Commentary Magazine


Posts For: December 21, 2011

Paula Hyman, RIP

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.

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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.

An unavowed feminist, Hyman was particularly active in seeking to reform the place of women in Conservative Judaism in the 1980s. Looking back at my nine years at Yale, I regret not taking any of Hyman’s courses. Along with Gaddis Smith, Paul Kennedy, Jonathan Spence, the late Robin Winks and the recently deceased David Montgomery, she enjoyed a reputation among both students and faculty during my time at Yale as a truly great teacher. Alas, it was only after I finished my coursework that I came to know Hyman, and it was only during my own rare visits to Yale when we would cross paths that we would chat.

While we never discussed Yale politics, she was an important voice. As Yale’s history department has lurched ever more toward trendy theory and away from traditional research, and as Yale’s faculty more generally have become increasingly politicized, Hyman remained a voice for sanity. Her politics may have been more to the left than the right, but she was a traditional academic who valued research, reasoned argument, and had little tolerance for those who allowed their own personal politics to corrupt their research. During the Juan Cole debacle, Hyman was a voice of sanity and defended the decision—wise in hindsight given Cole’s decline—to decline him an offer.

Yale will be far worse off with her loss. May she rest in peace.

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Conservatives’ Warming Skepticism Rooted in Environmentalist Hysteria

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.

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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.

Peter is right to say it is foolish for conservatives to adopt a position that the globe cannot be getting warmer and that it is impossible for humans to be contributing to this situation. Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of life on this planet during just the last 2,000 years of recorded history knows that climate change has occurred several times during this period. And it is certainly possible that the amount of carbon dioxide produced by human activity might play a role in any warming in the last century.

But given the apocalyptic scenarios routinely put forward by warming hysterics such as Al Gore and the level of invective that the political left has consistently spewed in response to even the most reasonable of questions about their assertions, it has been difficult for conservatives to avoid responding in kind. Because so much of the talk about warming has been coached in terms that are the stuff of science fiction rather than real world science in which competing interests can be weighed against each other, it’s also been hard for skeptics to get too worked about a problem they know isn’t as bad as Gore or the worst of the screamers about the issue claim. The planet may be getting a bit warmer, but the notion that it is melting or that life here will be made substantially worse for the vast majority of Earth’s inhabitants is not only not proved, it may be more of a case of wishful thinking by some warmers than anything that can be termed science.

Even more to the point is the fact that many of the warming polemics have been motivated not so much by “science” as by an ideological predisposition by some to view capitalism and the prosperity-producing economic activity that it has generated as inherently sinful. Some on the right may be in denial about the possibility of warming. But it is the pseudo-religious spirit always lurking behind so much environmentalist rhetoric that has provoked most of the skepticism about their theories. Their inflexibility and willingness to either doctor the evidence or simply lie about it has undermined their credulity, a factor that has understandably led the public to doubt the truth of their assertions about what science really says.

Moreover, they also know the prescriptions for fixing warming are primarily focused on restricting the market and economic freedom. The ideological fervor of the warmers smacks of previous attempts by intellectuals to dictate economic practices and the basic organizing principles of human activity. Because we know those efforts were the product of the hubris of the intellectuals and led inevitably to sorrow and often slaughter, it is little wonder that, as Peter says, many prefer to simply shut the door on the possibility of a repeat of such miseries. The vagaries of nature may be awful but so, too, are those of humans when in the grips of ideological passions. That is especially true as even the environmental lobby can offer no guarantee that warming will cease even if we adopted every one of their extreme prescriptions.

Since none of the solutions that have been proposed seem either practical or politically feasible and are rooted more in a neo-socialist belief that First World economies and capitalists must be made to pay for their sins, few can be surprised about the unwillingness of many Americans to simply bow to the dictates of what they are told is the unalterable verdict of science.

Just as troubling is the notion that warming is an inherent evil. In the past, a warming climate has led to greater food production and periods of growth and prosperity while cooling was associated with poverty and scarcity. While there may be a case to be made that warming will hurt more people the next time, it is rarely, if ever, presented. Like so much else about the case for global warming alarm, the dangers are more assumed than proven.

