his most recent dispatch, Gross chronicles how Judge Goldstone’s Washington Post op-ed has unleashed an orgy of anti-Semitism in the Arabic press. It certainly is worth a look.

When conducting lessons-learned introspection at the end of the Clinton’s second term, Dennis Ross and his coterie of peace processors rightly concluded that among their biggest errors was ignoring Arab incitement. Plus ça change, as everyone knows, plus c’est la même chose. Not only do these cartoons provide a window into the thinking of such outlets as Al Jazeera, but the silence of Obama’s team is also revealing.

When it comes to chronicling Israel’s demonization among the chattering classes of Europe, there is no more valuable website than Tom Gross’s Mideast Media Analysis. In his most recent dispatch, Gross chronicles how Judge Goldstone’s Washington Post op-ed has unleashed an orgy of anti-Semitism in the Arabic press. It certainly is worth a look.

When conducting lessons-learned introspection at the end of the Clinton’s second term, Dennis Ross and his coterie of peace processors rightly concluded that among their biggest errors was ignoring Arab incitement. Plus ça change, as everyone knows, plus c’est la même chose. Not only do these cartoons provide a window into the thinking of such outlets as Al Jazeera, but the silence of Obama’s team is also revealing.

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End the Thuggery in Iraqi Kurdistan

Today was Day 60 of protests in Iraqi Kurdistan. The protests erupted after Masud Barzani’s forces fired into a crowd after Kurds holding a demonstration of solidarity with the people of Tunisia and Egypt. The Iraqi Kurdish president apparently believes that, with international attention focused on Libya and Syria, he has free reign to crack the heads of anyone who dares to question his family’s rule and its embezzlement of Kurdish assets. Today, his militia sought to disperse the protestors by force. Meanwhile, Facebook reports suggest that Kurdistan Democratic Party militias have attacked protestors in the Kurdish capital of Erbil with knives and clubs, and that opposition parliamentarian Muhammad Kiyani has been seriously injured.

There’s a noxious mix in Iraqi Kurdistan of America’s own making. On one hand, the White House remains largely silent about Kurdish human rights and their struggle for freedom and democracy. On the other, former U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and former Coalition Provisional Authority official Dick Naab now do high-profile business with Barzani, and CPA-era Colonel Harry Schute now advises the security forces engaged in the bloody crackdown.

Given the behavior of Khalilzad, Naab, and Schute (and Peter Galbraith before them), Kurds would be right to be paranoid that American officials will turn a blind eye toward their oppression in the hope of keeping their own golden parachutes open. So long as the White House remains silent on Barzani’s assaults on journalists and the murders of students, the Kurds will assume that Obama’s commitment to human rights is cynical, and that senior National Security Council officials—and perhaps Vice President Biden himself—ingratiate themselves to Barzani only so that they might finance their retirement with Kurdish oil.

That’s not good for America’s image, but there is an easy remedy: It’s time for the Obama administration and Congress to demand an end to government-sponsored thuggery in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Today was Day 60 of protests in Iraqi Kurdistan. The protests erupted after Masud Barzani’s forces fired into a crowd after Kurds holding a demonstration of solidarity with the people of Tunisia and Egypt. The Iraqi Kurdish president apparently believes that, with international attention focused on Libya and Syria, he has free reign to crack the heads of anyone who dares to question his family’s rule and its embezzlement of Kurdish assets. Today, his militia sought to disperse the protestors by force. Meanwhile, Facebook reports suggest that Kurdistan Democratic Party militias have attacked protestors in the Kurdish capital of Erbil with knives and clubs, and that opposition parliamentarian Muhammad Kiyani has been seriously injured.

There’s a noxious mix in Iraqi Kurdistan of America’s own making. On one hand, the White House remains largely silent about Kurdish human rights and their struggle for freedom and democracy. On the other, former U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and former Coalition Provisional Authority official Dick Naab now do high-profile business with Barzani, and CPA-era Colonel Harry Schute now advises the security forces engaged in the bloody crackdown.

