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Posts For: February 12, 2012

The UN’s Green World Order

At Fox News, COMMENTARY contributor George Russell has a fantastic report on a confidential gathering of UN officials that took place last October. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and others met in a Long Island mansion and brainstormed on how “to consolidate a radical new global green economy, promote a spectrum of sweeping new social policies and build an even more important role for UN institutions ‘to manage the process of globalization better.’”

The discussion centered on plans for June’s Rio + 20 Summit on Sustainable Development, and was something like Occupy Wall Street rally meets Avatar. Participants both noted that “inequity” is the “single greatest challenge and threat” to the world and “the UN in Rio should be the voice of the planet and its people.” They’ll have to fight Barack Obama for that gig, no?

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At Fox News, COMMENTARY contributor George Russell has a fantastic report on a confidential gathering of UN officials that took place last October. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and others met in a Long Island mansion and brainstormed on how “to consolidate a radical new global green economy, promote a spectrum of sweeping new social policies and build an even more important role for UN institutions ‘to manage the process of globalization better.’”

The discussion centered on plans for June’s Rio + 20 Summit on Sustainable Development, and was something like Occupy Wall Street rally meets Avatar. Participants both noted that “inequity” is the “single greatest challenge and threat” to the world and “the UN in Rio should be the voice of the planet and its people.” They’ll have to fight Barack Obama for that gig, no?

Russell’s report is valuable because it exposes the scale of the green movement’s ambitions, the full integration of environmentalism into every other leftist cause du jour, and the extent of the UN’s radicalism. Environmentalism is a legitimized mainstream vehicle for everything from anti-capitalist legislation to trans-hemispheric reparations to global governance. You start with a couple of balmy summers and end up with what the meeting’s minutes described as “a means to ‘reorient public and private decision-making’ to make the world’s poorest people the new economy’s ‘main beneficiaries.’”

In some sense, the climate debate has already become irrelevant. By the time Climategate episode 4986 elicits an “oops” from Al Gore, the UN’s global redistributionist machine will have long dispensed with its initial green premise and be onto justifying global socialism on its own terms.

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Hamas-Iran Alliance Still Alive and Well

Just when some veteran Middle East peace processers and critics of Israel were making some progress trying to persuade the world Hamas was changing its stripes, the terrorist organization torpedoed talk about its new moderation with a gesture of friendship with Iran.

Ismail Haniya, the prime minister of Hamas’s Gaza terror state, arrived in Tehran on Friday for a visit that should disillusion those who assumed  there had been a break between the two. The warm welcome given Haniya by the Islamist regime is an indication that the alliance between Iran and one of its terrorist auxiliaries is still very much in place. It also ought to be a reminder that Hamas participation in the Palestinian Authority’s government in the wake of its unity pact with Fatah will provide Iran with an influential ally that will render the prospects for peace with Israel moot.

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Just when some veteran Middle East peace processers and critics of Israel were making some progress trying to persuade the world Hamas was changing its stripes, the terrorist organization torpedoed talk about its new moderation with a gesture of friendship with Iran.

Ismail Haniya, the prime minister of Hamas’s Gaza terror state, arrived in Tehran on Friday for a visit that should disillusion those who assumed  there had been a break between the two. The warm welcome given Haniya by the Islamist regime is an indication that the alliance between Iran and one of its terrorist auxiliaries is still very much in place. It also ought to be a reminder that Hamas participation in the Palestinian Authority’s government in the wake of its unity pact with Fatah will provide Iran with an influential ally that will render the prospects for peace with Israel moot.

Iran has been Hamas’s principal supplier of cash and munitions in recent years. But the flow of aid from Iran to Gaza has been affected by Tehran’s financial difficulties as international sanctions slowed its economy. That led some optimists to conclude Hamas had broken with Iran, particularly after its exiled leadership fled their Damascus headquarters as a result of the Assad regime’s difficulties. The perception is that Hamas was dumping Assad while Iran stayed loyal to the tyrant.

This may be a sign of a real break between the faction of Hamas’s leadership under Khaled Meshal that formerly sat in Damascus and the Gaza-based party. Meshal is the one who negotiated the agreement with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, and it could be the Iran visit is a signal the Gazans are not going to be sandbagged by the unity pact.

Nevertheless, the visit is proof the Hamas-Iran alliance is still alive and well. Iran has no intention of letting Hamas slip out its sphere of influence. Nor is there any real difference between the two on the issue that interests them both: the destruction of Israel. For all of the expectation that Hamas will abandon violence and adopt a more pragmatic stance on the peace process, there is no reason to believe their goals or their methods have changed. The Iran-Hezbollah-Hamas axis is a natural alliance that brings together Islamist rejectionists who wish to keep the flames of conflict burning. Though Hamas is Sunni and Hezbollah and Iran are Shia, they still need each other and have too much in common to break up.

