Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 18, 2011

Occupy’s Moment of Silence for the White House Shooter

Here is a clip, courtesy of The Daily Caller, in which  a protester from Occupy San Diego told his fellow protesters, “I think we should have a moment of silence in solidarity for the person they said was from the Washington, D.C. Occupy. Maybe, why did he feel the need to shoot the White House window today? So I think we should have a moment in solidarity for the White House, and for the guy that shot at the White House today. I don’t know if you heard, but someone shot at the White House window today.”

Can you imagine the round-the-clock (negative) media coverage if (a) a person from a Tea Party rally was arrested for shooting at the White House and (b) if a Tea Party member from another city had asked for a “moment of silence in solidarity” with the alleged shooter? It would produce days of front page, above-the-fold coverage in the New York Times and spawn a thousand editorial and columns from liberals, to say nothing of providing MSNBC and CNN with several months worth of programming, hand-wringing, and sermonizing.
Read More

Here is a clip, courtesy of The Daily Caller, in which  a protester from Occupy San Diego told his fellow protesters, “I think we should have a moment of silence in solidarity for the person they said was from the Washington, D.C. Occupy. Maybe, why did he feel the need to shoot the White House window today? So I think we should have a moment in solidarity for the White House, and for the guy that shot at the White House today. I don’t know if you heard, but someone shot at the White House window today.”

Can you imagine the round-the-clock (negative) media coverage if (a) a person from a Tea Party rally was arrested for shooting at the White House and (b) if a Tea Party member from another city had asked for a “moment of silence in solidarity” with the alleged shooter? It would produce days of front page, above-the-fold coverage in the New York Times and spawn a thousand editorial and columns from liberals, to say nothing of providing MSNBC and CNN with several months worth of programming, hand-wringing, and sermonizing.

I persist in my belief that the media double standard as it relates to coverage of the Tea Party v. Occupy Wall Street (and its progeny) illustrates, in ways few other recent stories have, the widespread bias that exists in large sectors of the media. As I’ve argued before, many reporters and anchors undoubtedly believe they’re objective, detached, and applying a single standard to both movements, which in some respects makes the problem worse. The layers of delusion and self-delusion are astonishing.

Read Less

Shed No Tears for Iran’s Nuclear Scientists

Looking for a new cause focused on saving an endangered minority group? Then your search is over. According to Iran’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iranian scientists working on the Islamist regime’s nuclear weapons program are now the moral equivalent of the Komodo Dragon or the Snow Leopard. The plea for the future happiness of those seeking to give the ayatollahs genocidal power should provide a cue for the proverbial world’s smallest violin.

Of course, the Iranian envoy is right. Iran’s nuclear scientists do have a bull’s eye on their backsides. One can only hope both American and Israeli agents are doing all in their power to make sure these hard-working agents of evil are having accidents at work or mishaps on their morning commutes. But though the plea for the scientists’ safety is the stuff of satire, Iran’s successful stalling tactics in international forums have left the West with no choice but to resort to covert action to halt Tehran’s push for nukes.

Read More

Looking for a new cause focused on saving an endangered minority group? Then your search is over. According to Iran’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iranian scientists working on the Islamist regime’s nuclear weapons program are now the moral equivalent of the Komodo Dragon or the Snow Leopard. The plea for the future happiness of those seeking to give the ayatollahs genocidal power should provide a cue for the proverbial world’s smallest violin.

Of course, the Iranian envoy is right. Iran’s nuclear scientists do have a bull’s eye on their backsides. One can only hope both American and Israeli agents are doing all in their power to make sure these hard-working agents of evil are having accidents at work or mishaps on their morning commutes. But though the plea for the scientists’ safety is the stuff of satire, Iran’s successful stalling tactics in international forums have left the West with no choice but to resort to covert action to halt Tehran’s push for nukes.

We can all laugh at the Iranian ambassador’s demand for compensation from the UN agency for the inconvenience suffered by any scientist who was named in the damning IAEA report on the Islamist regime’s push for a military application of nuclear power. But thanks to Russian and Chinese support for Iran, the UN is more likely to pay such damages than it is to enact stringent economic sanctions that might bring Tehran to its senses. The ayatollahs have been able to string along the West for years as they play for more time–during which their researchers have gotten ever closer to their goal. And because the Obama administration appears to be unwilling to contemplate the use of force against Iran and to ensure Israel can’t hit them either, attacks on the scientists and their computers are the only method left to deal with the problem.

Let’s also be clear about whether or not the scientists deserve any sympathy. These scientists are not innocent civilians. Anyone who lends his expertise and knowledge to a program designed to give a nuclear weapon to a repressive Islamist regime that aids terrorism and which has threatened Israel with genocide is, by definition, a combatant, if not a war criminal. It would be preferable for Iran and its nuclear servants to stop their activities. But since they are determined to persist, the West and Israel have no choice but to go after them. While some at the UN may lament the sad fate of the endangered Iranian nuclear scientists, our only message to the CIA, the Mossad and any Western agency aiding their efforts is simple: Good hunting.