Rather than the onus being on conservatives to bow to the dictates of warming science, it is the responsibility of those who wish to convince skeptics to make their case in a more accountable fashion. The problem with the debate about warming is not so much a matter of denial or hyper-skepticism on the part of conservatives as it is with the warmers’ tendency to transform theories and computer models into a catechism. The environment hasn’t just been politicized. It has become a pseudo-religion with intellectual high priests who treat themselves as a Magisterium that may dispense absolution (cap and trade) and punish non-believers. Instead of engaging with skeptics, warmers have treated those who question them as heretics to be ostracized and/or rhetorically burned at the stake.

So long as that is the case, the assertion that conservatives are playing the role of obstructionists won’t advance the debate. Rather than waiting for conservatives to find a way to accommodate warming theories to the principles of a free society, the onus remains on the environmental alarmists to present more reasoned and truthful interpretation of their data and practical suggestions not based in ideologies that have nothing to do with science.

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Obama’s Near Self-Abasement

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.”

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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.”

It looks to me like Barack Obama is suffering from a crisis in confidence.

 

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Have Newt’s Rivals Been Paying Attention?

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.

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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.

The first was demonstrated in the following exchange Gingrich had with Fox’s Chris Wallace during a debate in August:

WALLACE:  Thank you.  Speaker Gingrich, one of the ways that we judge a candidate is the campaign they run. In June, almost your entire national campaign staff resigned, along with your staff here in Iowa. They said that you were undisciplined in campaigning and fundraising, and at last report, you’re a million dollars in debt. How do you respond to people who say that your campaign has been a mess so far?

GINGRICH:  Well, let me say, first of all, Chris, that I took seriously Bret’s injunction to put aside the talking points, and I wish you would put aside the gotcha questions. (APPLAUSE)….

Congress should come back Monday. They should repeal the Dodd-Frank bill. They should repeal Sarbanes-Oxley. They should repeal Obamacare. They should institute Lean Six Sigma across the entire federal government, a hard idea for Washington reporters to cover, but an important idea, because it’s the key to American manufacturing success.

I’d love to see the rest of tonight’s debate asking us about what we would do to lead an America whose president has failed to lead, instead of playing Mickey Mouse games. (APPLAUSE)

That is how Gingrich controlled the dialogue on his terms. He effectively established the boundaries of serious discussion around his comfort zone, and invited the media to join him there. Then he offered up a red meat response to the question as he reframed it. Once he won the exchange, he reminded the media they can expect to be called out on their silliness and hypocrisy the rest of the way, to nudge them toward asking questions that won’t get them humiliated on national TV with a live studio audience cheering it on.

Obviously, this doesn’t work in all situations, and it can get old. But Gingrich was smart enough to know when to deploy the tactic, and he built his comeback on these exchanges. The other candidates may be sensitive to looking like a jerk (an admirable sensitivity), but neither should they fear coloring outside the lines as the press seeks to define both the candidates and the narrative.

The second aspect of Gingrich’s strategy that proved effective has been his insistence on using his time to criticize President Obama. The candidates will need to contrast themselves with their rivals in order to win the nomination, and they will be forgiven for doing so. But it’s doubtful they will win over a nervous public if they fail to present a clear enough contrast with the president.

The third one–and this is fraught with tripwires–is Gingrich’s astounding self-confidence. It gets him in trouble, but it’s also what made him believe the Republican party could, under his leadership, take back the House after 40 years in the minority. Gingrich’s 2012 campaign is predicated on a “scorched Washington” mentality; no federal institution, apparently, is safe. He can reform it all.

What makes this effective is that, for Gingrich, people actually believe it. To some, this makes him far too risky; to others, this makes him compelling. To his supporters, he is the candidate of refreshing honesty. To his detractors, he has become the Pop Rocks and Coke candidate.

Last week, Daniel Henninger wrote that Gingrich will either best Romney for the nomination, in which case the idea that Romney was capable of defeating Obama becomes less plausible anyway, or he will toughen Romney up and sharpen his reflexes. Henninger even raises the comparison to Rocky, a flawed but plucky and durable contender insisting he has a shot at the title.

Whichever way it goes, Gingrich will have left his mark on this year’s crop of aspiring Republican leaders. The question is: when the perpetual professor was teaching them a lesson, were they listening?

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Biden on the Taliban: They Call it “Strategery”

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.”

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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.”

