The Washington Post has the umpteenth story today announcing the imminent demise of al-Qaeda. This one is more convincing than most because it focuses on the organization’s decline since the elimination of Osama bin Laden. The Post account declares that there are only two “high value” leaders remaining in al-Qaeda–Ayman al-Zawahiri and his No. 2, Abu Yahya al-Libi–and that according to U.S. intelligence officials, their “demise would mean the group’s defeat.”
The seeming certainty of this judgment is somewhat undermined down below where the article casually refers to “the organization’s estimated few hundred remaining followers in Pakistan.” Did al-Qaeda ever have more than a few hundred followers in Pakistan? And what is to say that some of those “followers” could not become leaders even if Zawahiri and Libi are eliminated? That concern is reason enough to maintain the pressure in Pakistan rather than moving the CIA’s drones to other battle fronts too soon.
The Wall Street Journal reports today on the difficult negotiations going on between Iraqi and American authorities over the fate of Ali Musa Daqduq, a Lebanese Hezbollah operative who is the last detainee still in U.S. custody in Iraq.
One of the many unfortunate aspects of the U.S. military withdrawal from that country is that we are having to either free or turn over to the Iraqis hard-core terrorists who have long been held in U.S.-run detention facilities. The odds that the Iraqi government would find the gumption to hold a Shiite terrorist with close Iranian connections–someone like Daqduq–are slight, to say the least. It would take an exceedingly brave or foolish Iraqi judge to order Daqduq’s incarceration. The judge would likely be signing his own death warrant, and his family’s, and for no good reason: After he was killed, Daqduq would be released anyway.
A foolish op-ed published yesterday in the New York Times illustrates well the approaching failures of the latest trends in Israel advocacy.
“Pinkwashing” may be an unfamiliar term to most, but it’s been the hip new expression in anti-Israelist Western circles for years now. It refers to the efforts by the state of Israel and Israel advocacy organizations to promote Israel’s liberal treatment of its gay population, which is certainly the freest, by an extreme long shot, in its region and perhaps in the entire Western world, where even San Francisco may not be as welcoming to gays as Tel Aviv.
As Mitt Romney ramps up his campaign in Iowa, a group of high-profile social conservatives are meeting on Monday to figure out how to prevent him from winning the state caucus, CNN reports. These social conservatives oppose Romney because of his flip-flops on abortion and gay marriage, but as CNN notes, his Mormonism obviously plays a role:
Many social conservatives and other religious leaders in the state have openly labeled the former Massachusetts governor as a “flip-flopper,” a criticism the campaign frequently beats back, while others have seen Romney’s Mormon faith as an issue. And many of them have openly hoped for someone to emerge as a viable alternative to the former Massachusetts governor.
Several weeks ago, the protesters of Occupy Wall Street in Washington, D.C., used children as human shields during a confrontation with attendees of a conservative conference for Americans for Prosperity. Now, in Seattle, it appears one protester used her unborn child as a barrier between herself and police.
Occupy the Planet, a blog dedicated to the Occupy Wall Street movement, explains:
The headlines coming out of last night’s GOP debate predictably emphasized the candidates clashing. Of course there were some clashes; this was a debate after all. But what struck me is not the level of acrimony but the lack thereof. It was, on the whole, a civil and informed debate with most of the candidates displaying familiarity with the issues; the exceptions were Herman Cain, Rick Perry and Ron Paul, who seemed out of their depth discussing foreign affairs. It is perhaps no coincidence that Paul–whose answer to every question seems to be that he’s opposed to war, period–displayed a stunning lack of knowledge of specific issues, for example conflating Somalia’s Shabaab with al-Qaeda. Both are Islamist terrorist organizations, but they have no formal affiliation.
Jon Huntsman knew more (as he not so subtly reminded viewers with his reference to China), but he was also out of step with the other candidates–for example, by advocating a rapid drawdown in Afghanistan that would most likely lead to the collapse of the Afghan government and a recurrence of the terrible civil war that devastated the country in the 1990s. But he has only slightly more hope than Paul does of becoming the Republican nominee. Both men are an asterisk in the race–notably only for getting unearned national airtime at debates such as this one.
As Jonathan noted, Newt Gingrich offered a balanced approach to the issue of illegal immigration last night, but one that–as Rick Perry showed–is still controversial among Republicans in many states, including Iowa. There are some equally thoughtful critiques of Gingrich’s position, and Mickey Kaus offers a few today. Gingrich’s proposal was heavy on nuance, light on red meat, and framed as an appeal to common sense.
But so was Perry’s, yet his poll numbers were halved by the time the dust settled after his infamous answer to the immigration issue in September. So why should Gingrich be any different? Timing and temperament.
As Alana noted yesterday, Mitt Romney’s somewhat stiff personality appears to be as much of a handicap to his presidential candidacy as his record of flip-flops on some major issues like health care and abortion. It may well be the fact that he never smoked or drank will be held against him by voters who don’t think they can trust a person who won’t have a beer with them or who prefer the redemption stories of sinners who found the light (as was the case with George W. Bush) than the narrative of a man who never seems to have strayed off the straight and narrow path of virtue.
