I’ve been aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln for the past week or so and completely offline, and so I was saddened to learn that Paula Hyman passed away this past week. While a review of a book Hyman co-authored in 1976 received a not too favorable COMMENTARY review, Hyman was a pillar of Jewish life at Yale University. According to the obituary in the Yale Daily News:
Hyman came to Yale in 1986 as the Lucy Moses Professor of Modern Jewish History. She served as the chair of the Judaic Studies program for 13 years, and remained active despite her illness, advising six of 15 current graduate students. Hyman published extensively on topics including the history of Jewish women, Jewish feminism and French Jewry and served as president of the American Academy for Jewish Research.
My colleague Peter Wehner’s two posts (here and here) on the question of conservatives and climate change were, as we have come to expect from him, thoughtful and the result of serious contemplation. It behooves all those who venture an opinion about the subject of the environment and the debate over global warming to examine the question as carefully as he has and to express themselves with as much circumspection and respect for opposing views as Peter has done. It is no small compliment to Peter that the numerous responses to his posts we have published have, for the most part, been both intelligent and serious attempts to engage on the issue.
Nevertheless, I think it is unfair to blame conservatives for playing an obstructionist role in the debate about what we now call “climate change” rather than the more inflammatory “global warming.” If, as Peter would like, there is to be a constructive discussion about efforts that would supposedly ameliorate a potential problem, what is needed from those promoting the theory of global warming is the same level of sober reflection and suggestions rooted in evidence that he would like conservatives to adopt.
There’s been a lot of commentary in the last few days about President Obama’s claim to CBS’s Steve Kroft, in a portion “60 Minutes” chose not to air on the television broadcast but did include on its website, that his achievements place him among the greatest presidents in American history. “The issue here is not going be a list of accomplishments,” Obama said. “As you said yourself, Steve, you know, I would put our legislative and foreign policy accomplishments in our first two years against any president — with the possible exceptions of Johnson, F.D.R., and Lincoln — just in terms of what we’ve gotten done in modern history. But, you know, but when it comes to the economy, we’ve got a lot more work to do.”
Most people took this as proof of the president’s arrogance. I took it as an indication of his growing humility. After all, Obama said as president he would heal the planet, repair the world, and halt the rise of the oceans. Divisions within our country would end. Dictators from every corner of the globe would bow to the power of his reason. For Obama to now say his achievements might rank below those of Lincoln is, I think, a show of near self-abasement for a man whose campaign aides referred to him as the “black Jesus,” who journalists referred to as a “sort of God,” and who historians referred to as “probably the smartest guy ever to become president.”
Lacking money and organization, and under a heavy barrage of negative advertising, Newt Gingrich’s poll numbers are coming back down to earth. But it would be a mistake to treat Gingrich’s candidacy with the same dismissal as those of the “bubble” candidates who preceded the former Speaker. There is much Gingrich’s opponents can learn from him.
In his brief time in the spotlight, Gingrich exhibited three attributes that helped advance his candidacy and which the other candidates lack.
Michael Rubin and Max Boot rightly take the Obama administration to task for Vice President Biden’s assertion that “the Taliban per se is not our enemy.” Max, charitably, believes the comment illustrates the administration’s ability to confuse friend and foe, while Michael draws the broader conclusion that American diplomats — unlike the U.S. military – have demonstrated a persistent inability to learn from, or even to know about, the history of their failures, in this case the history of failed U.S. efforts to negotiate with the Taliban.
My own take is different. Biden is basically correct in saying that “there is not a single statement that the president has ever made in any of our policy assertions that the Taliban is our enemy because it threatens U.S. interests.”
The Obama administration has spent three years reviewing the Keystone XL pipeline, and the Canadian government is understandably frustrated that the decision has been kicked further down the road. After the White House insinuated earlier this week that it might reject the pipeline, Prime Minister Stephen Harper threatened to take the oil elsewhere (via HotAir):
Canada could sell its oil to China and other overseas markets with or without approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline in the United States, says Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
In a year-end television interview, Harper indicated he had doubts the $7-billion pipeline would receive political approval from U.S. President Barack Obama, and that Canada should be looking outside the United States for markets.
“I am very serious about selling our oil off this continent, selling our energy products off to Asia. I think we have to do that,” Harper said in the Monday interview with CTV National News.
Right now, there’s no avenue for Canada to get the oil to the Pacific for shipping, so any deal with China would be far down the road.
Without question, the main joy of teaching for the military is the students. When I taught undergraduates, students would talk in class but few would say anything: They’d argue theory, but would have few facts and even less life experience to back up their arguments. Today’s servicemen and women are different. They have accrued a lifetime of experience in just a few years. Heading off to eat with them at a DFAC (dining facility) at North Fort Hood, or in the wardroom of a U.S. navy carrier is about as valuable a learning experience as one can get.