Indeed, as far back as early 2009, in his speech before a joint session of Congress, President Obama spoke about combating al-Qaeda, but failed to mention the Taliban. Not to pat myself on the back, but this was what I wrote at the time:

The comprehensive strategy that he promises may be one that seeks to reconcile with the Taliban while continuing isolated strikes against terrorist safe havens. Indeed, his strongest promise of all on national security issues was his assurance that he would not allow such safe havens to plot against the U.S. That promise, firm in isolation, foreshadows a return to the Clinton-era policy of counter-terrorism by cruise missile, just as his promise of “swift and certain justice” for captured terrorists implies a return to the view that terrorism is largely a law enforcement issue. If so, he will be returning to a well-trodden and failed path, one that led directly to 9/11.

Almost three years later, that looks like a good prediction. So I think my friends are selling this administration short when they blame Vice President Biden’s statements on confusion or ignorance. That gives the administration too little credit. These statements represent, instead, the next phase in a strategy that the administration has had in mind from the very beginning: to get out of Afghanistan as rapidly as politically possible by separating – in the minds of the American people if not in reality – al-Qaeda from the Taliban.

Contrary to Michael, the problem is not that Obama and Biden are uninterested in the evidence of our failed efforts to engage the Taliban. The problem is that – as Max notes in another context – they want to get out of Afghanistan, and they believe that they can facilitate this in the American political context by depicting the Taliban as irrelevant to our security interests. And sadly, the evidence of the steadily-declining popular support for the war during the past year suggests that, politically, this calculation is correct.

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Canada Warns Obama on Keystone XL

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.

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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.

Proposals to build a pipeline extension to reach Canada’s West Coast are also likely to get major pushback from environmentalists. But it is possible. At Huffington Post Canada, Christopher Sands explains:

Canada’s best move now would be to quietly build the pipeline to the West Coast, regardless of the outcome of the U.S. 2012 elections or the progress of Keystone XL construction. Canada needs real options to avoid being repeatedly held captive to American political caprice. To earn U.S. respect and stop the bullying by environmental groups and politicians, Canada must turn its Keystone threats into credible promises, and act on them when necessary.

This would be a major disappointment, but it would be hard to blame Canada for taking that route. Let’s say Obama gets reelected, and the Keystone XL decision comes due in 2013. There’s a good chance Obama will approve the pipeline once he’s free of reelection constraints, but it’s far from certain. Who knows what the political dynamic will be like in a year?

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Why Somali Pirates Consider the U.S. Navy a Paper Tiger

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.

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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.

It is no surprise that piracy thrives when the pirates know our rules of engagement and know they have little to fear for their actions. Today, our sailors are instructed to consider piracy a matter for the courts rather than simply a military matter. As soon as the Oval Office and Pentagon allow our sailors to truly crackdown on piracy and destroy both the ships that enable it and the properties on shore built with its proceeds, its curse will continue to hamper international shipping. The alternative is simply a very expensive pageant and, frankly, our servicemen and women deserve far better than spending holidays and kids’ birthdays away from their families simply to sit off the coast of Africa in a show of force which the pirates no longer take seriously.

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Obama’s Misguided Re-Election Strategy

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.
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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.

In explaining why, Galston examines data, starting with a Gallup survey released earlier this month, which showed that the number of Americans who see American society as divided into haves and have-nots has decreased significantly since the 2008 election. In 2008, 49 percent saw the country as divided along those lines and 49 percent didn’t. As of this week, only 41 percent see the country as divided between haves and have-nots while 58 percent do not. And most of the reduction in those seeing the country as economically divided has occurred among those who place themselves squarely in the middle in American politics.

In 2008, 48 percent of independents saw an economic divide; today it’s 37 percent.

In 2008, 51 percent of moderates saw a divide versus only 38 percent now.

Liberals are the only group that has become more likely to see a divided society—63 percent in 2008 versus 66 percent today. “While invoking sharpening divisions will thrill them,” Galston writes, “it may have the opposite effect on the moderates and independents without whose support national Democratic candidates will fail.”

In another Gallup poll, substantial majorities of Americans saw expanding the economy and increasing equality of opportunity as extremely or very important. That is not the case for reducing income and wealth gaps—21 percent of Republicans and 43 percent of independents. Only Democrats gave this goal a high priority (by a margin of 72 versus 27 percent).

When Gallup asked a sample of Americans in 1998 whether the gap between the rich and the poor was a problem that needed to be fixed, 52 percent said yes while 45 percent regarded it as an acceptable part of the economic system. Today, those numbers have flipped: Only 45 percent see the gap as in need of fixing, while 52 percent don’t.