Iran has not changed its goal of eradicating the Jewish state, and Hamas is still dedicated to this, too. Creating a new independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza will not only threaten Israel, it will be a strategic victory for Iran as well.

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Presidential Semantics

Let’s take a look at the president’s semantics of late. In no accidental turn of phrase, he called his change regarding contraception “an accommodation” for those who have moral objections. Why didn’t he call it “a compromise,” which is what it supposedly is?

I suspect the reason has to do with the president’s great-pyramid-of-Giza-sized ego.

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Let’s take a look at the president’s semantics of late. In no accidental turn of phrase, he called his change regarding contraception “an accommodation” for those who have moral objections. Why didn’t he call it “a compromise,” which is what it supposedly is?

I suspect the reason has to do with the president’s great-pyramid-of-Giza-sized ego.

An accommodation is something handed out beneficently to those who have a problem. We accommodate people in wheelchairs on public transportation, we accommodate people with food allergies or religious needs by providing alternative meals. A compromise is something agreed to jointly by equals (it comes from the Latin for a mutual promise). Obama, in his own mind, has no equals. Hence, he is “accommodating” these people with their annoying moral scruples so at variance with liberal orthodoxy.

Likewise, the other day he told NBC’s Matt Lauer the reason he had been unable to be as transformational a president as he would have liked was that he had been unable to “force” Congress to pass his programs. What an interesting choice of words.

Oliver Cromwell “forced” the Rump Parliament to dissolve when he arrived with soldiers and told everyone to leave, saying famously, “You have sat long enough.” He dismissed the Mace (the symbol of Parliamentary authority–it lies before the speaker to this day) as a mere “fool’s bauble.”

One would think the word here should have been “convince.” But to admit he had been unable to convince Congress to pass his program would be to admit a failure on his part. Could the world’s most eloquent man be unable to convince a bunch of congressmen? To say he couldn’t “force” Congress, however, is to shift the blame to the Constitution (or perhaps even the Army, with its annoying scruples about being used for domestic political purposes). One can hardly help wondering if President Obama would, indeed, “force” Congress to do his bidding if he could.

I suspect there are many, many examples of how Obama’s self-regard affects his choice of words, and thus are windows into his essential psyche.

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Turkey’s Foreign Minister Bashes Israel as Turkey Slaughters Kurds

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has been visiting Washington, supposedly to talk about Syria. He has, however, upheld his promise last autumn to use every international gathering to bash Israel. As the Turkish press reported at the time:

“[Israel] despises and plays with the people’s honor in this region,” Davutoğlu said, adding that Turkey would continue to highlight Israel’s unlawful acts in all international platforms.

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Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has been visiting Washington, supposedly to talk about Syria. He has, however, upheld his promise last autumn to use every international gathering to bash Israel. As the Turkish press reported at the time:

“[Israel] despises and plays with the people’s honor in this region,” Davutoğlu said, adding that Turkey would continue to highlight Israel’s unlawful acts in all international platforms.

Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Davutoğlu told Israel “enough is enough,” and drew moral equivalence between Russia’s veto of Syrian atrocities and American support of Israel at the United Nations. The ultimate irony, however, came as Turkish jet fighters crossed an international border to bomb Kurds in Iraq, once again.

Yes, Mr. Davutoğlu, enough is enough.

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Can the Santorum Surge Last?

Mitt Romney’s narrow wins in the non-binding Maine caucus and the CPAC straw poll changed the topic of conversation among Republicans — at least for a day — about Rick Santorum’s surge into contention in the GOP presidential race. But a Public Policy Polling survey released the same day ought to provide as much encouragement to Santorum’s backers as Romney’s fans took from Maine and CPAC. Feeding off his wins in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri earlier in the week, the PPP poll showed Santorum taking an astounding 38-23 percentage point lead over Romney, with Gingrich at 17 percent and Ron Paul trailing with 13 percent.

National tracking polls have been volatile throughout the race, giving each of the various flavors of the month like Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich their moments in the lead. So Santorum’s spike in popularity shouldn’t be taken as proof  the Republican race has been fundamentally altered by recent events. Nevertheless, the poll does illustrate the willingness of Republicans to embrace an alterative to Romney even at this stage of the race. It also demonstrates that Santorum’s popularity and positive image — at least among GOP voters — could prove troublesome to the frontrunner.