Read Less

Not Left or Right, Just Crazy

If it wasn’t already apparent from the fact that he allegedly tried to assassinate the president, this video confirms Oscar Ortega-Hernandez has been an unhinged lunatic for quite some time now:

Read More

If it wasn’t already apparent from the fact that he allegedly tried to assassinate the president, this video confirms Oscar Ortega-Hernandez has been an unhinged lunatic for quite some time now:

It was fair for conservatives to question whether Ortega-Hernandez was involved with Occupy DC, after there were reports he may have been hiding out at the demonstration. The problem with the Occupy movement is that it attracts nutcases and criminals to its protests, which is a safety hazard – and a good reason for shutting down its campsites. But to say Ortega-Hernandez was motivated by the politics of the Occupy movement is just as baseless as when the left (and mainstream media) tried to link Jared Loughner to conservative politics.

That said, it probably won’t be long before the left and the media start hinting Ortega-Hernandez was influenced by the (manufactured) right-wing, Obama-is-the-antichrist movement. And there are likely going to be conservatives who will claim Ortega-Hernandez’s ravings about the U.S.’s “wars for oil” show he’s a product of the left-wing anti-war movement. But in the end, I think we can all agree that sending a video to Oprah Winfrey telling her you’re Jesus and need to deliver an urgent message to the nation is simply crazy. No ideological motive necessary.

Read Less

Mormon PR Campaign Fights Last Socially Acceptable Hate

The New York Times reports today the Mormon church is embarking on a major national advertising buy that seeks to disabuse Americans of the idea that members of their faith are “secretive” or “cultish.” The “I’m a Mormon” campaign, which will feature all sorts of all-American and ethnic types speaking of their faith, seems like straightforward public relations. The problem for the church is that in a year in which two Latter Day Saints are presidential candidates — Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman — any such effort may be seen as smoothing the path for a Mormon to get to the White House.

But any criticism of the Mormon advertising push as a political ploy misunderstands the church’s dilemma. The very real possibility that Romney will be the Republican nominee may present more problems for Mormons than anything else. Given the enormous prejudice against adherents of that religion that still exists and the fact that it is one of the few forms of religious bias still considered socially acceptable to openly advocate, Mormons are bracing for a year in which the abuse they are already taking in popular culture will only increase. Under the circumstances, a push to reduce this form of hatred is not only good for the church and its members, but for society as a whole.

Read More

The New York Times reports today the Mormon church is embarking on a major national advertising buy that seeks to disabuse Americans of the idea that members of their faith are “secretive” or “cultish.” The “I’m a Mormon” campaign, which will feature all sorts of all-American and ethnic types speaking of their faith, seems like straightforward public relations. The problem for the church is that in a year in which two Latter Day Saints are presidential candidates — Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman — any such effort may be seen as smoothing the path for a Mormon to get to the White House.

But any criticism of the Mormon advertising push as a political ploy misunderstands the church’s dilemma. The very real possibility that Romney will be the Republican nominee may present more problems for Mormons than anything else. Given the enormous prejudice against adherents of that religion that still exists and the fact that it is one of the few forms of religious bias still considered socially acceptable to openly advocate, Mormons are bracing for a year in which the abuse they are already taking in popular culture will only increase. Under the circumstances, a push to reduce this form of hatred is not only good for the church and its members, but for society as a whole.

You have to be living in an isolated compound in Utah not to know it is open season on Mormons these days in American popular culture. Broadway’s number one hit musical spoofs their holy book and their lifestyle. The HBO series “Big Love” and popular reality TV shows have highlighted the tiny minority of Mormons who practice polygamy. A car dealership in northern New Jersey owned by former New York Giants football player Brad Benson even included a joke about Romney shopping for new wives in a radio commercial aimed at convincing people to buy Hyundais.

As bad as that might be, what’s even worse is that expressing open contempt for the Mormon faith, unlike other forms of religious hate speech, does not generally bring down opprobrium on the speaker. When a pastor who supported Rick Perry denounced the Mormon faith and said evangelicals should not vote for a Mormon for president, the resulting firestorm did not generate much outrage from other Republicans. But liberals are just as bad. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd responded to that kerfuffle with a column in which she actually far outdid Pastor Robert Jeffress in terms of heaping abuse on the Mormon religion and its adherents. Just as it is impossible to imagine a Broadway theater being the home of a musical version of “The Koran” rather than one heaping scorn on “The Book of Mormon,” so, too, is it hard to envision Dowd, or any other Times writer getting away with discussing Islam or even Judaism in the same manner.

These attitudes are also not confined to the elite. A Gallup poll released in June reported that more Americans asserted they would not vote for a Mormon for president than those with similar reservations about any other faith. The 22 percent who admitted to this bias is more than double the number who would not vote for a Jew or a Catholic. In an era where religious pluralism has become the norm, this relic of the ostracism and persecution faced by Mormons in the 19th century is puzzling, especially since it is doubtful most Americans are all that aware of the history of the period when Mormons were polygamous or fought against the federal government.

One needn’t sympathize with the theology of the LDS Church to understand this prejudice against a population otherwise among the most productive and upstanding demographic groups in the nation is a nasty business that ought to be eradicated. I don’t know whether the “I’m a Mormon” campaign will help or hurt Romney, whose candidacy will rise and fall on his own merits. But any effort to counter this last acceptable hate ought to be welcomed, not criticized.