Given the behavior of Khalilzad, Naab, and Schute (and Peter Galbraith before them), Kurds would be right to be paranoid that American officials will turn a blind eye toward their oppression in the hope of keeping their own golden parachutes open. So long as the White House remains silent on Barzani’s assaults on journalists and the murders of students, the Kurds will assume that Obama’s commitment to human rights is cynical, and that senior National Security Council officials—and perhaps Vice President Biden himself—ingratiate themselves to Barzani only so that they might finance their retirement with Kurdish oil.

That’s not good for America’s image, but there is an easy remedy: It’s time for the Obama administration and Congress to demand an end to government-sponsored thuggery in Iraqi Kurdistan.

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How Not to “Lose” Iraq

In today’s Wall Street Journal I make the case that a continuing American military presence in Iraq post-2011 would very much be in our interest—because it would enable us to influence not only Iraq’s future course but also the future course of the entire region. Yet time is running out to renegotiate the Status of Forces agreement which President Bush signed in 2008 and which mandates the departure of all 50,000 U.S. troops by the end of this year.

So far there has been scant interest expressed from either President Obama or Prime Minister Maliki in a continuing troop presence. Even if Maliki suddenly decided that it was in Iraq’s interest to host some American troops in the future—and it is—he would have a hard time getting an agreement through parliament where the Sadrists, among others, would be sure to oppose it on nationalist/religious grounds.

What, then, should we do? Sit back and hope that a thousand State Department diplomats could do the job now performed by 50,000 troops? Or just write off Iraq as a bad investment and accept that the risks of civil strife and Iranian domination will rise after our departure?

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In today’s Wall Street Journal I make the case that a continuing American military presence in Iraq post-2011 would very much be in our interest—because it would enable us to influence not only Iraq’s future course but also the future course of the entire region. Yet time is running out to renegotiate the Status of Forces agreement which President Bush signed in 2008 and which mandates the departure of all 50,000 U.S. troops by the end of this year.

So far there has been scant interest expressed from either President Obama or Prime Minister Maliki in a continuing troop presence. Even if Maliki suddenly decided that it was in Iraq’s interest to host some American troops in the future—and it is—he would have a hard time getting an agreement through parliament where the Sadrists, among others, would be sure to oppose it on nationalist/religious grounds.

What, then, should we do? Sit back and hope that a thousand State Department diplomats could do the job now performed by 50,000 troops? Or just write off Iraq as a bad investment and accept that the risks of civil strife and Iranian domination will rise after our departure?

Those are, sad to say, the likeliest options if we don’t decide to keep at least 20,000 troops in Iraq. But there are also some second- or third-best options that could allow us to retain some influence even if we don’t have a substantial troop presence. Many of these options were discussed on Friday at a forum in Washington, sponsored by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), where I spoke along with retired Lieutenant General James Dubik, Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution, and Emma Sky of Harvard’s Kennedy School.

Among the scenarios we batted around: Beefing up the Office of Security Cooperation, currently scheduled to be roughly 150 military personnel stationed in the U.S. Embassy, tasked with advising Iraqi forces. Perhaps it might be possible to expand this office and set up a U.S. Military Assistance and Advisory Group that could in total number several thousand soldiers. Set up a NATO Training Mission that could also assist this task. Schedule regular exercises between the U.S. and Iraqi armed forces that would allow thousands of U.S. troops to visit Iraq for a brief period. Expand our exchange program with the Iraqi military to allow more officers to study in the U.S. and other Western countries. Expand the existing Strategic Framework Agreement, also signed by Bush and Maliki in 2008, into an explicit U.S.-Iraq alliance with mutual-defense obligations. Set up a United Nations peacekeeping force to patrol the border between the Kurdish Regional Government and Iraq proper. Station U.S. troops in the Kurdish region where they would definitely be welcome.

None of these options would achieve the strategic effects of keeping 20,000 troops in Iraq, but they would be better than nothing. I am reluctant to spend too much time and energy discussing them at this point because there is still a chance, however slim, of actually extending the U.S. troop deployment. But time is running out and we should put all options on the table to ensure that we don’t “lose” Iraq out of sheer neglect after having come so close to a successful outcome.