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Mitt Romney’s narrow wins in the non-binding Maine caucus and the CPAC straw poll changed the topic of conversation among Republicans — at least for a day — about Rick Santorum’s surge into contention in the GOP presidential race. But a Public Policy Polling survey released the same day ought to provide as much encouragement to Santorum’s backers as Romney’s fans took from Maine and CPAC. Feeding off his wins in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri earlier in the week, the PPP poll showed Santorum taking an astounding 38-23 percentage point lead over Romney, with Gingrich at 17 percent and Ron Paul trailing with 13 percent.

National tracking polls have been volatile throughout the race, giving each of the various flavors of the month like Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich their moments in the lead. So Santorum’s spike in popularity shouldn’t be taken as proof  the Republican race has been fundamentally altered by recent events. Nevertheless, the poll does illustrate the willingness of Republicans to embrace an alterative to Romney even at this stage of the race. It also demonstrates that Santorum’s popularity and positive image — at least among GOP voters — could prove troublesome to the frontrunner.

The breakdown of the poll shows Santorum has supplanted Gingrich as the leading “non-Romney” conservative competing for the Republican nomination. He has huge leads among Tea Partiers and evangelicals, both of which were in Gingrich’s column earlier in the race.

But though one shouldn’t take a national poll such as this all that seriously — especially one conducted in the days immediately after Santorum’s February 7 hat trick — the net favorability ratings of the candidates the poll reveals do provide a fascinating insight into the state of the race right now.

Romney’s net favorability is down considerably from PPP’s last poll in December. At that time, 55 percent of those surveyed viewed him positively, while only 31 percent saw him negatively. Now those numbers are 44-43. Gingrich’s numbers are even worse, with more negatives than positives by a 44-42 percent margin, down from a 60-28 net positive in December.

By contrast, Santorum’s favorability is soaring, with 64 percent seeing him positively while only 22 percent of Republicans view him negatively. That’s up considerably from his 49-30 net positive rating in December when he was languishing among the second tier of GOP candidates.

The favorability ratings are the product of two points I’ve written about before.

The first factor is Santorum’s refusal to join in the mudslinging as Romney and Gingrich tore each other apart. Santorum’s tactic of opposing the nasty attacks the other two have made at each other has made him appear to be the nicest guy left standing in the race.

The other is the attention given to the illness of Santorum’s disabled daughter Bella. The story generated sympathy for Santorum, but it goes deeper than that. It enabled voters to see Santorum as something more than an angry, public scold hounding the nation with his views on social issues. It highlighted his life as a devoted family man and a person of faith and also softened his image.

Santorum’s stances on social issues and his image as a scourge of the gay community don’t really factor into these numbers, as this is a Republican sample. The problem for Santorum is if he became the nominee, it’s not clear whether he could withstand the assault on him from liberals and the gay community. Though Romney’s standing in head-to-head polls with President Obama has declined in recent days, he must still be considered more electable than Santorum.

But that’s a battle for another day. Right now, it’s the GOP nomination that’s at stake, and Santorum’s positives are such that it is impossible to dismiss the possibility his surge can be sustained. Victories for Romney in Arizona and Michigan might restore some order to the GOP race later in the month. But if he falters, the affection that Santorum has engendered among Republicans could derail the frontrunner.

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Is Turkey Playing a Double Game on Syria?

Many diplomats—up to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—have cited Turkey’s cooperation on Syria as evidence of the strong Turkish-American partnership. What the Turkish government often says—and what Turkish officials do, however, are often very different things.

Word has come from Turkey that a Turkish intelligence agent was instrumental in returning to Syria—by force—Hussein Harmush, a Syrian colonel who fled to Turkey after refusing to fire on Syrian civilians and became the first high-level Syrian officer to declare publicly his opposition to the Assad regime. The Turkish agent removed Harmush from the refugee camp and handed him over to Syrian officials. Harmush was subsequently executed by the Syrian regime.

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Many diplomats—up to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—have cited Turkey’s cooperation on Syria as evidence of the strong Turkish-American partnership. What the Turkish government often says—and what Turkish officials do, however, are often very different things.

Word has come from Turkey that a Turkish intelligence agent was instrumental in returning to Syria—by force—Hussein Harmush, a Syrian colonel who fled to Turkey after refusing to fire on Syrian civilians and became the first high-level Syrian officer to declare publicly his opposition to the Assad regime. The Turkish agent removed Harmush from the refugee camp and handed him over to Syrian officials. Harmush was subsequently executed by the Syrian regime.

The Turkish intelligence official is being probed by the Turkish government but, as in Iran, Turkey has often dismissed actions as rogue in order to maintain plausible deniability for its actions. The fact remains that Prime Minister Erdoğan once embraced Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad as a close friend, and instructed his subordinates to treat the Syrian regime likewise.

