Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 6, 2012

Where Romney Won in Ohio

In Ohio, Mitt Romney won the cities and suburbs and Rick Santorum won the rural areas. On CNN, Gloria Borger and Hilary Rosen on the left and Erick Erickson on the Right argued that this was bad news for Romney because he lost GOP strongholds and won in areas Barack Obama is sure to carry in November. This was spoken so confidently, and reflected all over Twitter, that it may become a piece of conventional wisdom. But it makes no sense. It is important for a Republican candidate to show some strength in areas Republicans don’t win in the general election because that support will cut into the size of the majorities Obama will rack up there. Assuming that the Republican nominee will manage to win Republican areas, this is the path to victory not only in Ohio but in every swing state. One can only assume that when November rolls around, even the problems conservatives troubled by Romney’s ideological laxity and evangelicals troubled by Romney’s Mormonism would have with him pale by comparison with their negative feelings about Obama.

In Ohio, Mitt Romney won the cities and suburbs and Rick Santorum won the rural areas. On CNN, Gloria Borger and Hilary Rosen on the left and Erick Erickson on the Right argued that this was bad news for Romney because he lost GOP strongholds and won in areas Barack Obama is sure to carry in November. This was spoken so confidently, and reflected all over Twitter, that it may become a piece of conventional wisdom. But it makes no sense. It is important for a Republican candidate to show some strength in areas Republicans don’t win in the general election because that support will cut into the size of the majorities Obama will rack up there. Assuming that the Republican nominee will manage to win Republican areas, this is the path to victory not only in Ohio but in every swing state. One can only assume that when November rolls around, even the problems conservatives troubled by Romney’s ideological laxity and evangelicals troubled by Romney’s Mormonism would have with him pale by comparison with their negative feelings about Obama.

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Santorum Wins Mean Trouble for Romney

Mitt Romney may well emerge from Super Tuesday with an enlarged delegate lead as well as the biggest prize if he holds onto his slim lead in Ohio. But the evening will be no blowout for the frontrunner. With Rick Santorum winning in Tennessee and Oklahoma and Newt Gingrich taking his home state of Georgia, there’s no doubt the race will go on for some time, with both conservative underdogs continuing to drain Romney’s resources and undermine his chances of uniting his party.

No matter what would have happened tonight, it’s doubtful that either Santorum or Gingrich would have dropped out. Yet, by preventing Romney from sweeping the map, the pair has ensured the outcome of the GOP contest is, if not exactly in doubt, still to be determined. The only unalloyed good news for Romney is that the victory of a bitter and resentful Gingrich in Georgia guarantees he will continue to benefit from a split conservative field.

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Mitt Romney may well emerge from Super Tuesday with an enlarged delegate lead as well as the biggest prize if he holds onto his slim lead in Ohio. But the evening will be no blowout for the frontrunner. With Rick Santorum winning in Tennessee and Oklahoma and Newt Gingrich taking his home state of Georgia, there’s no doubt the race will go on for some time, with both conservative underdogs continuing to drain Romney’s resources and undermine his chances of uniting his party.

No matter what would have happened tonight, it’s doubtful that either Santorum or Gingrich would have dropped out. Yet, by preventing Romney from sweeping the map, the pair has ensured the outcome of the GOP contest is, if not exactly in doubt, still to be determined. The only unalloyed good news for Romney is that the victory of a bitter and resentful Gingrich in Georgia guarantees he will continue to benefit from a split conservative field.

Romney will rightly claim any result that leaves him much closer to the delegate count he needs to be the nominee is a big win. And if he can combine that with taking Ohio — an outcome that is still very much in doubt at the moment — it will be reasonable for him to spin Super Tuesday as a triumph for his candidacy. However, Santorum’s victories in Tennessee and Oklahoma not only will pump new life into the Pennsylvanian’s campaign, the results also reinforce Romney’s problems with conservatives. Rather than spending tomorrow talking about Romney’s inevitability, the discussion may be more about his continued difficulty in closing the deal with his own party’s base.

Unless either Gingrich or Santorum drops out — something that is highly unlikely — Romney is the inevitable GOP winner. Gingrich’s continued presence in the race all but guarantees that Santorum will never be able to get the one-on-one matchup with Romney that he thinks will bring him victory. But Santorum’s ability to beat him in two states despite a fundraising disadvantage and spending much of the last few weeks on the defensive about his views on social issues illustrates the frontrunner’s weakness. Combined with the likelihood that a nasty and expensive race will continue for weeks if not months deeper into the spring, that’s not a hopeful sign for Republicans. At a time when some slight improvement in the economy has put some wind in Barack Obama’s sails, the ongoing slugfest in which Romney remains the piñata of the right can only make it harder for him to eventually prevail in the fall.