Read Less

Gingrich and Romney Tied in NH

Mitt Romney’s support is holding steady, but conservative and Tea Party voters are fueling Newt Gingrich’s surge in New Hampshire, according to today’s Magellan Strategies poll:

If the election were held today, Romney would earn 29 percent of the vote and Gingrich would earn 27 percent. Texas Congressman Ron Paul continues to show resolve by earning 16 percent. Herman Cain gets 10 percent. No other candidate is in double digits. … 

A close look at the data shows Gingrich is actually leading Romney among certain important subgroups of the electorate. Among self-identified conservative voters, Gingrich beats Romney 34 percent-27 percent. Among self-identified Tea Party voters, he leads Romney 38 percent-21 percent.

Read More

Mitt Romney’s support is holding steady, but conservative and Tea Party voters are fueling Newt Gingrich’s surge in New Hampshire, according to today’s Magellan Strategies poll:

If the election were held today, Romney would earn 29 percent of the vote and Gingrich would earn 27 percent. Texas Congressman Ron Paul continues to show resolve by earning 16 percent. Herman Cain gets 10 percent. No other candidate is in double digits. … 

A close look at the data shows Gingrich is actually leading Romney among certain important subgroups of the electorate. Among self-identified conservative voters, Gingrich beats Romney 34 percent-27 percent. Among self-identified Tea Party voters, he leads Romney 38 percent-21 percent.

This is a major jump from last month’s Magellan poll, which found Gingrich with just 6 percent support. The polling firm takes a crack at what may be driving this wave of enthusiasm:

When asked why people felt Gingrich was moving up in the polls, 44 percent of respondents cited his depth of knowledge on the issues. Ten percent referred to his strong debate performances while another 6 percent said they liked that he was challenging the media in those debates. Ten percent referenced his past experience as Speaker of the House.

Gingrich’s rise can’t be dismissed, especially so close to the New Hampshire primary. But it’s worth remembering that Herman Cain’s poll numbers went through a similar surge in the state last month, which now looks like it was transitory. In the August Magellan poll, Cain clocked in at just 3 percent; in October, he rose to 20 percent; and in today’s poll, Cain dropped back down to 10 percent.

Read Less

Cain Goes on Media Lockdown

The Cain campaign has been trying to downplay the candidate’s embarrassing Libya gaffe earlier this week, saying it was simply the result of too little sleep. But stories like this don’t instill much confidence in that claim:

Candidate Herman Cain’s decision to skip a scheduled interview at the New Hampshire Union Leader became the buzz of state and national presidential politics Thursday.…

Read More

The Cain campaign has been trying to downplay the candidate’s embarrassing Libya gaffe earlier this week, saying it was simply the result of too little sleep. But stories like this don’t instill much confidence in that claim:

Candidate Herman Cain’s decision to skip a scheduled interview at the New Hampshire Union Leader became the buzz of state and national presidential politics Thursday.…

Initially, the Cain campaign agreed to the full hour or more, but then told the newspaper it did not want C-SPAN to tape the interview. …

After confusion arose over whether the entire interview, or just the taping, had been canceled, Cain’s campaign apparently scheduled another event at roughly the same time and said Cain could appear at the newspaper for only 20 minutes.

Union Leader Publisher Joseph McQuaid rejected the suggestion, telling the campaign that if Cain could not appear for the full 60 minutes, then there would be no interview.

Clearly, Cain’s mangled comments on Libya weren’t a one-time thing. He’s made plenty of embarrassing remarks on foreign policy since the beginning of his campaign. But the media lockdown is basically an acknowledgment from his campaign that he’s not ready for prime time – something that’s been obvious to most political watchers for quite awhile.

Standing up the Union Leader isn’t just bad optics, it’s also going to set him back with conservative voters in New Hampshire. But Cain’s decision to request a Secret Service detail – he’s the first GOP presidential candidate to do so this cycle – is even more puzzling:

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain began receiving protection from the U.S. Secret Service Thursday, his campaign said, making the Georgia businessman the first GOP presidential contender to received stepped-up security on the campaign trail.

Cain spokesman J.D. Gordon said Thursday night that the campaign asked for the protection after the Washington Post posted an article online that morning detailing a series of physical skirmishes involving journalists at Cain rallies. …

As Ed Morrissey writes, “One would think that the Secret Service would only get involved if a candidate had received threats other than persistent reporters.” Which is why it’s strange that his campaign blamed reporters as the reason for the detail. Whether the Secret Service is there to protect Cain from actual physical threats, or from aggressive journalists, the best response from his campaign would be to say nothing at all. Blaming the media not only makes him seem unprepared for the scrutiny that comes with running for president, it also makes him appear extremely thin-skinned.

Read Less

U.S. Should Bolster Civilians in Pakistan

I have no idea what the truth is regarding the notorious memo that Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington, Hussain Haqqani, allegedly sent to Admiral Mike Mullen, asking for U.S. help to prevent a military coup after the Osama bin Laden raid. The memo, whether it came from Haqqani or not, has landed him in hot water back home. What I do know is that the memo highlights what the Washington Post account rightly describes as “the profound division between Pakistan’s powerful army and its civilian government.”

President Zardari and the civilians–including Ambassador Haqqani–are much more amenable to peaceful relations with the West than is the army whose Inter-Services Intelligence continues to fund and support the Haqqani Network and the Taliban, among other terrorist groups. Unfortunately, the army remains in de facto control of Pakistan’s foreign policy, regardless of the trappings of civilian rule. It is very much in America’s interest to bolster the civilians at the expense of the generals. The difficulty is finding a policy that can achieve that aim.