If so, this says something very interesting about American society. If we have gotten to the point where voters aren’t merely prepared to forgive someone for past transgressions but will actively reject a candidate because he has no past sins to atone for, then what we are witnessing is a sea change in our 21st century political culture. Will a nation that seems to honor victims more than heroes and that embraces those with tarnished reputations more readily than those without a blemish be one where an all-American boy who grew up to be a church-going, faithful husband can aspire to the presidency? Maybe not. But I think we ought to wait until the next election is over before we jump to that conclusion.
I’ve had some critical things to say about Newt Gingrich in the past, but I thought his answer on immigration at last night’s GOP debate was excellent. He put forth a series of steps that would curtail illegal immigration, even as he said this: “I don’t see how the party that says it’s the party of the family is going to adopt an immigration policy which destroys families that have been here a quarter-century. And I’m prepared to take the heat for saying let’s be humane in enforcing the law without giving them citizenship but by finding a way to create legality so that they are not separated from their families.”
In response, Romney adviser and spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom leaped in for the kill: Newt Gingrich supported the 1986 amnesty act, and even though he conceded that was a mistake, he said he was willing to repeat that mistake, by extending amnesty to immigrants who are illegally in the country today. Mitt Romney is against amnesty, and Newt Gingrich made it very clear he was for amnesty.
Another key point in the GOP debate that went unnoticed by much of the press was when Jon Huntsman lamented that Americans spend blood and treasure in Afghanistan, but China walks away with the mining concession. It’s a good point, of course, but what Huntsman doesn’t seem to realize is that China paid Afghanistan’s minister of mining something like a $10 million bribe to get that concession.
So, for Huntsman: Do we replicate China’s embrace of dysfunctional corruption and start paying bribes or do we keep them out of Afghanistan all together and, if so, how? Alas, sometimes the issues look much more sanitary when sitting in the bubble of the American embassy, rather than being out and on the ground.
We don’t know yet what the final outcome of the power struggle going on in Egypt will be, but we do know the identity of one of the big winners: Hamas. No matter how much power the Egyptian military winds up with, there’s little question the Islamist group is one of the chief beneficiaries of the collapse of the Mubarak regime and the increasing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo.
As the New York Times reports this morning, the Brotherhood’s clout is just one of a number of factors that have increased Hamas’ influence among Palestinians and the region. Their ability to force Israel to free over 1,000 terrorists in exchange for one kidnapped Israeli soldier diminished Fatah and the Palestinian Authority as did the failure of the latter’s effort to bypass the peace process by winning independence from the United Nations. But with Gaza’s border with Egypt no longer sealed and the possibility that it will become the entry point for arms and other form of aid, there will soon be no way for anyone to ignore the fact that the Hamas state there is the true face of Palestinian independence.
The Forward has a must-read article on pervasive anti-Semitism in the new Libya that reveals both the Arab world’s greatest problem – which isn’t anti-Semitism per se – and why the West persistently ignores it. Inter alia, reporter Andrew Engel describes how Libyan after Libyan volunteered the “information,” completely unprompted, that the hated Muammar Qaddafi was a Jew. The same theme permeated a CD he heard in a Tripoli taxi – but only in Arabic:
The first track, “Khalas ya Qaddafi” (“Finished, oh Qaddafi”), rapped in English: “Thank you Obama, thank you Jazeera, thank you Sarkozy for everything you’ve done to me.” It then moved into Arabic: “I’m sorry for Algeria because their leader is Bouteflika, who supports every Jew with his soldiers and weapons. Leave, oh Qaddafi. Every day people die, every day people suffer … Go out, you Jew!”
While Jonathan Tobin is correct that “[Ron] Paul’s rationalization of the Taliban is disgusting,” Paul’s factual ignorance was astounding. The question he was answering was that posed by my colleague Katherine Zimmerman and was specifically about Ash-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda affiliate which has taken root in Somalia following the American withdrawal from that country. Paul’s answer? al-Qaeda exists in places where we keep bases. But we don’t keep bases in Somalia. The logic of Paul’s response was that al-Qaeda would disappear if we only withdrew from the world, but Zimmerman is right: the Ash-Shabaab case proves him wrong.
Paul may hit his stride when he discusses domestic libertarianism, but he really doesn’t understand anything about international relations or the outside world. Perhaps if he actually attended some of the meetings of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on which in theory he serves, he could distinguish himself as being more expert than Herman Cain.
Contentions commenter Maines Michael points us to Bat Ye’or’s incisive article in the November New English Review, entitled “The Palestinization of UNESCO” (which follows Robert Wolfe’s equally incisive article in the August NER, entitled “Settlements Are the Issue”). Taken together, the two articles cut to the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Bat Ye’or’s article focuses on the claim “that Jewish existence in its ancestral homeland, Judea and Samaria, is an ‘occupation’ – a colonization:”