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The Roots of the Christie-King Border War

Why exactly did New Jersey Governor Chris Christie join the mob bashing New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly last week over the force’s surveillance policies? Christie’s shot across the Hudson prompted Rep. Peter King to fire back at the governor for “trying to score cheap political points” at Kelly’s expense. That led the notoriously thin-skinned Christie to describe King’s riposte as “ridiculous” and to pull rank as a former prosecutor. All this could be dismissed as just a meaningless exchange between two politicians who love to run their mouths and are intolerant of criticism. It could also be put down as merely the natural instinct of New Jersey politicians to take umbrage at any instance of New York encroachment onto Garden State territory.

However, those who have followed Christie’s attempts to ingratiate himself with the Muslim community, sometimes at the expense of law enforcement imperatives, may recognize a familiar pattern in his willingness to bash Kelly’s decision to order the NYPD to gather intelligence across the river in Jersey. Christie and King found themselves lining up with two competing Muslim factions: Christie with extremist groups like the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), who oppose all efforts to investigate homegrown Islamist terror and King with those Muslims like Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, who have taken the position that American Muslims have a responsibility to root out radicals.

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Why exactly did New Jersey Governor Chris Christie join the mob bashing New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly last week over the force’s surveillance policies? Christie’s shot across the Hudson prompted Rep. Peter King to fire back at the governor for “trying to score cheap political points” at Kelly’s expense. That led the notoriously thin-skinned Christie to describe King’s riposte as “ridiculous” and to pull rank as a former prosecutor. All this could be dismissed as just a meaningless exchange between two politicians who love to run their mouths and are intolerant of criticism. It could also be put down as merely the natural instinct of New Jersey politicians to take umbrage at any instance of New York encroachment onto Garden State territory.

However, those who have followed Christie’s attempts to ingratiate himself with the Muslim community, sometimes at the expense of law enforcement imperatives, may recognize a familiar pattern in his willingness to bash Kelly’s decision to order the NYPD to gather intelligence across the river in Jersey. Christie and King found themselves lining up with two competing Muslim factions: Christie with extremist groups like the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), who oppose all efforts to investigate homegrown Islamist terror and King with those Muslims like Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, who have taken the position that American Muslims have a responsibility to root out radicals.

Christie’s complaint that NYPD personnel should ask permission of the Joint Terrorism Task Force before merely gathering routine intelligence on Muslims in parts of New Jersey which most in the area would consider part of the New York metropolitan area, seems innocuous. In joining the gang tackle on Kelly and then backing it up by claiming he was neutral about whether the matter ought to be made the subject of an investigation by New Jersey’s attorney general, the governor is pandering to groups like CAIR and the American Muslim Union–and not for the first time.

Though, as Christie was quick to point out, he was involved in prosecutions of terror cases while serving as a U.S. attorney, he intervened on behalf of Mohammed Qatanani, the imam of the Islamic Center of Passaic County, in his deportation case. Qatanani, a Palestinian, is a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and admitted to being a member of Hamas when he was arrested by Israeli authorities in 1993 before coming to the United States. Christie not only sought to prevent the deportation but spoke at the imam’s mosque which had previously been the site of a $2 million fundraiser for Hamas by the now banned Holy Land Foundation.

It is difficult to view his involvement in the Qatanani case as anything but a cynical pander for votes on the part of a man who was about to run for governor. Christie subsequently appointed Qatanani’s lawyer to a judgeship.

King, who took a great deal of unfair criticism last year for the congressional hearings that he held about homegrown Islamist terror, clearly saw Christie’s attack on Kelly as similar to the bashing he received.

Kelly is also under fire for allowing a movie about the topic titled “The Third Jihad” narrated by Jasser to be shown as part of an NYPD training program. The mainstream media has taken its cues about the film from CAIR but, as Jeff Jacoby noted in a brilliant dissection of the controversy, the film merely attempted to draw a distinction between the law-abiding Muslim majority in this country and extremist groups like CAIR that seek to obstruct law enforcement investigations and often rationalize terror.

King, who led a demonstration yesterday with Jasser in support of the embattled Kelly, understands that politicians cannot play ball with Islamists while at the same time pretending to be tough on terror. While Christie’s record as governor has been admirable, especially with regard to his courage in taking on out-of-control state and municipal worker unions, it does not render him invulnerable to criticism on other matters. If Chris Christie eventually seeks national office, as his many fans in the Republican Party expect, this issue will be raised again.

