Most observers have spent the past few months trying desperately to interpret the mixed signals emanating from the Obama administration on Iran. It has escalated its rhetoric against Iran’s nuclear ambitions while at the same time continued to shy away from actions that might actually stop Tehran, such as the tough sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank that would set in motion a partial oil embargo. Yet, while American diplomats travel the globe trying to corral other nations to support sanctions on Iran, American leaders have been open about their unwillingness to contemplate the use of force and horror at the thought Israel will act on its own.
The latest such contradictory signal comes from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who told the Washington Post’s David Ignatius his biggest worry is the Israelis will take care of the problem for him:
Panetta believes there is a strong likelihood that Israel will strike Iran in April, May or June — before Iran enters what Israelis described as a “zone of immunity” to commence building a nuclear bomb. Very soon, the Israelis fear, the Iranians will have stored enough enriched uranium in deep underground facilities to make a weapon — and only the United States could then stop them militarily.
The Obama administration has staked its Syria policy on winning consensus at the United Nations Security Council, a near impossibility given Russia’s desire to protect Bashar al-Assad at all costs. Alas, it is not only the Kremlin whose resistance empowers Assad’s murderous regime.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reportedly appointed Amat Al Alim Alsoswa, a former Yemeni minister for human rights, to be his task force leader on Syria. The problem is that Amat was a representative and functionary for the brutal regime of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
If you believe the papers, today’s Muslim world is a funny place. The Islamists are reform-minded democrats and the soccer fans are murderous fundamentalists.
A flurry of reports describe a wave of tolerance sweeping up Islamists everywhere–from the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to the Afghan Taliban to Tunisia’s Ennhada party to Libya’s “relative moderates,” as Reuters puts it, “who prefer a civil state simply inspired by sharia.” Hey, they said relative.
I do not often find myself in agreement with political scientist Robert Pape whose “research” into suicide bombings I roundly panned in a lengthy review for his unconvincing attempts to blame “foreign occupation” for all suicide bombings–even in countries that have never been occupied. So I was stunned to find myself in a large measure of agreement with Pape’s New York Times oped today arguing that civilized states should not wait until genocide is actually being committed to intervene. He writes:
A new standard for humanitarian intervention is needed. If a continuing government-sponsored campaign of mass homicide — in which thousands have died and many thousands more are likely to die — is occurring, a coalition of countries, sanctioned by major international and regional institutions, should intervene to stop it, as long as they have a viable plan, with minimal risk of casualties for the interveners.
At his National Prayer Breakfast address yesterday, President Obama declared, “Now, we can earnestly seek to see these values lived out in our politics and our policies, and we can earnestly disagree on the best way to achieve these values. In the words of C.S. Lewis, ‘Christianity has not, and does not profess to have a detailed political program. It is meant for all men at all times, and the particular program which suited one place or time would not suit another.’ Our goal should not be to declare our policies as biblical.”
These are wise words. I only wish Obama believed them.
I wanted to add a note of caution to John Steele Gordon’s post regarding today’s Bureau of Labor Statistics report on the unemployment rate.
It’s certainly true there’s good news in the report. But if you examine the internal data, there are also grounds for concern.
Since Florida Republicans gave him a massive victory on Tuesday night, Mitt Romney has not had a good few days. His absurd statement about not caring about the very poor, from which, as Seth wrote earlier, he has already backtracked, was a gaffe of the first order. He followed that by showing up at a press conference in Las Vegas to accept Donald Trump’s endorsement, a decision that was generally lambasted and even labeled his worst “biggest blunder” by Phillip Klein in the Washington Examiner.
But while Romney gave his detractors plenty of ammunition, those expecting another swing in momentum as we’ve seen several times during the course of the GOP race, are almost certainly going to be disappointed. For all his bad judgment and proven inability to speak the language of conservatives as Peter Wehner pointed out, I think those burying him are exaggerating his problems. Romney is still about to embark on the first substantial winning streak of the campaign that will secure him the GOP nomination.
Yesterday, I wrote about the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s decision to withdraw its grants from Planned Parenthood. I said, “The left immediately went into spin mode, claiming the funds were used for breast screenings and without Komen’s grants, women’s health would be jeopardized.” Initially, the reasoning given was that the abortion provider was under congressional investigation. Later, the Foundation changed its explanation to indicate that the reason Planned Parenthood would no longer receive funding was because it does not provide mammograms to its patients. For the third time in two days, Komen has again changed its story, this time apparently caving to the rabidly pro-choice lobby. This morning, Komen released a statement:
We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities.
Today’s speech by Iran’s Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, about the sanctions on his country and its determination to persist in its quest for nuclear capability was a significant news event. Khamenei served notice on the United States that he would not be bluffed into giving up his nuclear plans. Though he conceded the economic pressure on his country has hurt, he said Iran is undaunted and would retaliate against the United States should its nuclear facilities come under attack. All this was reported in newspapers around the world, including the New York Times, which posted a story on the speech Friday morning.
However, there was something missing from the Times report of Khamenei’s speech that was reported elsewhere. Other accounts noted that in addition to threatening the United States, Khamenei said this: “The Zionist regime is a cancerous tumor and it will be removed.” While we don’t know how or why a mention of this element of the speech managed to get excised from the account in the Times, it’s a question worth pondering.
In the wake of Mitt Romney’s clumsy comment about the “very poor,” conservatives have offered an intriguing explanation: he doesn’t “speak the language” of conservatism, because he’s new to it. I don’t disagree that this is one problem with Romney’s communication, but I think the former governor’s explanation of his comments reveals a slightly different focus.
Here is what Romney said to Jon Ralston in Nevada yesterday about the controversy:
I misspoke. I’ve said something that is similar to that but quite acceptable for a long time. And you know when you do I don’t know how many thousands of interviews now and then you may get it wrong. And I misspoke. Plain and simple.
Once again, the jobs numbers that came out this morning are good news for President Obama. As the New York Times reports, the economy added 243,000 jobs in January, far above economists’ estimates of about 125,000 jobs. This is the best month for jobs since April.
Unemployment, meanwhile, fell from 8.5 percent to 8.3 percent and long-term unemployment also edged down. This was also better than expectations, as most economists predicted the rate would stay steady. The rate is the lowest since February 2009, just as the recession was ending and the Obama administration beginning. The stock market would hit bottom in March that year and, always a leading indicator, then begin to recover. The recession officially ended in June, 2009. But unemployment is a lagging indicator and the fact that it is now at the lowest point since the recession officially ended is a strong sign that recovery is finally under way.