Read More

I have no idea what the truth is regarding the notorious memo that Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington, Hussain Haqqani, allegedly sent to Admiral Mike Mullen, asking for U.S. help to prevent a military coup after the Osama bin Laden raid. The memo, whether it came from Haqqani or not, has landed him in hot water back home. What I do know is that the memo highlights what the Washington Post account rightly describes as “the profound division between Pakistan’s powerful army and its civilian government.”

President Zardari and the civilians–including Ambassador Haqqani–are much more amenable to peaceful relations with the West than is the army whose Inter-Services Intelligence continues to fund and support the Haqqani Network and the Taliban, among other terrorist groups. Unfortunately, the army remains in de facto control of Pakistan’s foreign policy, regardless of the trappings of civilian rule. It is very much in America’s interest to bolster the civilians at the expense of the generals. The difficulty is finding a policy that can achieve that aim.

I don’t have a ten-point program to offer, but I do have a thought–which is that American actions that undermine the generals could redound to the benefit of the civilians. Such actions could include imposing financial and travel sanctions on ISI generals (and their families) who are complicit in attacks on American personnel in Afghanistan. We have hesitated to take such tough steps, but they could actually help to shift the balance of power in Pakistan in favor of the more moderate faction. Of course, they could also backfire. But our current policy clearly isn’t working. It’s time to try something different.

 

Read Less

Optimistic or Pessimistic About America: R.R. Reno

The following is from our November issue. Forty-one symposium contributors were asked to respond to the question: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about America’s future?

_____________

Mark me down as an American optimist. True, we face many challenges: the fiscal crisis of the modern welfare state, the end of American military super-hegemony, an elite culture bent on dismantling the Judeo-Christian moral consensus. Add our present economic woes, which seem intractable, and only a naif can but conclude that we face real problems posing real threats. Nonetheless, I remain convinced that America will remain a vital, attractive, and immensely powerful nation in the coming decades.

The overwhelming majority of Americans—elite, middle class, and working class—are visceral patriots. We’re critical, we find fault, we anguish over our racist past, but the Declaration of Independence continues to express what we believe. This fact about America—the fundamental, deep, and rock-solid legitimacy not only of our system of government but also and more important of our common myths and civil religion—gives us an incalculable strength over and against any of our competitors on the global stage.

The American myth, moreover, has a remarkable—an unprecedented—absorptive power. It reabsorbed a defeated South after the Civil War. It absorbed and still absorbs waves of immigrants, even the children of ex-slaves, whose suffering and humiliation should have made them eternal enemies. A decade ago at my church, one of the elderly black members wept as he watched a documentary about the Tuskegee Airmen, black pilots in World War II who had to endure Jim Crow while training in the South. “How,” he said to me afterward, “could our country have been so unjust to those men?”

Our country! I defy anyone who understands the anguish of that man (who had himself grown up under Jim Crow!) to be anything other than an American optimist. Deficits, unemployment, new international threats, the fraying moral fabric of society—has any generation, any nation not faced these or similar challenges? A country doesn’t “solve” these sorts of problems but rather meets, ameliorates, and endures them. In these times of threat (and we certainly live in such a time), a nation is only as strong as its common culture, and ours is very strong, very strong indeed.

It’s easy to miss the forest for the trees. My elderly friend at church is a rock-ribbed Democrat, and I have little doubt that he disagrees with me about how to solve our present fiscal woes. Other friends think me a religious fanatic in my opposition to same-sex marriage, easy divorce, and abortion on demand. Still others have dreamy ideas about global conflict, the United Nations, and international law. They take the Rodney King approach to national defense: “Why can’t we all just get along?”

Their views and those of others on the left are wrongheaded, and if they control our national future we’ll suffer accordingly. But a nation hobbled by its own stupidity is almost inevitable. What makes us great is the fact that underneath our political and moral debates we have a healthy, robust common culture, a backstop, a bottom line.

Osama bin Laden was stupid enough to imagine that America’s all too real and obvious corruptions—our wanton hedonism, our empty materialism, our reality-TV political culture, our supine, bleating efforts to placate enemies with our vast treasure rather than meet them with military resolve—constitute our national essence. He was very wrong. As we face and fight these corruptions, let’s not make the same mistake.

_____________

R.R. Reno is editor of First Things.

The following is from our November issue. Forty-one symposium contributors were asked to respond to the question: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about America’s future?

_____________

Mark me down as an American optimist. True, we face many challenges: the fiscal crisis of the modern welfare state, the end of American military super-hegemony, an elite culture bent on dismantling the Judeo-Christian moral consensus. Add our present economic woes, which seem intractable, and only a naif can but conclude that we face real problems posing real threats. Nonetheless, I remain convinced that America will remain a vital, attractive, and immensely powerful nation in the coming decades.

The overwhelming majority of Americans—elite, middle class, and working class—are visceral patriots. We’re critical, we find fault, we anguish over our racist past, but the Declaration of Independence continues to express what we believe. This fact about America—the fundamental, deep, and rock-solid legitimacy not only of our system of government but also and more important of our common myths and civil religion—gives us an incalculable strength over and against any of our competitors on the global stage.