A third Gallup survey (which I wrote about here) asked Americans to state whether they saw big business, big government, or big labor as the biggest threat to the country in the future. In March of 2009, 55 percent felt most threatened by big government and 32 percent by big business. As of December 2011, a near-record 64 percent saw big government as the greatest threat versus on 26 percent for big business. The big change here has occurred among Democrats. In 2009, only 32 percent feared big government the most compared to 52 percent who feared big business. Today, 48 percent of Democrats cite government as their principal fear, up 16 percentage points, while only 44 percent cite big business.

“In short,” Galston writes, “a 2008 election widely regarded as heralding a shift toward the more government-friendly public sentiment of the New Deal and Great Society eras seems to have yielded just the reverse.”

While acknowledging that Mr. Obama can win next year, Galston concludes his analysis by pointing out that “a campaign emphasizing growth and opportunity is more likely to yield a Democratic victory than is a campaign focused on inequality. While the latter will thrill the party’s base, only the former can forge a majority.”

We’re about to find out.

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Santorum Backs “Income Inequality”

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.

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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.

Perhaps more interesting than Santorum’s speech is the fact that he’s actually receiving media attention for it, a sign that he’s seen as the next in line for the “not-Romney” spot in Iowa. We’ll have to wait for the polling companies to catch up before we can see if Santorum got a bump from his two major social conservative endorsements yesterday, but Politico reports that internal polling already looks promising for Santorum:

A source with one of the 2012 campaigns relays this view from its ID calls in Iowa, of a two-tiered race between Ron Paul and Mitt Romney on top, and the other four hopefuls in the second tier.

There is “some shifting among the second tier,” per the source, but Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum seem to be moving up. Newt Gingrich’s trajectory is still falling.

Bachmann is rising too, which isn’t a surprise after her impressive debate performance last week. Now that Newt Gingrich is waning and Rick Perry is staying flat, Bachmann will probably be Santorum’s biggest obstacle for winning social conservative voters in the state.

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Content Aside, Newsletters Show Ron Paul’s Incompetence

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?

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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?

I’m not attached to any candidate, but if there is one lesson we can draw from President Obama’s tenure, it is that the United States cannot afford a commander-in-chief who has no management experience.

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Inside Romney’s Rise to Top of GOP Heap

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.

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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.

Examining these trends in greater detail, it’s clear that Gingrich’s decline is no longer in doubt. Since his campaign was always something of a house of cards, the final two weeks before the caucus may see his support decline even further. That will mean not only an ignominious end for what seemed only a month ago to be a campaign headed to victory in Iowa but the harbinger of a swift end to his hopes elsewhere.

Some may interpret Romney’s progress as more evidence of his inability to gain more than a quarter of the vote, but his slow creep toward the top illustrates that he has reversed the negative momentum that seemed to stall his campaign a few weeks ago. Paul’s gains will be greeted with dismay by mainstream Republicans who are unhappy about this extremist’s prominence in the party, but if he is taking away votes from conservatives who want anyone but Romney, that will merely strengthen the former Massachusetts governor in the long run because any outcome in Iowa other than a Gingrich win makes his nomination more likely.

As for Santorum, it appears his months of beating the bushes in Iowa and going to every county in the state to appeal to social conservatives is finally paying off. His support has doubled in the last month and, though it still leaves him with only 10 percent, it is clear that five percent probably came from Gingrich. Even more, it finally pushes him ahead of Bachmann, who is largely competing for the same voters as the former Pennsylvania senator. Bachmann’s decline from nine percent a week ago to six today is significant. Combined with the endorsement from a major evangelical figure in the state (which did not figure into responses in this poll) this gives Santorum hope that his momentum will grow in the campaign’s final days. I have already written that I thought one of those two will finish in the top three in Iowa and I’m standing by that prediction, though it appears more likely now the one to do so will be Santorum rather than Bachmann (as I thought a couple of days ago).

Lastly, the figures that show Romney winning among Republican voters should pour cold water on the expectation that the party’s grass roots won’t support him. This may be more a matter of a belief in his greater electability over any of the other candidates than affection for Romney, but the effect is the same. Once Iowa and New Hampshire have finished voting, most of the next states up for competition won’t be open enrollment, which means the GOP core will decide this nomination.