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On Being Fair to Mark Halperin

In a post on President Obama’s budget speech last week, I wrote, “Even Mark Halperin of Time magazine, a fine, fair, but not terribly unsympathetic-to-Obama reporter, agreed that Obama crossed a line in his speech. . . .”

A reader wrote privately to say that I was being unfair to Halperin. My initial reaction was that my reader was mistaken. I was trying to say that Halperin is not reflexively anti-Obama, and that if someone like him had arrived at this judgment (“Obama crossed a line”), well, that was pretty strong evidence Obama had indeed crossed a line.

Upon reflection, though, I think my reader has a point. The sloppy phrasing leaves the mistaken impression that Halperin is typically an apologist for Obama. And there are plenty of such apologists in the media. But Halperin isn’t one of them. (He has, for example, acknowledged the “extreme bias, extreme pro-Obama coverage” that existed among the media in the 2008 campaign.) If more reporters possessed Halperin’s professional standards, journalism would be in a better state. That’s worth saying, I think—and that’s why my clarification is worth making.

In a post on President Obama’s budget speech last week, I wrote, “Even Mark Halperin of Time magazine, a fine, fair, but not terribly unsympathetic-to-Obama reporter, agreed that Obama crossed a line in his speech. . . .”

A reader wrote privately to say that I was being unfair to Halperin. My initial reaction was that my reader was mistaken. I was trying to say that Halperin is not reflexively anti-Obama, and that if someone like him had arrived at this judgment (“Obama crossed a line”), well, that was pretty strong evidence Obama had indeed crossed a line.

Upon reflection, though, I think my reader has a point. The sloppy phrasing leaves the mistaken impression that Halperin is typically an apologist for Obama. And there are plenty of such apologists in the media. But Halperin isn’t one of them. (He has, for example, acknowledged the “extreme bias, extreme pro-Obama coverage” that existed among the media in the 2008 campaign.) If more reporters possessed Halperin’s professional standards, journalism would be in a better state. That’s worth saying, I think—and that’s why my clarification is worth making.

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Rebutting Class Warfare

Last week, in his budget address, President Obama laid out his strategy for the 2012 campaign: class warfare. It’s not a terribly original approach, but it does need to be rebutted. In an editorial for the Weekly Standard, I lay out my thoughts on what the right response ought to be. It can be found here.

Last week, in his budget address, President Obama laid out his strategy for the 2012 campaign: class warfare. It’s not a terribly original approach, but it does need to be rebutted. In an editorial for the Weekly Standard, I lay out my thoughts on what the right response ought to be. It can be found here.

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Turkey to Make its Schools Pro-Arab

According to the new Arab League ambassador in Ankara (itself a new position), Turkey is about to launch an initiative to rewrite its school curriculum to be much more pro-Arab. Thanks to eight years of the Turkish ruling party’s incitement, Turkey is now among the most anti-Semitic countries on earth. Traditionally, though, Turks had a positive view of Israel and Jews, and the reason was that, of all the Ottoman Empire’s constituent populations, the Jews remained the most loyal. While World War One’s Battle of Gallipoli is today remembered and commemorated mostly in Australia and New Zealand, few outside of Turkey remember that the Turkish defenders (and the Turkish casualties as well) were disproportionately Jews, because the bulk of the Ottoman Army was off fighting the Russians on the Armenian front. The Arabs meanwhile rose up (hence, the Turkish distaste for Lawrence of Arabia), and from the Turkish perspective, stabbed Turkey in the back.

History shouldn’t be written to make anyone in particular look good; it should be written to reflect the reality of the past. Sadly, that is not Turkey’s goal: Erdogan wants to rewrite history to serve his current diplomatic agenda. The result will be the brainwashing of Turks for a generation to come.