The American myth, moreover, has a remarkable—an unprecedented—absorptive power. It reabsorbed a defeated South after the Civil War. It absorbed and still absorbs waves of immigrants, even the children of ex-slaves, whose suffering and humiliation should have made them eternal enemies. A decade ago at my church, one of the elderly black members wept as he watched a documentary about the Tuskegee Airmen, black pilots in World War II who had to endure Jim Crow while training in the South. “How,” he said to me afterward, “could our country have been so unjust to those men?”

Our country! I defy anyone who understands the anguish of that man (who had himself grown up under Jim Crow!) to be anything other than an American optimist. Deficits, unemployment, new international threats, the fraying moral fabric of society—has any generation, any nation not faced these or similar challenges? A country doesn’t “solve” these sorts of problems but rather meets, ameliorates, and endures them. In these times of threat (and we certainly live in such a time), a nation is only as strong as its common culture, and ours is very strong, very strong indeed.

It’s easy to miss the forest for the trees. My elderly friend at church is a rock-ribbed Democrat, and I have little doubt that he disagrees with me about how to solve our present fiscal woes. Other friends think me a religious fanatic in my opposition to same-sex marriage, easy divorce, and abortion on demand. Still others have dreamy ideas about global conflict, the United Nations, and international law. They take the Rodney King approach to national defense: “Why can’t we all just get along?”

Their views and those of others on the left are wrongheaded, and if they control our national future we’ll suffer accordingly. But a nation hobbled by its own stupidity is almost inevitable. What makes us great is the fact that underneath our political and moral debates we have a healthy, robust common culture, a backstop, a bottom line.

Osama bin Laden was stupid enough to imagine that America’s all too real and obvious corruptions—our wanton hedonism, our empty materialism, our reality-TV political culture, our supine, bleating efforts to placate enemies with our vast treasure rather than meet them with military resolve—constitute our national essence. He was very wrong. As we face and fight these corruptions, let’s not make the same mistake.

_____________

R.R. Reno is editor of First Things.

Read Less

Gingrich Promoted “Death Panels” in ‘09

Coming on the heels of reports that Newt Gingrich received nearly $2 million in consulting fees from Freddie Mac, the New York Times reports today that the former Speaker also consulted for a health care company that supported “death panels” – and Gingrich even publicly promoted the policy:

Writing on the website of the Washington Post, Mr. Gingrich praised Gundersen Lutheran Health System of LaCrosse, Wis., for its successful efforts to persuade most patients to have “advance directives,” saying that if Medicare had followed Gundersen’s lead on end-of-life care and other practices, it would “save more than $33 billion a year.”

But within weeks, Mr. Gingrich would find himself on the wrong end of what some Republicans labeled the “death panel” issue.

Read More

Coming on the heels of reports that Newt Gingrich received nearly $2 million in consulting fees from Freddie Mac, the New York Times reports today that the former Speaker also consulted for a health care company that supported “death panels” – and Gingrich even publicly promoted the policy:

Writing on the website of the Washington Post, Mr. Gingrich praised Gundersen Lutheran Health System of LaCrosse, Wis., for its successful efforts to persuade most patients to have “advance directives,” saying that if Medicare had followed Gundersen’s lead on end-of-life care and other practices, it would “save more than $33 billion a year.”

But within weeks, Mr. Gingrich would find himself on the wrong end of what some Republicans labeled the “death panel” issue.

At the time Gingrich penned the column, he was also receiving fees from Gundersen, the Times reports:

On Thursday, Mr. Gingrich’s spokesman confirmed that Gundersen was one of the paying clients of Mr. Gingrich’s Center for Health Transformation, a health consulting firm whose other clients have included WellPoint, the American Hospital Association, and various other major health care concerns. His spokesman, R. C. Hammond, said the center has revenues of about $5 million a year.

Gingrich already had plenty of baggage coming into the race, as Jonathan outlined earlier this week. He was already the candidate who supported the individual mandate, the liberal argument on global warming, and called Paul Ryan’s budget plan “right-wing social engineering.” But the extreme aversion that some conservatives have for Romney may have tempted them to overlook Gingrich’s previous lapses and support him anyway. The problem is, more evidence is coming out showing Gingrich has taken positions completely at odds with mainstream conservatism. As these new examples continue to pile up, conservatives may find it more and more difficult to forgive.

Read Less

Panetta Seems More Interested in Stopping Israel Than Iran

Last week, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta did Iran a favor by publicly pouring cold water on the possibility of the United States using force to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons. In doing so, the Pentagon chief removed whatever lingering doubts the ayatollahs may have had about America’s long-term intentions. This peace of mind will, no doubt, spur them to redouble their efforts to go nuclear. But in case they missed that message, the secretary doubled down on it yesterday. According to Reuters, Panetta told reporters (who had accompanied him on a trip to Halifax, Canada, where he will attend a security forum and meet with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak), the same points he mentioned last week about the unintended consequences of an attack on Iran and how it would only delay their nuclear program. He added that such hostilities would also hurt the world economy.

While there are good reasons to be cautious about embarking on a military campaign against Iran, Panetta’s concerns are overblown. But more importantly, with this second statement in a week against an attack, Panetta’s priorities on the issue are becoming clear. At this point, he’s not so much trying to stop Iran from going nuclear as he is doing all he can to make sure Israel doesn’t attack them.