This is also a reminder that support for Paul is not coming so much from Tea Party or social conservative activists but from more marginal and disaffected elements. One would hope that as more voters learn about the extremist nature of his views, and of his connection to hate literature, that his share of the vote would decline. But no matter what happens in Iowa, Paul still has no chance of winning over most Republicans. It also should illustrate my belief that the possibility of him running as a third party candidate is more of a threat to the Democrats than to the Republicans.

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The Iranian “Schindler”

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:

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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:

The story he spinned to the Nazis, in a series of letters and reports, was that the Persian Emperor Cyrus had freed Jewish exiles in Babylon in 538 BC and they had returned to their homes. However, he told the Nazis, at some later point a small number of Iranians began to find the teachings of the Prophet Moses attractive – and these Mousaique, or Iranian Followers of Moses, which he dubbed “Djuguten,” were not part of the Jewish race. Using all of his lawyer’s skill, he exploited the internal contradictions and idiocies of the Nazis’ ideology to gain special treatment for the “Djuguten,” as the archive material published in Mr. Mokhtari’s new book shows. High-level investigations were launched in Berlin, with “experts” on racial purity drafted in to give an opinion on whether this Iranian sect – which the book suggests may well have been Sardari’s own invention – were Jewish or not. The experts were non-committal and suggested that more funding was needed for research.

Adolf Eichmann dismissed Sardari’s claims as “the usual Jewish tricks and attempts at camouflage” but by then, Sardari had already saved 2,000 Jews. While Iranian diplomats today are apologists for terrorism, anti-Semitism and a noxious regime, it is important to remember that once upon a time, Iranian diplomats could be honorable. Perhaps in the future, if the Islamic Republic collapses, Iranian diplomats could once again follow the example of Sardari and hamper rather than promote genocide.

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Ron Paul: “I Could” Find Out Who Wrote Newsletters

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.

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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.

Paul: No. I don’t, I really don’t know. 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.

Ali Velshi: Well, we could find out. Because you had six or eight people, is it one of those six or eight people?

Paul: [extended pause] Well, possibly, I could, but …

Ali Velshi: I guess, as you get closer to being president of the United States, folks will want to know that you don’t really dislike black people or people with AIDS, and things like that.

Paul’s answer here stretches credulity: You mean just flat-out ask the eight people who were writing the newsletter at the time which one of them wrote the racist comments? Well, possibly I could, but…

But what? Why hasn’t that already been done? It seems like a fairly simple way to get to the bottom of this.

Amazingly, Paul’s fans also seem to have little interest in clearing his name. While many of them acknowledge that the content in the newsletters was abhorrent, they also dismiss it as something that happened “twenty years ago.” But there’s no statute of limitation on racism for politicians, and Paul has voiced his controversial positions on civil rights and the Jewish state throughout his career.

It shouldn’t be difficult to track down the six or eight people who allegedly worked for Paul’s newsletters in the early 1990s. If Paul hasn’t questioned them yet, it probably won’t be long before someone in the media does this for him.

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Do You Believe in the “New” Hamas?

Fighting long-term wars against totalitarians and terrorists is always a difficult task for Western societies because such conflicts require the sort of resolution that is always bound to flag over time. There is always the tendency, especially among our intellectuals, to begin to reinterpret our enemies and to project our own values and interests onto their very different perspectives. That was true during the long twilight struggle against communism and the Soviet Union, and it is just as true during what may prove to be an equally lengthy struggle against Islamism. It is in this context that we should view the flurry of reports about the possibility of the Hamas terrorist movement changing its character and adopting non-violence and pursuing peace.

That’s the conceit behind an article in The National Interest titled “A new Hamas in the Making?” which cites no less an authority than Jane’s military publications that the Islamist group is making a “strategic” shift in strategy which aims at repositioning Gaza’s overlords as legitimate Arab players on the stage of Middle East diplomacy. But, as Jonathan Schanzer points out in a far more valuable article in The Weekly Standard, this may have more to do with the group’s need to adapt themselves to the dictates of their funders than any change in philosophy. Though some of the sound bites coming out of Gaza may seem to promise moderation or even non-violence, the expectation that Hamas is prepared to live in peace with Israel or drop the Jew-hatred that is at the core of its worldview is the product of a campaign of deception that ought not to be taken at face value.