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The Moral Hypocrisy of Barack Obama

For those of us who remember Eric Holder and Barack Obama decrying waterboarding of three known foreign terrorists who provided information that saved American lives and played a role in the killing of Osama bin Laden, it is with some interest to hear the attorney general said the U.S. government has the right to order the killing of American citizens overseas if they are senior al-Qaeda leaders who pose an imminent terrorist threat and cannot reasonably be captured.

“Any decision to use lethal force against a United States citizen — even one intent on murdering Americans and who has become an operational leader of al-Qaeda in a foreign land — is among the gravest that government leaders can face,” Holder said in a speech at Northwestern University’s law school in Chicago. “The American people can be — and deserve to be — assured that actions taken in their defense are consistent with their values and their laws.”

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For those of us who remember Eric Holder and Barack Obama decrying waterboarding of three known foreign terrorists who provided information that saved American lives and played a role in the killing of Osama bin Laden, it is with some interest to hear the attorney general said the U.S. government has the right to order the killing of American citizens overseas if they are senior al-Qaeda leaders who pose an imminent terrorist threat and cannot reasonably be captured.

“Any decision to use lethal force against a United States citizen — even one intent on murdering Americans and who has become an operational leader of al-Qaeda in a foreign land — is among the gravest that government leaders can face,” Holder said in a speech at Northwestern University’s law school in Chicago. “The American people can be — and deserve to be — assured that actions taken in their defense are consistent with their values and their laws.”

As the Washington Post points out, Holder’s discussion of lethal force against U.S. citizens did not mention any individual by name, but his address was clearly animated by the targeting of Anwar al-Awlaki, a senior figure in al-Qaeda’s Yemeni affiliate. Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen in September.

The attorney general said the president is not required by the Constitution to delay action until some “theoretical end stage of planning — when the precise time, place and manner of an attack become clear.” Holder further argued that a careful and thorough executive branch review of the facts in a case amounts to “due process” and that the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment protection against depriving a citizen of his or her life without due process of law does not mandate a “judicial process.”

“Where national security operations are at stake, due process takes into account the realities of combat,” Holder said. He added that the question of “whether the capture of a U.S.-citizen terrorist is feasible is a fact-specific, and potentially time-sensitive, question.”

“Given the nature of how terrorists act and where they tend to hide,” he continued, “it may not always be feasible to capture a United States-citizen terrorist who presents an imminent threat of violent attack. In that case, our government has the clear authority to defend the United States with lethal force.” Holder added that “because the United States is in an armed conflict, we are authorized to take action against enemy belligerents under international law . . . and our legal authority is not limited to the battlefields of Afghanistan.”

As for labeling such operations as “assassinations,” Holder said, “They are not, and the use of that loaded term is misplaced,” the attorney general insisted. “Assassinations are unlawful killings. Here, for the reasons I have given, the U.S. government’s use of lethal force in self-defense against a leader of al-Qaeda or an associated force who presents an imminent threat of violent attack would not be unlawful — and therefore would not violate the executive order banning assassination or criminal statutes.”

Holder said “it is preferable to capture suspected terrorists where feasible — among other reasons, so that we can gather valuable intelligence from them — but we must also recognize that there are instances where our government has the clear authority — and, I would argue, the responsibility — to defend the United States through the appropriate and lawful use of lethal force.”

About the attorney general’s comments, I have several reactions.

The first is that Holder and the man he serves, Barack Obama, continue to discover that governing is a good deal harder than ignorantly popping off during elections, which they did plenty of in 2008. They didn’t know nearly as much as they thought they did and were not nearly as wise as they thought they were.

My second reaction is that Holder and Obama’s positions are morally indefensible, at least based on their previous standards. How on earth could they bemoan Enhanced Interrogation Techniques of three terrorists who (a) survived the ordeal and (b) elicited information that saved many innocent American lives while giving the green light to kill American citizens overseas, and to do so without the benefit of a trial?

A third reaction: Where is the outrage of the left? You remember the left – men and women who wrote and spoke out almost on a daily basis that EITs were staining America’s reputation, a violation of human rights and international law, and a moral offense of the highest order. Yet here we have Obama’s attorney general defending the targeted killing of American citizens. This shows you how deeply partisan, and ultimately insincere, the concerns were for many who feigned moral outrage during the Bush years.

When he ran for president, it was clear Obama was a man of astonishing moral arrogance. Now we can add moral hypocrite to his faults.