I’m just off the USS Abraham Lincoln, which is currently heading across the Pacific to support our troops in far hotter waters. One of the more interesting conversations I had was with an officer who had, in an earlier deployment, spent a good deal of time doing anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia. He said his ship once came across a pirate “mother ship” apparently dead in the water. It was not in imminent danger, however, nor was the ship itself engaged in piracy—that was the job of the small boats which launched from the mother ship. As the cruiser hovered nearby, the pirates threw over the side a life preserver with a message attached to it. The cruiser grabbed the life-preserver, and opened the attached plastic bag with the message in it. It read, in perfect English, “Unless you’re going to give us booze, women, and money, why don’t you just get the f—k away from here?” And, because of U.S. rules of engagement, that is exactly what we did.
President Obama is pinning his hopes for re-election on a populist message that focuses on income inequality. According to former Clinton aide William Galston, that’s a bad idea.
Professor Galston, writing in The New Republic, says that recent surveys shows that most Americans don’t share Obama’s views when it comes to income inequality. In fact, according to Galston, if Obama’s recent speech in Osawatomie, Kansas – which made repeated references to income inequality — becomes the thematic narrative for his reelection campaign, it may well reduce his chances of prevailing in a close race.
Most conservatives will vigorously agree with Rick Santorum’s message here, but is this the right way to frame it? In the age of the micro-soundbite, throwing your support behind “income inequality” carries a certain amount of risk. There’s no doubt Santorum’s words will be twisted here to make him seem indifferent to Americans who have been hit hard by the economic crisis:
“The reason you see some sympathy among the American public for them is the grave concern — and it’s a legitimate one — that blue-collar workers, lower-income workers, are having a harder and harder time rising,” the former Pennsylvania senator said at a presidential campaign stop. “They talk about income inequality. I’m for income inequality. I think some people should make more than other people, because some people work harder and have better ideas and take more risk, and they should be rewarded for it. I have no problem with income inequality.”
“President Obama is for income equality. That’s socialism. It’s worse yet, it’s Marxism,” Santorum said. “I’m not for income equality. I’m not for equality of result — I’m for equality of opportunity.”
Santorum goes on to express his support for equality of opportunity, which he says can be achieved by reducing corporate taxes and regulations. But he may have been better off framing this in more optimistic terms – like Jeb Bush did with the “Right to Rise” earlier this week – rather than supporting “income inequality,” which has a distinctly negative connotation and cedes the language to the political left.
Alana Goodman makes an excellent point about Ron Paul’s disinterest in finding out who wrote racist and hateful material in newsletters put out in his name. There’s a larger point, though, that the episode demonstrates: Ron Paul may want to disassociate himself from his newsletters.
Hence his excuse that “Twenty years ago I had six or eight people helping with the letter, and I was practicing medicine, to tell you the truth, and, I do not know” [who wrote them]. So here we have a candidate whose attempt to sidestep the controversy seems to be that his focus was elsewhere. Eight people exceeded his ability to supervise and yet, as president, he wants to supervise thousands?
The latest survey of Iowa Republican caucus goers confirms the rapid decline in Newt Gingrich’s fortunes. A Rasmussen poll conducted Monday and published today shows Mitt Romney vaulting into the lead with 25 percent, Ron Paul in second with 20 percent, and Newt Gingrich lagging behind in third with 17 percent.
There are a few notable elements about this poll. First is the continuation of Gingrich’s slide which shows him with only about half as much support as he had just about a month ago in Iowa. Second are the steady gains that both Romney and Paul have made with each advancing 2 points in the last week. Third is the fact that for the first time, Rick Santorum is finally gaining some traction in Iowa and most specifically passing Michele Bachmann. But last and perhaps most significant is the fact that Romney is, according to Rasmussen, leading among those voters who “consider themselves Republicans,” while Paul is ahead among non-Republicans likely to participate in the caucus. That bodes well for the former Massachusetts governor and illustrates again how implausible Paul’s hopes for the nomination really are.
The BBC has a fascinating report based on The Lion’s Shadow, a new book by Fariborz Mokhtari, which tells the story of Abdol-Hossein Sardari, a young Iranian diplomat in Paris, who helped save 2,000 Iranian Jews in Europe. While Iran was officially neutral during World War II, Reza Shah—the father of the Shah overthrown in 1979—sympathized with the Nazis. In 1941, Iranian authorities ordered Sardari home, but he continued to help Iranian Jews in Europe even after the loss of his diplomatic immunity.