Alas, while the Obama administration continues to embrace Turkey for its promises, it continues to turn a blind eye toward Turkey’s double game or the fact that its positions are based more on opportunism than on any shared vision.

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Problems Loom as Romney Stops the Bleeding

After a week in which he lost contests in three states and had taken a severe beating about his ability to close the deal with Republicans, Mitt Romney stopped the bleeding on Saturday with victories in the non-binding Maine caucus and the CPAC straw poll. Romney has tremendous advantages over his rivals and must still be considered the overwhelming favorite for the GOP presidential nomination. If his shocking losses to Rick Santorum in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri demolished the idea that he would easily cruise through the next weeks and months, then Maine and CPAC were reminders the former Massachusetts governor still has the money and the organization to bulldoze his way through some relatively insignificant contests.

But no one should be deceived by Romney’s ability to squeak out wins in a non-binding caucus (where he was nearly beaten by libertarian outlier Ron Paul) that attracted few Republican voters and a straw poll that was more a measure of the competence of the candidate’s organization. The frontrunner is still confronted with some serious problems that complicate his effort to nail down the nomination and to win the general election. The Republican base is still not sold on him, and his struggles to win his party and occasional gaffes are also eroding the notion that he is the most electable Republican.

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After a week in which he lost contests in three states and had taken a severe beating about his ability to close the deal with Republicans, Mitt Romney stopped the bleeding on Saturday with victories in the non-binding Maine caucus and the CPAC straw poll. Romney has tremendous advantages over his rivals and must still be considered the overwhelming favorite for the GOP presidential nomination. If his shocking losses to Rick Santorum in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri demolished the idea that he would easily cruise through the next weeks and months, then Maine and CPAC were reminders the former Massachusetts governor still has the money and the organization to bulldoze his way through some relatively insignificant contests.

But no one should be deceived by Romney’s ability to squeak out wins in a non-binding caucus (where he was nearly beaten by libertarian outlier Ron Paul) that attracted few Republican voters and a straw poll that was more a measure of the competence of the candidate’s organization. The frontrunner is still confronted with some serious problems that complicate his effort to nail down the nomination and to win the general election. The Republican base is still not sold on him, and his struggles to win his party and occasional gaffes are also eroding the notion that he is the most electable Republican.

The first of these problems is Santorum’s surge is turning out to be more than a one-day story. Santorum will provide a real challenge to Romney in Michigan and Arizona later this month, and his rise in the polls will enable him to raise enough money to compete there. Santorum is not invulnerable to criticism, but he will not be as easy for Romney to demolish with negative ads as Newt Gingrich has been.

Second, Gingrich’s fade from contention is another source of worry. Romney’s rise to the top of the GOP field was only made possible by the division among conservatives. Though Gingrich’s ego will probably prevent him from dropping out, if the race becomes a two-man battle between Romney and Santorum, that could prove troublesome.

Third is the fact that a long drawn out battle for the nomination will not strengthen Romney or his party. There’s been a lot of happy talk from some Republicans about the benefits of such a knock-down, drag-out fight, but most of them are just saying that because they are hoping such a scenario is the only way to envision Romney being defeated. But the comparisons between the Barack Obama-Hillary Clinton dustup in 2008 are way off the mark. The negative attacks launched on those two were beanbag when compared to the things the Republicans are saying about each other. Obama emerged strengthened from the Democratic primaries chiefly because he was protected by a quiescent national press corps that refused to follow-up on questions about his background and influences. By contrast, the press and the Democrats will use the attacks on Romney from both the left and right to prepare for an even nastier assault on him in the fall.

The decline in Romney’s head-to-head poll match-ups with Obama provides evidence that gaffes like his remark about the poor as well as the attacks on his income and business career by Gingrich have taken a toll on his appeal. Given the real animus against Romney from Gingrich and many on the right, the GOP trashing of the man who is still the likely nominee will impact his ability to rally the base and win over independents.

Fourth is that low turnout in some of this year’s caucuses and primaries are a worrisome sign for Republicans. Despite the ardent desire of most Republicans to defeat Barack Obama, there’s no denying dissatisfaction with the field of candidates is causing fewer of them to show up and vote. Romney’s people say that won’t be a problem in November as Obama will mobilize Republicans for him. There’s some truth to that, but that doesn’t mean the GOP shouldn’t be worried about Romney’s appeal.

So while Romney can take some satisfaction in the fact that his problems didn’t get worse on Saturday and can even claim his two victories set him back on the path to the nomination, there are still plenty of reasons for his supporters to be concerned. He needs to spend the next two weeks before for the next round of primaries focusing on a series of challenges that can’t be ignored.

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