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Fighting long-term wars against totalitarians and terrorists is always a difficult task for Western societies because such conflicts require the sort of resolution that is always bound to flag over time. There is always the tendency, especially among our intellectuals, to begin to reinterpret our enemies and to project our own values and interests onto their very different perspectives. That was true during the long twilight struggle against communism and the Soviet Union, and it is just as true during what may prove to be an equally lengthy struggle against Islamism. It is in this context that we should view the flurry of reports about the possibility of the Hamas terrorist movement changing its character and adopting non-violence and pursuing peace.

That’s the conceit behind an article in The National Interest titled “A new Hamas in the Making?” which cites no less an authority than Jane’s military publications that the Islamist group is making a “strategic” shift in strategy which aims at repositioning Gaza’s overlords as legitimate Arab players on the stage of Middle East diplomacy. But, as Jonathan Schanzer points out in a far more valuable article in The Weekly Standard, this may have more to do with the group’s need to adapt themselves to the dictates of their funders than any change in philosophy. Though some of the sound bites coming out of Gaza may seem to promise moderation or even non-violence, the expectation that Hamas is prepared to live in peace with Israel or drop the Jew-hatred that is at the core of its worldview is the product of a campaign of deception that ought not to be taken at face value.

There is no question that Iran’s financial situation and the crackup of the Assad regime in Syria has affected Hamas’ strategic position. The steady flow of money and arms from those two countries has slowed, and if Bashar Assad is forced to step down or flee Damascus, Hamas, which has made the Syrian capital its regional headquarters, doesn’t want to be making a last-minute escape with him. But luckily for the terrorist group, Turkey appears to be willing to step into this potential void to not only keep Hamas officials in cash but also to lend a cloak of diplomatic respectability to their misrule of Gaza.

As Schanzer writes,

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised $300 million to the Gaza-based terrorist organization Hamas. If true, this pledge would cover nearly half of Hamas’ reported $769 million budget next year, and would make Turkey its primary benefactor.

But neither that report nor Bilal Y. Saab’s claim in the National Interest that Hamas will drop terrorism as part of its unity pact with Fatah should lead anyone to think that what we are seeing is a genuine evolution of the group. It should be remembered, as Schanzer points out, that Hamas has had other principal funders before Iran took them on early in the last decade. It was founded as a branch of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and the Saudis and other Gulf monarchies bankrolled them prior to 9/11 and a spate of Islamist terror attacks on the conservative kingdoms. But while Hamas has shifted its tactics as its sponsors changed along with the quality of their arsenal (from suicide bombings to primitive rockets to the more sophisticated weaponry that now faces Israel’s southern border), what hasn’t changed is the organization’s commitment to the destruction of the Jewish state.

Saab believes what is happening is part of an effort to create a united Palestinian front encompassing Fatah that will force the United States and the rest of the West to stop calling Hamas a terrorist group. Turkish sponsorship of Hamas may further weaken Western resolve on this issue, though Schanzer is skeptical about just how far Ankara will go out on a limb for the Islamist group.

Liberals and others who are always quick to seize on any indication of moderation on the part of Israel’s foes will claim this is progress and the world should welcome the change in Hamas with open arms. But this is not something that those who truly want peace for the region should be cheering.

What is going on here is not the transformation of a radical and violent group but a clever ploy whose purpose is to facilitate Hamas’ takeover of the Palestinian Authority and the West Bank. Nothing in these moves indicates that the group has changed its ideological commitment to cleansing the region of Jews and eradicating Israel. Nor has it dropped its Islamist agenda in terms of completing the transformation of Palestinian life from a largely secular society to one solely guided by fundamentalist Islam. Just as the unity pact with Fatah is a signal that peace with Israel is no longer possible in the foreseeable future, allowing Hamas to become a force in the West Bank is a guarantee of more violence and the spilling of more Israeli and Palestinian blood.

Rather than encouraging Turkey or other Arab states (which will host Hamas leader Ismail Haniya on a tour of the region in the coming weeks), to continue their flirtation with the group, the West must make it clear it is not deceived by this talk of moderation. No matter who is paying its bills or what it says in English when Western reporters are listening, a new Hamas will be just as destructive a force as the old one.

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How the Two-Month Payroll Tax Extension Helps Obama

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.

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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.