The BBC continues:
Isn’t it interesting that the person who seems least concerned with tracking down the “real” author behind the Ron Paul newsletters is Ron Paul? On CNN yesterday, the presidential candidate looked honestly dumbfounded when anchor Ali Velshi pointed out that Paul could just put this issue to rest by asking his former newsletter employees whether any of them wrote the controversial articles (via Matt Welch at Reason):
Ali Velshi: Are you comfortable in telling us who did write them? You haven’t been able to sort of tell us specifically who wrote them.
President Obama wanted a one-year payroll tax extension. Instead, he got something even better – a Senate-approved two-month extension bill. The legislation immediately sent House Republicans into a revolt, and they’re now fighting for exactly the useless, one-year extension Obama initially called for. They’re also hurting themselves politically in the process.
If the way House Republicans are handling the payroll tax issue is aggravating to conservatives, you can imagine how independent voters are viewing it. Which is why it’s hard to disagree with the Wall Street Journal’s advice to the House GOP: cut your losses, pass the extension, and go home.
One of the greatest differences between the State and Defense Departments is the amount of time the latter spends on self-criticism to determine lessons learned, and the former’s refusal to do so. It is one of the reasons we have the strongest militaries in the world, and some of the least effective diplomacy.
For example, many diplomats say that negotiation with the Taliban is worth trying. Secretary of State Clinton has gone so far as to compare the U.S. officials’ willingness to sit with their Soviet counterparts to the Obama administration’s outreach to Mullah Omar. While negotiation with the Taliban may now be a central pillar of Obama’s strategy in Afghanistan, such State Department efforts to negotiate with the Taliban are not new. In the years before 9/11, American diplomats and senior Clinton administration officials met the Taliban on almost three dozen occasions. Never have the State Department (let alone the Obama administration) conducted lessons learned on how the State Department’s best and brightest allowed the Taliban to string American officials along during these years with false declarations of sincerity and promises to resolve the terrorism problem through negotiation. All the while, the Taliban protected the training camps in which 9/11 hijackers trained.
Gen. John Allen is absolutely right to raise the probability that U.S. troops will have to stay in Afghanistan past 2014. There is little likelihood the insurgency will have been defeated by then. The best we can hope for is to transfer lead responsibility to the Afghan security forces. But they will still require substantial assistance in the form of route clearance, medivac, fire support, logistics, intelligence and other “enablers” to get the job done. This will probably mean at least 30,000 U.S. troops staying in Afghanistan indefinitely.
Even if the insurgency is largely over by then (doubtful), U.S. troops would be required to stabilize a jittery postwar situation–just as they have been doing in Iraq, where we are seeing the price being paid in increased instability because of the premature pullout of U.S. forces. That’s a lesson that should be kept firmly in mind in Afghanistan. If we are to succeed, we will have to make a long-term commitment, just as we have in other places such as Germany and South Korea.
I was still onboard the USS Abraham Lincoln when Defense Secretary Leon Panetta visited Turkey. According to the Armed Forces Network, Panetta was full of praise for Turkey and its role in the region.
Unfortunately, the more the Obama administration puffs up Turkey, the more Turkish officials see a green light to encourage radicalism and bash Israel. On the same day as Panetta’s visit, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu bragged, “It is our policies which made Israel kneel down in the region in front of us. We have always sided with people who demand democracy, not with authoritarian and oppressive regimes.”
Several weeks ago, the Arab League made headlines when the notoriously ineffective body first chided and then sanctioned Syria. Alas, it seems the Arab League has now reverted to its usual, leaving the Syrian people the sacrificial lamb.
The Arab League just nominated Sudanese Lt. Gen. Mohammad al-Dabi to head its mission in Damascus. Previously, Al-Dabi served as the Sudanese government’s top representative for Darfur in which capacity he obfuscated international efforts to alleviate the mass murder the Sudanese government sought to perpetrate in that western province. With Al-Dabi in Damascus, what could possibly go wrong?
There is some major confusion pervading the senior layers of the Obama administration when it comes to defining and understanding who our enemies are. At least that’s the only conclusion one can draw from a couple of recent quotes a friend pointed out to me.
Exhibit A: In this interview with my Council colleague Les Gelb, Vice President Biden had this to say: “Look, the Taliban per se is not our enemy. That’s critical. There is not a single statement that the president has ever made in any of our policy assertions that the Taliban is our enemy because it threatens U.S. interests.” That’s quite a statement to make about a terrorist/guerrilla group U.S. forces have been fighting since the fall of 2001–a group that is closely aligned with al-Qaeda and other trans-national extremist groups and that is making a violent assault on every liberal, decent value that Americans hold dear.