Read More

Last week, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta did Iran a favor by publicly pouring cold water on the possibility of the United States using force to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons. In doing so, the Pentagon chief removed whatever lingering doubts the ayatollahs may have had about America’s long-term intentions. This peace of mind will, no doubt, spur them to redouble their efforts to go nuclear. But in case they missed that message, the secretary doubled down on it yesterday. According to Reuters, Panetta told reporters (who had accompanied him on a trip to Halifax, Canada, where he will attend a security forum and meet with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak), the same points he mentioned last week about the unintended consequences of an attack on Iran and how it would only delay their nuclear program. He added that such hostilities would also hurt the world economy.

While there are good reasons to be cautious about embarking on a military campaign against Iran, Panetta’s concerns are overblown. But more importantly, with this second statement in a week against an attack, Panetta’s priorities on the issue are becoming clear. At this point, he’s not so much trying to stop Iran from going nuclear as he is doing all he can to make sure Israel doesn’t attack them.

As for Panetta’s worries about the use of force, it’s true even a full-scale American bombing campaign on Iranian nuclear targets would not end the threat for all time. But the use of force would delay their nuclear project for years; if the U.S. military’s job was thorough, perhaps quite a long time. But however much time was bought, it would not be in vain. Because an Iranian nuclear presents a strategic challenge to the entire region as well as an existential threat to Israel, every day of peace purchased by such an offensive would be precious. In the meantime, a lot could happen to prevent further mischief, such as regime change in Tehran or the development of even better anti-missile defenses. Even a few years could make the difference between life and death for millions.

Panetta’s also right that another war in the Persian Gulf would have a big impact on the global economy. But what does he think the consequences of Iranian nukes would have on world finances? An Iranian nuclear bomb would give Iran outsized influence over the world’s biggest suppliers of oil and perhaps give them the ability to hold the world hostage. An Iranian nuclear umbrella over Iran’s terrorist proxies in Lebanon and Gaza would also make the region more dangerous and perhaps set in motion a chain of events that could do just as much damage to the financial world as an effort to prevent the ayatollahs from gaining nukes.

The United States has no easy choices when it comes to Iran. Russian and Chinese backing for Iran dooms efforts to create meaningful international sanctions. Military action would be costly and messy, as Panetta rightly insists, with unintended consequences that could be complicated.

But we also know that doing nothing — and it must be said that the Obama administration’s feckless diplomacy on the issue has turned out to be the moral equivalent of nothing — will be just as dangerous and costly. Whatever the United States’ intentions regarding Iran, it’s imperative for Panetta to stop sending signals to Tehran that demonstrate the administration’s unwillingness to act. A series of statements that makes it look as if Washington is more afraid of Israel taking action on Iran than it is of the nuclear threat itself has made the already difficult task of restraining Iran even harder.

Read Less

Consequences of U.S. Troop Withdrawals

The Wall Street Journal  highlights today one of many disputes that could mar the future of Iraq once American forces leave. In this case it’s the Arab-Kurd dispute, with each side claiming jurisdiction over the oil-rich north city of Kirkuk. This has played out with the mainly Kurdish local police trying to refuse entry to Iraqi army officers coming to claim a U.S. airbase. Expect more such disputes in the future as U.S. troops are totally withdrawn and their peacekeeping role ends. The article quotes Kirkuk’s governor as noting that the Arabs and Kurds “are together while the U.S. forces are here and they will be together if nothing happens. But God forbid if the situation changes you will probably see them split apart, going their own way.”

A similar warning was sounded about Afghanistan by its well-regarded former Interior Minister, Mohammad Hanif Atmar, who was fired by Hamid Karzai and is now an opposition politician. He told a Washington forum that “Afghanistan will likely plunge into civil and regional war if the United States does not leave a residual force of 20,000 to 30,000 troops in the country after 2014, along with significant economic aid.”

Read More

The Wall Street Journal  highlights today one of many disputes that could mar the future of Iraq once American forces leave. In this case it’s the Arab-Kurd dispute, with each side claiming jurisdiction over the oil-rich north city of Kirkuk. This has played out with the mainly Kurdish local police trying to refuse entry to Iraqi army officers coming to claim a U.S. airbase. Expect more such disputes in the future as U.S. troops are totally withdrawn and their peacekeeping role ends. The article quotes Kirkuk’s governor as noting that the Arabs and Kurds “are together while the U.S. forces are here and they will be together if nothing happens. But God forbid if the situation changes you will probably see them split apart, going their own way.”

A similar warning was sounded about Afghanistan by its well-regarded former Interior Minister, Mohammad Hanif Atmar, who was fired by Hamid Karzai and is now an opposition politician. He told a Washington forum that “Afghanistan will likely plunge into civil and regional war if the United States does not leave a residual force of 20,000 to 30,000 troops in the country after 2014, along with significant economic aid.”

His warning is worth heeding. It certainly comports with my own findings on numerous trips to Afghanistan, most recently last month. But President Obama has already defied predictions of difficulties in Iraq by withdrawing all U.S. forces. I fear he is now going to do the same in Afghanistan, no matter the consequences.

 

Read Less

Zuccotti Bark, No Bite

Occupy Wall Street’s day of action was a bust. Turnout fell far short of the anticipated tens of thousands, and the headlines made were less than triumphant. Reuters: “Authorities foil NY protest bid to shut Wall Street.” The AP: “Police Clashes Mar Occupy Wall Street Protests.” Bloomberg: “Protesters Blocked in Attempt to Disrupt NYSE.”