According to the new Arab League ambassador in Ankara (itself a new position), Turkey is about to launch an initiative to rewrite its school curriculum to be much more pro-Arab. Thanks to eight years of the Turkish ruling party’s incitement, Turkey is now among the most anti-Semitic countries on earth. Traditionally, though, Turks had a positive view of Israel and Jews, and the reason was that, of all the Ottoman Empire’s constituent populations, the Jews remained the most loyal. While World War One’s Battle of Gallipoli is today remembered and commemorated mostly in Australia and New Zealand, few outside of Turkey remember that the Turkish defenders (and the Turkish casualties as well) were disproportionately Jews, because the bulk of the Ottoman Army was off fighting the Russians on the Armenian front. The Arabs meanwhile rose up (hence, the Turkish distaste for Lawrence of Arabia), and from the Turkish perspective, stabbed Turkey in the back.

History shouldn’t be written to make anyone in particular look good; it should be written to reflect the reality of the past. Sadly, that is not Turkey’s goal: Erdogan wants to rewrite history to serve his current diplomatic agenda. The result will be the brainwashing of Turks for a generation to come.

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Fashions in Forbidden Speech

The temptation to politicize nearly everything is nearly universal, at least among the ruling elite in America. “We live in a time in which those who want to advance in the professions must pretend to believe what we all know to be untrue,” the Hillsdale College historian Paul A. Rahe wrote on Saturday over at Ricochet. As an example, he repeated the story of Dr. Lazar Greenfield, an emeritus professor of surgery at the University of Michigan School of Medicine, who was bounced from the editorship of Surgery News for daring to suggest—on Valentine’s Day, no less—that “there’s a deeper bond between men and women than St. Valentine would have suspected,” and the bond appears to be biologically rooted.

Dr. Greenfield submissively apologized, but the gods of social constructionism were not appeased. Yesterday he resigned as president of the American College of Surgeons after two months of predictable “controversy” and “outrage.” His breezy and cheerful editorial, which Rahe conveniently reprints in full since it has been proscribed by Surgery News, “outraged many women in the field, some of whom said that it reflected a macho culture in surgery that needed to change,” the New York Times reported.

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The temptation to politicize nearly everything is nearly universal, at least among the ruling elite in America. “We live in a time in which those who want to advance in the professions must pretend to believe what we all know to be untrue,” the Hillsdale College historian Paul A. Rahe wrote on Saturday over at Ricochet. As an example, he repeated the story of Dr. Lazar Greenfield, an emeritus professor of surgery at the University of Michigan School of Medicine, who was bounced from the editorship of Surgery News for daring to suggest—on Valentine’s Day, no less—that “there’s a deeper bond between men and women than St. Valentine would have suspected,” and the bond appears to be biologically rooted.

Dr. Greenfield submissively apologized, but the gods of social constructionism were not appeased. Yesterday he resigned as president of the American College of Surgeons after two months of predictable “controversy” and “outrage.” His breezy and cheerful editorial, which Rahe conveniently reprints in full since it has been proscribed by Surgery News, “outraged many women in the field, some of whom said that it reflected a macho culture in surgery that needed to change,” the New York Times reported.

How the merest suggestion that the bond between men and women might run deeper than social custom “reflects a macho culture” is left unexplained, but that’s the point. Offenses against moral fashion require no proof. Accusation suffices—so long as the accusers have a moral status granted to them by their quickness to take offense. Dr. Barbara Bass, a surgeon at Methodist Hospital in Houston, told the Times she was glad that Greenfield had stepped down. His resignation, she said, shows that the leaders in the field “understand the continued challenges women face as they join and mature in the surgical profession.”

I doubt that’s what most people will understand about Dr. Bass. That she has no sense of humor, that she is prepared to wreck a colleague’s career over an abstract ideological point, that her social faith trumps science as much as for any Soviet Lysenkoist—all this is clear about her, and about many like her who are shocked, shocked, by the very thought that perhaps there is a natural connection between men and women.

Professor Rahe concludes by saying that the “totalitarian temptation” on display in the Greenfield case may never go away. But I’m not so sure. Moral fashions are little different from fashions in clothing. They come and go, like tie-dyed tee-shirts. As Sam Schulman pointed out in a brilliant article in the Weekly Standard last month, it was once unsayable in 19th-century America to describe black slavery as evil, at least among the cultural elite. That the current bans on some speech are passing fashions which will cause later generations to snicker or shake their heads is invisible to nearly everyone, especially the offended.