 

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The Afghan Protests Over Koran Burnings

The protests over the Koran burnings appear to be over in Afghanistan–knock on wood. The violence directed against American personnel by insurgents, some of whom have managed to infiltrate the Afghan Security Forces (or been turned by the Taliban after joining in good faith, or simply become deranged), is, sadly, not over. But as emotions calm down it is worth taking a closer look at the protests and “friendly fire” killings and what they mean. That is just what two analysts at the Institute for the Study of War–Isaac Hock and Paraag Shukla–have done. They have produced a valuable backgrounder on the protests whose first paragraph is worth reproducing here:

Protests emerged in stages across small regions of Afghanistan following the accidental burning of Islamic religious texts at Bagram Airfield on February 20, 2012. Most of the protests are not spontaneous or self- organizing outbursts of anti-Americanism, but rather organized violence orchestrated by insurgent groups, Iran, and Afghan political factions aiming to harm their local rivals. Neighboring Iran has utilized its media outlets, especially radio, to influence Afghan demonstrators to be destructive during their protests. The Taliban have issued multiple statements encouraging violent actions. President Karzai and his administration, in contrast, have actively tried to quell violence.

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The protests over the Koran burnings appear to be over in Afghanistan–knock on wood. The violence directed against American personnel by insurgents, some of whom have managed to infiltrate the Afghan Security Forces (or been turned by the Taliban after joining in good faith, or simply become deranged), is, sadly, not over. But as emotions calm down it is worth taking a closer look at the protests and “friendly fire” killings and what they mean. That is just what two analysts at the Institute for the Study of War–Isaac Hock and Paraag Shukla–have done. They have produced a valuable backgrounder on the protests whose first paragraph is worth reproducing here:

Protests emerged in stages across small regions of Afghanistan following the accidental burning of Islamic religious texts at Bagram Airfield on February 20, 2012. Most of the protests are not spontaneous or self- organizing outbursts of anti-Americanism, but rather organized violence orchestrated by insurgent groups, Iran, and Afghan political factions aiming to harm their local rivals. Neighboring Iran has utilized its media outlets, especially radio, to influence Afghan demonstrators to be destructive during their protests. The Taliban have issued multiple statements encouraging violent actions. President Karzai and his administration, in contrast, have actively tried to quell violence.

That tallies with what I wrote in this Wall Street Journal oped in which I argued based on polling data that most Afghans don’t hate America and don’t want our troops to leave while a Pakistan-backed insurgency continues to rage. Given the relatively small size, and and political motivations of, the protests, they do little to suggest that there has been any reversal in the thinking of most Afghans. But there is no doubt that, Koran burning or no Koran burning, the Taliban tactic of encouraging members of the security forces to turn their guns on American troops has been an effective one–not because it poses a serious danger to our troops’ ability to accomplish the mission but primarily because it (wrongly) sends a signal to Americans back home that we have no reliable allies in Afghanistan.

This sense of disgust with the Afghans and despair about the state of the war effort add momentum to the efforts of those in the administration, led by Vice President Biden, who want to pull out troops out more quickly. But it is hard to see why their preferred approach, focusing on a small number of Special Operations Forces and advisers, is any better. A smaller number of troops will be be able to exert less control and will not be able to defend themselves as well as our force of nearly 100,000 can today. In fact, the faster we withdraw, the more likely it is there will be more shocking incidents of violence including “green on blue” attacks with Afghan soldiers killing American troops.

That, in turn, will feed into even greater opposition to the war effort back home and make it impossible for us to achieve any of our objectives in Afghanistan, even the most minimal.

It would be a tragedy if, after being driven out of their safe havens in Helmand and Kandahar, the Taliban were able to stage a comeback because of the willingness of a handful of killers wearing Afghan uniforms to ambush unsuspecting American advisers. It’s not much of a tactic for a conventional war but as a tactic for information warfare–in many ways the dominant battlefield today–it is fiendishly effective.

 

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Obama: GOP Candidates “Casual” About War

President Obama claims the GOP candidates are “casual” about war. Some might counter that President Obama is too casual about an Iranian nuclear bomb:

President Obama fired back at his Republican challengers who have accused him of being soft on Iran, saying at a White House press conference that the standoff over the Iranian nuclear program is “not a game.”

Suggesting that the criticism being lobbed at him is not anchored in substance, Obama accused his rivals — without mentioning their names — of being “casual” about starting a war.

“If some of these folks think it’s time to launch a war, they should say so,” he said. “Everything else is just talk.”

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President Obama claims the GOP candidates are “casual” about war. Some might counter that President Obama is too casual about an Iranian nuclear bomb:

President Obama fired back at his Republican challengers who have accused him of being soft on Iran, saying at a White House press conference that the standoff over the Iranian nuclear program is “not a game.”