The day was a bust because support for socialism is puny in the United States. American liberals will click “like” or give empty “support” to something vague like the “authentic expression of frustration out there.” But a day of activism devoted to demanding more government? Wrong country. This is the place where last year hundreds of thousands of citizens—not a few sad parks-full—got together to tell the government to butt out of their lives and spend less on Americans.

Read More

Occupy Wall Street’s day of action was a bust. Turnout fell far short of the anticipated tens of thousands, and the headlines made were less than triumphant. Reuters: “Authorities foil NY protest bid to shut Wall Street.” The AP: “Police Clashes Mar Occupy Wall Street Protests.” Bloomberg: “Protesters Blocked in Attempt to Disrupt NYSE.”

The day was a bust because support for socialism is puny in the United States. American liberals will click “like” or give empty “support” to something vague like the “authentic expression of frustration out there.” But a day of activism devoted to demanding more government? Wrong country. This is the place where last year hundreds of thousands of citizens—not a few sad parks-full—got together to tell the government to butt out of their lives and spend less on Americans.

People have puzzled over the protesters’ message, but it’s only ever been about one thing: socialism. That’s what their literature covers; that’s what they blather on about. Thursday’s events were never going to be seismic. In 2011 America, socialists exist in two small enclaves: a pack of impotent and demented street-corner pamphleteers (OWS), and a nexus of guilt-wracked success cases cocooned in Hollywood and tenured academia. That’s it. No statist tsunami was ever going to sunder the country founded on individual liberty, at least not without a fight. Many believed OWS to be larger than it is because it enjoyed an illusory force multiplier in the dissolute apolitical fringe of America’s dropout youth. For those urchin-activist hybrid cases, class warfare filled the nothingness of an otherwise aimless existence. They showed up for free hummus and tent hanky-panky, but stayed for the thrill of ideology and the chance to impact history.

History, however, is passing them by. Thursday will be remembered more for America’s successful test of a hypersonic bomb than for the failed attempt at large-scale political activism. (Even the break-up of Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore was a bigger deal than the occupiers’ shenanigans.) Just as the age will be shaped by the Americans who formed the Tea Party and not those who tried to elevate willful homelessness into a socialist political movement.

Read Less

UNESCO Advocates Press Censorship–and Wants the U.S. to Pay for It

Pursuant to Max’s post yesterday, I’d like to weigh in on UNESCO’s latest effort to persuade Washington to restore the funding it lost when it recognized “Palestine”: Quite aside from UNESCO’s anti-Israel animus (see, for instance,  its erasure of Jewish history by declaring millennia-old Jewish holy sites to be Islamic), America shouldn’t be financing an “Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization” that thinks education, science and culture are best promoted by suppressing freedom of the press. The following Haaretz report is not a joke:

Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when a senior official at the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization called him in for a tongue-lashing on Wednesday [November 9]. The reason? A cartoon published in Haaretz.

The November 4 cartoon, a riff on the government’s anger at UNESCO’s decision to accept Palestine as a full member, showed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak sending an air force squadron to attack Iran, with Netanyahu ordering, “And on your way back, you’re gonna hit the UNESCO office in Ramallah!”

When he met with Eric Falt, UNESCO’s assistant director general for external relations and public information, Ambassador Nimrod Barkan was stunned to be handed a copy of this cartoon and an official letter of protest from UNESCO’s Director General Irina Bokova. Falt told Barkan the cartoon constituted incitement.

“A cartoon like this endangers the lives of unarmed diplomats, and you have an obligation to protect them,” Falt said, according to an Israeli source. “We understand that there is freedom of the press in Israel, but the government must prevent attacks on UNESCO.”

Barkan tried to explain that in Israel, the government doesn’t control the media, but to no avail. He might have added that if it did, Haaretz – a virulent critic of the Netanyahu government – would have been closed long since. He might further have added that Falt misunderstood the cartoon, which, far from encouraging attacks on UNESCO, was meant to heap scorn on Jerusalem’s anger at the organization: Haaretz, unlike the government, has largely supported the Palestinians’ UN bid, and it reliably opposes any and all Israeli military action. In other words, Falt’s censorship campaign was ironically aimed at one of the UN’s very few champions in Israel.

Read More

Pursuant to Max’s post yesterday, I’d like to weigh in on UNESCO’s latest effort to persuade Washington to restore the funding it lost when it recognized “Palestine”: Quite aside from UNESCO’s anti-Israel animus (see, for instance,  its erasure of Jewish history by declaring millennia-old Jewish holy sites to be Islamic), America shouldn’t be financing an “Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization” that thinks education, science and culture are best promoted by suppressing freedom of the press. The following Haaretz report is not a joke:

Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when a senior official at the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization called him in for a tongue-lashing on Wednesday [November 9]. The reason? A cartoon published in Haaretz.

The November 4 cartoon, a riff on the government’s anger at UNESCO’s decision to accept Palestine as a full member, showed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak sending an air force squadron to attack Iran, with Netanyahu ordering, “And on your way back, you’re gonna hit the UNESCO office in Ramallah!”