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New Protests against Turkey’s Quake-Zone Nuclear Plant

Protestors formed a nearly 100-mile human chain to protest Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s plans to construct a new nuclear plant on the Mediterranean shore line in the middle of an earthquake zone. Erdogan bizarrely embraced plans for the new plant in the immediate aftermath of the Fukushima disaster. Often, Erdogan digs his heels in when the contract at stake involves his son-in-law’s Celik Holdings, but with Turkey’s media no longer free to report, why Erdogan would push forward so adamantly with a plant that could endanger not only Turkey, but also Syria, Lebanon, and Israel remains unexplained.

Protestors formed a nearly 100-mile human chain to protest Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s plans to construct a new nuclear plant on the Mediterranean shore line in the middle of an earthquake zone. Erdogan bizarrely embraced plans for the new plant in the immediate aftermath of the Fukushima disaster. Often, Erdogan digs his heels in when the contract at stake involves his son-in-law’s Celik Holdings, but with Turkey’s media no longer free to report, why Erdogan would push forward so adamantly with a plant that could endanger not only Turkey, but also Syria, Lebanon, and Israel remains unexplained.

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Hold On Just a Little While Longer

If you expected Qaddafi to be begging for an escape hatch by now, after a month-long NATO air assault on his troops, think again. It may be the other way around. The Obama administration is reportedly shopping around for African refuges for the Libyan dictator if he agrees to step down—despite the painfully obvious fact, that is, that Qaddafi has shown no interest in ceding power. The New York Times reported that the U.S. and its allies have conducted an “intense search” for some country—any country—to take Qaddafi in, “even though the Libyan leader has shown defiance in recent days, declaring that he has no intention of yielding to demands that he leave his country, and intensifying his bombardment of the rebel city of Misurata.”

Exile has been an option available to Qaddafi for awhile now, and so far he’s neglected to take it. The one motivation for him to accept the current exile offer is that he might be able to negotiate a better deal out of it, now that NATO is growing increasingly desperate. But based on the reports coming out of Libya, it sounds as if things may get worse for NATO before they get better.

For one, the Times is reporting that NATO may not be able to sustain the operation unless it comes up with more war planes. The countries involved in the attack mission also operate under different rules, which are complicating the effort. “Some pilots have refused to drop their bombs for this reason,” the Times said, “but allied air-war planners cannot predict which pilots will be matched against particular targets.”

With these reports, why wouldn’t Qaddafi try to hold out longer? After all, if things get worse for him, he can always take the exile option later.

If you expected Qaddafi to be begging for an escape hatch by now, after a month-long NATO air assault on his troops, think again. It may be the other way around. The Obama administration is reportedly shopping around for African refuges for the Libyan dictator if he agrees to step down—despite the painfully obvious fact, that is, that Qaddafi has shown no interest in ceding power. The New York Times reported that the U.S. and its allies have conducted an “intense search” for some country—any country—to take Qaddafi in, “even though the Libyan leader has shown defiance in recent days, declaring that he has no intention of yielding to demands that he leave his country, and intensifying his bombardment of the rebel city of Misurata.”

Exile has been an option available to Qaddafi for awhile now, and so far he’s neglected to take it. The one motivation for him to accept the current exile offer is that he might be able to negotiate a better deal out of it, now that NATO is growing increasingly desperate. But based on the reports coming out of Libya, it sounds as if things may get worse for NATO before they get better.

For one, the Times is reporting that NATO may not be able to sustain the operation unless it comes up with more war planes. The countries involved in the attack mission also operate under different rules, which are complicating the effort. “Some pilots have refused to drop their bombs for this reason,” the Times said, “but allied air-war planners cannot predict which pilots will be matched against particular targets.”

With these reports, why wouldn’t Qaddafi try to hold out longer? After all, if things get worse for him, he can always take the exile option later.

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