Suggesting that the criticism being lobbed at him is not anchored in substance, Obama accused his rivals — without mentioning their names — of being “casual” about starting a war.

“If some of these folks think it’s time to launch a war, they should say so,” he said. “Everything else is just talk.”

According to Obama, there is still “a window of opportunity where this can still be resolved diplomatically” with Iran – and when Republicans attack him for being too weak, that’s only because they don’t understand the gravity of war.

“I’m reminded that the decision that I have to make, in terms of sending our young men and women into battle, and the impact that has on their lives, the impact that has on our national security, the impact it has on our economy – this is not a game,” he continued.

Obama’s comments disingenuously imply that Republicans are criticizing him for not bombing Iran, when in fact Republicans are criticizing him because it’s hard to believe he’d ever bomb Iran, even if the world depended on it. As Jonathan outlined earlier today, the Iranians have little reason to take Obama’s threats of force seriously.

And why should they? Obama hasn’t even been resolute when it comes to sanctions. He’s spent the last few days talking about how tough his latest round is, but the congressional deadline for the administration to begin the sanctions went by last week with no action. The Obama administration still hasn’t put them into effect, and there’s been no clear indication of when the Treasury Department will get around to it.

That alone is reason enough for the candidates to criticize Obama for being too weak. And the next time Obama blasts them for having a “casual” view on war, he should realize it’s not the Republicans who are moving us closer to a military confrontation–it’s Iran.

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The Stakes of Super Tuesday

As people watch the election returns this evening, here’s a quick overview. Ten states will be awarding 437 delegates, which is approximately one-third of the total number of delegates needed to win the nomination (1,144). Mitt Romney leads Rick Santorum in the delegate count by roughly two-to-one (181 v. 91) and Newt Gingrich by six-to-one (181 v. 30). Of the 10 states, seven are primaries (Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, Oklahoma, Massachusetts, and Vermont) and three are caucuses (Idaho, North Dakota, and Alaska).

Mitt Romney will win Massachusetts, Vermont, and Virginia. Newt Gingrich will carry his home state of Georgia by a wide margin. And Rick Santorum has a double digit lead in Oklahoma. Of the remaining five state, Idaho, North Dakota, and Alaska haven’t conducted any recent polls, so it’s hard to know who will prevail in those three states. Mitt Romney won Alaska and North Dakota in 2008, while Idaho is part of the so-called Mormon Corridor, with more than a quarter of the population members of the Mormon church.

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As people watch the election returns this evening, here’s a quick overview. Ten states will be awarding 437 delegates, which is approximately one-third of the total number of delegates needed to win the nomination (1,144). Mitt Romney leads Rick Santorum in the delegate count by roughly two-to-one (181 v. 91) and Newt Gingrich by six-to-one (181 v. 30). Of the 10 states, seven are primaries (Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, Oklahoma, Massachusetts, and Vermont) and three are caucuses (Idaho, North Dakota, and Alaska).

Mitt Romney will win Massachusetts, Vermont, and Virginia. Newt Gingrich will carry his home state of Georgia by a wide margin. And Rick Santorum has a double digit lead in Oklahoma. Of the remaining five state, Idaho, North Dakota, and Alaska haven’t conducted any recent polls, so it’s hard to know who will prevail in those three states. Mitt Romney won Alaska and North Dakota in 2008, while Idaho is part of the so-called Mormon Corridor, with more than a quarter of the population members of the Mormon church.

Which leaves Tennessee and Ohio. Both are “must” states for Santorum to carry. The former Pennsylvania senator leads Romney by around two points in Tennessee, while Romney leads Santorum by less than two points in Ohio, based on the RealClearPolitics average of recent polls. If Santorum wins in both Tennessee and Ohio, he lives to fight another day. He will have shown the ability to win in two different regions of the country – the South and the Midwest; claim he’s now the only viable alternative to Romney (with Gingrich having been dispatched); and argue that he’s a stronger general election candidate than Romney. In addition, large doubts about Romney will once again envelop him.

If Governor Romney carries both Tennessee and Ohio, on the other hand, the evening will be judged to have been a Romney Rout. It will be game, set, and match. But Romney can still lose Tennessee and do very well today. He is, after all, the frontrunner in every meaningful respect, so the burden is on others to dramatically alter the course of event. The state the former Massachusetts governor really wants is Ohio, which is why he’s focused so much of his time and money there.