When he met with Eric Falt, UNESCO’s assistant director general for external relations and public information, Ambassador Nimrod Barkan was stunned to be handed a copy of this cartoon and an official letter of protest from UNESCO’s Director General Irina Bokova. Falt told Barkan the cartoon constituted incitement.

“A cartoon like this endangers the lives of unarmed diplomats, and you have an obligation to protect them,” Falt said, according to an Israeli source. “We understand that there is freedom of the press in Israel, but the government must prevent attacks on UNESCO.”

Barkan tried to explain that in Israel, the government doesn’t control the media, but to no avail. He might have added that if it did, Haaretz – a virulent critic of the Netanyahu government – would have been closed long since. He might further have added that Falt misunderstood the cartoon, which, far from encouraging attacks on UNESCO, was meant to heap scorn on Jerusalem’s anger at the organization: Haaretz, unlike the government, has largely supported the Palestinians’ UN bid, and it reliably opposes any and all Israeli military action. In other words, Falt’s censorship campaign was ironically aimed at one of the UN’s very few champions in Israel.

But that’s beside the point. The point is that UNESCO’s agenda, like that of many other UN agencies, is often antithetical to America’s. That isn’t what Harry Truman intended when he pushed to establish the UN in 1945; he saw it as a tool for promoting American values. But since the “one country, one vote” principle gives the UN’s anti-democratic (and anti-American) majority automatic control, many of its organs have instead become tools for promoting anti-American values – with America underwriting 22 percent of the cost.

Clearly, America shouldn’t quit the UN entirely. But at a time of fiscal austerity, it’s far from clear it ought to continue funding every last UN agency. Instead, Washington should put some of the worst offenders, like the Human Rights  Council, on notice: Either shape up, or kiss your U.S. funding good-bye.

 

Read Less

Optimistic or Pessimistic About America: Herbert I. London

The following is from our November issue. Forty-one symposium contributors were asked to respond to the question: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about America’s future?

_____________

McLandburgh Wilson once observed, “Twixt the optimist and the pessimist, the difference is droll: the optimist sees the doughnut, but the pessimist sees the hole.” Since a diet of doughnuts can be deadly, I describe myself as a guarded optimist. The adjective saves me from the charge of being a Pollyanna. As I see it, there are two reasons for hopefulness.

One, pessimism is not a policy prescription. If the world were going to hell in a handbasket, most people would, ostrich-like, put their head in the sand and yield to forces they cannot control. My fear is that pessimism can easily morph into despair.

Two, empirical evidence provides some justification for guarded optimism. 1979 was a terrible year politically: the Iranian revolution deposed the shah and set loose Islamic fanaticism; the Soviet military invaded Afghanistan; the Grand Mosque in Mecca was captured by Wahhabis who were able to extract extortion payments from the House of Saud; the United States was living through a period of double-digit inflation; and the nation was saddled with a bungling president whose only response to the Soviet military action was boycotting the Olympics. Read More

The following is from our November issue. Forty-one symposium contributors were asked to respond to the question: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about America’s future?

_____________

McLandburgh Wilson once observed, “Twixt the optimist and the pessimist, the difference is droll: the optimist sees the doughnut, but the pessimist sees the hole.” Since a diet of doughnuts can be deadly, I describe myself as a guarded optimist. The adjective saves me from the charge of being a Pollyanna. As I see it, there are two reasons for hopefulness.

One, pessimism is not a policy prescription. If the world were going to hell in a handbasket, most people would, ostrich-like, put their head in the sand and yield to forces they cannot control. My fear is that pessimism can easily morph into despair.

Two, empirical evidence provides some justification for guarded optimism. 1979 was a terrible year politically: the Iranian revolution deposed the shah and set loose Islamic fanaticism; the Soviet military invaded Afghanistan; the Grand Mosque in Mecca was captured by Wahhabis who were able to extract extortion payments from the House of Saud; the United States was living through a period of double-digit inflation; and the nation was saddled with a bungling president whose only response to the Soviet military action was boycotting the Olympics.

The Cassandras warned of even more dire days ahead. But in 1980, an actor from California who became the state’s governor was elected president of the United States. He exuded hope about the future, and that hope was infectious. Ronald Reagan described the Unites States as a shining city upon a hill and, despite his many detractors, lifted the nation out of doubt.

Analogies are usually faulty. Surely this moment is different from 1980, but it would be a mistake to underestimate national resilience and the role a leader can play in elevating the spirit in the body politic. There are days when gloom is a mist in the country’s air. I understand why so many are convinced the best of times are in our past, but I don’t buy this line.

Paul Valéry was right when he said, “the future isn’t what it used to be.” Alas, the future is what we make of it. An inspirational leader can awaken a dormant national esprit. Notwithstanding all the problems we face, the United States is still a model of liberty for people across the globe.

When those courageous Chinese freedom fighters jammed Tiananmen Square in 1989, they didn’t build a statue of Muhammed or Chairman Mao. They constructed a Statue of Liberty. It is our liberty that they wanted to emulate. From the condition of liberty we often take for granted springs our strength and our endurance.

Yes, I am an unapologetic optimist, admittedly guarded. But my view is grounded in reality. As I see it, in a world of manic pessimism, my realism seems like manic optimism. I wonder if that could be a bumper sticker.

_____________

Herbert I. London is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and president emeritus of the Hudson Institute.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.