At this stage, Republicans would do best to cut their losses and find a way to extend the payroll holiday quickly. Then go home and return in January with a united House-Senate strategy that forces Democrats to make specific policy choices that highlight the differences between the parties on spending, taxes and regulation. Wisconsin freshman Senator Ron Johnson has been floating a useful agenda for such a strategy. The alternative is more chaotic retreat and the return of all-Democratic rule.

House Republicans have bungled this miserably. The WSJ is right that the best strategy is probably to stop digging. But from a political standpoint, maybe the House GOP had the right instincts in opposing a two-month extension. The two-month timeline approved by the Senate would ensure that this battle flares up again at an extremely opportune time for Obama: right around his State of the Union address and the introduction of his FY2013 budget.

After the reception Obama’s budget received last year, wouldn’t he rather have media focus on congressional squabbling over the payroll tax cut extension – or, as Democrats refer to it, “middle class tax cuts”? Plus, a brawl over payroll taxes would be a great backdrop for the class warfare, do-nothing Congress rhetoric in his State of the Union.

At this point, House Republicans may have to accept a more temporary extension than they’d like. They may be better off saving their energy for the battles down the road.

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Biden Says the Taliban Are Not the Enemy?

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.

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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.

Against this backdrop, as Max noted earlier, Vice President Joseph Biden’s declaration that the Taliban are not necessarily America’s enemy is as distressing as it is foolish. The statement may be designed to promote further engagement, but Biden is ignorant that such statements and redefinitions have been tried before. The Taliban underlined its disdain for negotiations when it assassinated former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was Afghanistan President Karzai’s point man for reconciliation. Ayman al-Zawahiri, who assumed command of al-Qaeda upon bin Laden’s death, also called attempts to engage the Taliban “a sign of the government weakness.” A columnist for the pan-Arabic daily ­al-Hayat noted that “The message that others can infer from the ‘diplomacy of dialogue’ pursued by the Obama administration is that extremism is the most effective way to attract the United States’ attention.” The website of Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a fierce Islamist allied with the Taliban and al-Qaeda, has described Obama’s offer to negotiate with moderate Taliban as a sign of U.S. defeat.

The evidence that negotiation with the Taliban has backfired is overwhelming; there is no evidence it has achieved any positive results. Alas, neither Obama nor Biden is interested in evidence. Their policy is made in a vacuum, detached from reality, and is destined once again to reverse America’s gains and to condemn America to strategic defeat.

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U.S. Troops in Afghanistan Past 2014?

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.

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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.

Alas, there is little indication that this president will countenance such a long-term commitment. All indications are that in Afghanistan, as in Iraq, he is determined to draw down as swiftly as possible so he can brag to the voters he “ended” the war there. This puts military commanders on a collision course with their commander-in-chief–a disagreement they will certainly lose unless we have a new occupant in the Oval Office in January 2013. Much will turn on the outcome of the next election–including the fate of Afghanistan and by implication, of its neighbors.

 

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Panetta’s Shameful Paean to Turkey

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.”

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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.”

In Turkey, up is down and right is wrong. Turkey may be a model, but rather than be one for democracy, its anti-Israel and anti-Semitic leadership is instead transforming it into a model for incitement and Israel-bashing which makes that in Egypt and Saudi Arabia look mild.

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Is the Arab League Betraying Syrians?

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?

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?

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Major Confusion in the Administration

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.

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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.

Exhibit B: Wendy Sherman, the No. 3 official in the State Department, had this to say of the late Kim Jong Il: “He was smart and a quick problem-solver. He is also witty and humorous. Our overall impression was very different from the way he was known to the outside world.” That’s quite a statement to make about one of the most odious dictators to rule any country since World War II–a man who presided over the deaths of millions of his own people from an artificial famine and who developed nuclear weapons that could yet wreak devastation on American soil or the soil of one of our allies.

I would not want to read too much into two stray comments. And I would not want to suggest that Biden is a fan of the Taliban or that Sherman was an acolyte of Kim Jong Il. (Biden did cover himself somewhat, at the risk of intellectual incoherence, when he said in the very next sentence after the one I previously quoted: “If, in fact, the Taliban is able to collapse the existing government, which is cooperating with us in keeping the bad guys from being able to do damage to us, then that becomes a problem for us.”)  But at the very least, these statements reveal a troubling tendency to see the best in our foes–which prevents us from making an accurate assessment of the threats we actually face and mobilizing the appropriate resources and determination to confront those threats.

 

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