No Republican has ever won the presidency without carrying Ohio. It’s one of the handful of most important swing states in America. The Buckeye State is large (the 7th most populous state in America), relatively diverse, fairly blue-collar, with a strong evangelical base of support. Compared to Michigan, which Romney carried by only three percentage points, Ohio is more evangelical, more rural, and has fewer college graduates – all of which should work in Santorum’s favor. Which is why a win in Ohio by Romney will make him nearly unstoppable.

The encouraging news for Romney is that he’s erased a substantial double digit lead by Santorum in Ohio during the last two weeks. Governor Romney can lose Ohio and still win the GOP nomination. But if he hopes to allay some of the concerns that have risen up around him, Ohio is the place to do it. Rick Santorum is the last man standing between Mitt Romney and the GOP nomination. If Romney wins Ohio tonight, nothing short of a historic collapse will stop him. And that isn’t about to happen.

 

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Yale’s History Department Losing Students

Yale’s history department was once the flagship of the university. In academic year 1999-2000, for example, Yale had nearly 350 tenured faculty members, more than a third of whom were in the humanities. More than one-third of these, in turn, were historians. History was by far the most popular major.

How much a decade can alter the landscape: The history major is in sharp decline if not freefall with the slack picked up by the social sciences: political science and economics. History Department chair Laura Engelstein has said she wants to get to the bottom of the hemorrhaging program. “If it reflects something that we could change, we would want to change it, but it’s not clear what exactly is causing this to happen,” she told the Yale Daily News.

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Yale’s history department was once the flagship of the university. In academic year 1999-2000, for example, Yale had nearly 350 tenured faculty members, more than a third of whom were in the humanities. More than one-third of these, in turn, were historians. History was by far the most popular major.

How much a decade can alter the landscape: The history major is in sharp decline if not freefall with the slack picked up by the social sciences: political science and economics. History Department chair Laura Engelstein has said she wants to get to the bottom of the hemorrhaging program. “If it reflects something that we could change, we would want to change it, but it’s not clear what exactly is causing this to happen,” she told the Yale Daily News.

The faculty has floated a few theories:  Frances Rosenbluth, an administrator for the social sciences, suggested students are attracted to the social sciences because students “seem drawn to questions about how the world works.” Some history faculty members suggested that perhaps “structural changes” could rectify the problem. The department has responded with cosmetic changes, defining “pathways” to better structure the students’ program.

Alas, the department appears to be missing the elephant in the room. History was popular when it was relevant. Back in the 1980s, when I first visited Yale, the department was at its peak, sporting such professors as Paul Kennedy, Jonathan Spence, Donald Kagan, Michael Howard, Gaddis Smith, Robin Winks, Ben Kiernan, and John Blum. Earlier stars included C. Vann Woodward and Firuz Kazemzadeh. Throughout the 1990s, when I attended Yale as both an undergraduate and graduate student, the department prided itself on eschewing trendy academic theories and keeping to the basics. “Theory is for those who do not have libraries,” one faculty member quipped. I believed it. After all, when in my freshman year, I took H. Bradford Westerfield’s “Introduction to International Relations,” the Iron Curtain had just crumbled but Westerfield could not be bothered to change his syllabus. It was a lesson on just how irrelevant trendy theories could be. Meanwhile, at academic conferences, history graduate students from other universities would sometimes quip that Yale sported the “Department of Military and Diplomatic History,” as if that were somehow a bad thing. Certainly, I gained exposure to economic and social history—indeed, my dissertation strayed into those fields—but more traditional methods always provided the framework.

Cracks began to appear in the 1990s. When the American political historian John Blum retired, he was replaced by a series of historians who focused far more on social history. As retirements and deaths took their toll, the character of the department changed. Social history became paramount. Englestein’s bio, for example, describes how she focuses on the “social and cultural history of late imperial Russia, with attention to the role of law, medicine, and the arts in public life. She has also explored themes in the history of gender, sexuality, and religion.” Asian specialists can pick from faculty members focusing in social and cultural history in pre-modern China or infanticide in Japan; whereas the new crop of American historians focuses on such topics as the history of home healthcare workers, “biological motherhood in America,” American Indians in northeastern United States, or race in California. As Paul Kennedy nears retirement, John Gaddis is the main exception to prove the rule. Regardless, their International Security Studies program increasingly appears to be a spin off, if nothing else to insulate it from those in the university hostile to grand strategy.

Perhaps it’s time for Yale’s history department to consider the obvious. They are losing enrollment because they have pigeonholed themselves into irrelevancy. Yale students are intellectually curious, but the department no longer provides them a path to satiate their curiosity. Not all fields are created equally, nor can one encourage sub-specialization endlessly within the faculty without hurting the cohesive whole.

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Are Restrictions Being Eased on the Sheikh?

It’s no secret that the Obama administration has reversed longstanding American policy and reached out to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Successive elections in the wake of the Arab Spring have gone a long way to legitimizing the Islamist group. At the same time, the Obama administration is notoriously poor at negotiations.  Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher was handily outplayed by Vladimir Putin when she negotiated the START treaty. Then, in order to entice the Taliban to open a diplomatic office in Qatar, Obama offered up everything the Taliban wanted before negotiations even began, much to the detriment of U.S. national security. Now word comes from an Egyptian newspaper that restrictions are being eased on Umar Abd-al-Rahman, the so-called “Blind Sheikh” and mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

According to the independent, liberal Al-Yawm as-Sabi (translation courtesy of the Open Source Center):

Al-Yawm as-Sabi has learnt from well-informed U.S. and diplomatic sources that a tangible change has occurred to the way Shaykh Umar Abd-al-Rahman is treated in the U.S. prison where he has been detained for about 19 years. Informed sources affirmed that U.S. authorities have eased its tight measures against Shaykh Umar to a great extent. This ease involves treating him in a “good” way in prison and allowing his doctor to visit him and check on his health condition and he [Shaykh Abd-al-Rahman] has already started to receive close medical attention. Sources close to [name withheld], lawyer for Abd-al-Rahman, said that the shaykh had been allowed to contact his family and some Egyptian bodies after he was recently banned from contacting them. The sources link the good treatment the shaykh is currently receiving to the release of the U.S. nationals accused in the [NGOs] foreign funding case, which backs the recently-circulated news about a secret deal between the U.S. administration and the Egyptian government. Meanwhile, Abdullah, son of the shaykh, voiced hope the news of the deal is true and that the shaykh will be actually released.

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It’s no secret that the Obama administration has reversed longstanding American policy and reached out to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Successive elections in the wake of the Arab Spring have gone a long way to legitimizing the Islamist group. At the same time, the Obama administration is notoriously poor at negotiations.  Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher was handily outplayed by Vladimir Putin when she negotiated the START treaty. Then, in order to entice the Taliban to open a diplomatic office in Qatar, Obama offered up everything the Taliban wanted before negotiations even began, much to the detriment of U.S. national security. Now word comes from an Egyptian newspaper that restrictions are being eased on Umar Abd-al-Rahman, the so-called “Blind Sheikh” and mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

According to the independent, liberal Al-Yawm as-Sabi (translation courtesy of the Open Source Center):

Al-Yawm as-Sabi has learnt from well-informed U.S. and diplomatic sources that a tangible change has occurred to the way Shaykh Umar Abd-al-Rahman is treated in the U.S. prison where he has been detained for about 19 years. Informed sources affirmed that U.S. authorities have eased its tight measures against Shaykh Umar to a great extent. This ease involves treating him in a “good” way in prison and allowing his doctor to visit him and check on his health condition and he [Shaykh Abd-al-Rahman] has already started to receive close medical attention. Sources close to [name withheld], lawyer for Abd-al-Rahman, said that the shaykh had been allowed to contact his family and some Egyptian bodies after he was recently banned from contacting them. The sources link the good treatment the shaykh is currently receiving to the release of the U.S. nationals accused in the [NGOs] foreign funding case, which backs the recently-circulated news about a secret deal between the U.S. administration and the Egyptian government. Meanwhile, Abdullah, son of the shaykh, voiced hope the news of the deal is true and that the shaykh will be actually released.

Say it ain’t so. The Obama administration may praise the Muslim Brotherhood for their “moderating role” as Egypt blackmails America over the detained democracy workers, but if the price the Muslim Brotherhood extracts is the easing of conditions for an unrepentant mass murderer, then that not only reflects the reality of the Muslim Brotherhood today but also Obama’s historical amnesia.

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Drug Companies Profit From Mandate

It is amazing how quickly “free birth control” became the next civil rights issue. Until recently, I never noticed that Catholic employers refusing to cover birth control costs had created a public crisis, forcing women across the country to pay a staggering $9 a month for the Pill.

Which is of course because this isn’t a crisis, it’s a fake controversy. There’s no vital public interest in forcing religious employers to provide insurance for contraceptives, and you don’t have to be anti-birth control to think that. Though it does help to have the bare-minimum of tolerance for other people’s personal beliefs.

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It is amazing how quickly “free birth control” became the next civil rights issue. Until recently, I never noticed that Catholic employers refusing to cover birth control costs had created a public crisis, forcing women across the country to pay a staggering $9 a month for the Pill.

Which is of course because this isn’t a crisis, it’s a fake controversy. There’s no vital public interest in forcing religious employers to provide insurance for contraceptives, and you don’t have to be anti-birth control to think that. Though it does help to have the bare-minimum of tolerance for other people’s personal beliefs.

Of course, just because the birth control insurance mandate has near-negligible benefits for women doesn’t mean nobody’s profiting off this. At The Atlantic, Avik S. A. Roy explains why drug companies have the most to gain from the rule:

Under the current system, drug companies have an incentive to compete on price. If you have health insurance that covers birth control today, your insurer is likely to charge you a higher co-pay for expensive, “branded” versions of birth control over cheaper, generic ones. If you don’t have health insurance, and you’re buying the Pill directly from the pharmacy at Wal-Mart, you have even more incentive to shop on price.

Under the new mandate, this price incentive disappears. Insurers will be required to pay for any and all oral contraceptives, without charging a co-pay, co-insurance, or a deductible. This “first dollar coverage” of oral contraception kills the incentive to shop based on price.

If history is any guide, this significant change will drive up the price of oral contraception. Today, Tri-Sprintec costs $9 a month. In 2020, don’t be surprised if it costs $30.

We already knew ObamaCare was a goldmine for drug companies, which is why the president has gotten so much support from the pharmaceutical industry. Now we know what he was willing to sell out in order to get it: the rights of conscience for religious employers.

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Erdogan Holds Not Only Israel, But Also Syria and Cyprus Hostage

Omri Ceren beat me to the punch by pointing out how the Turkish government has undercut NATO’s larger mission by holding the organization hostage to its own diplomatic squabbles. Omri is absolutely correct in his analysis: Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a man with a pronounced hatred for Israel and it seems for Jews as well, seeks to involve NATO in his vendetta against the Jewish state. Regional officials understand Erdoğan instigated and manufactured the crisis with Israel. When the Bulgarian foreign minister had the temerity to point this out to Egemen Bağış, a close Erdoğan confidante, Bağış’s delegation dismissed his remark by suggesting that perhaps the Bulgarian minister was polluted with Jewish blood.

Turkey, however, is seeking not only to cheapen NATO, but is also holding Syrian hostage. During the last few months, Erdoğan threw a temper tantrum aboutthe French senate’s decision to criminalize denial of the Armenian genocide, although the law was eventually struck down by the constitutional court. Frankly, I would also criticize the French action on nothing other than free speech grounds. (For the record, I also oppose criminalization of Holocaust denial on free speech grounds, though I do not believe that respect for free speech mandates acceptance of poor scholarship or inane journalism). So now, because France contradicted Erdoğan’s sense of history, Turkey may exclude France from meetings relating to the situation in Syria.

Meanwhile, a new diplomatic brouhaha is brewing over threats made by Egemen “I smell Jewish blood” Bağış, ironically Turkey’s European Union minister, who has threatened that Turkey may unilaterally annex a third of Cyprus in which it has set up a puppet state, and whose oil resources it covets.

Perhaps for Erdoğan, not only the Jews are expendable, but the Syrians and Cypriots as well. Such is the price when one does not give sufficient honor to the Imam of Istanbul, as Erdoğan once described himself, or the Putin of Anatolia, as he’s increasingly known.

Omri Ceren beat me to the punch by pointing out how the Turkish government has undercut NATO’s larger mission by holding the organization hostage to its own diplomatic squabbles. Omri is absolutely correct in his analysis: Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a man with a pronounced hatred for Israel and it seems for Jews as well, seeks to involve NATO in his vendetta against the Jewish state. Regional officials understand Erdoğan instigated and manufactured the crisis with Israel. When the Bulgarian foreign minister had the temerity to point this out to Egemen Bağış, a close Erdoğan confidante, Bağış’s delegation dismissed his remark by suggesting that perhaps the Bulgarian minister was polluted with Jewish blood.

Turkey, however, is seeking not only to cheapen NATO, but is also holding Syrian hostage. During the last few months, Erdoğan threw a temper tantrum aboutthe French senate’s decision to criminalize denial of the Armenian genocide, although the law was eventually struck down by the constitutional court. Frankly, I would also criticize the French action on nothing other than free speech grounds. (For the record, I also oppose criminalization of Holocaust denial on free speech grounds, though I do not believe that respect for free speech mandates acceptance of poor scholarship or inane journalism). So now, because France contradicted Erdoğan’s sense of history, Turkey may exclude France from meetings relating to the situation in Syria.

Meanwhile, a new diplomatic brouhaha is brewing over threats made by Egemen “I smell Jewish blood” Bağış, ironically Turkey’s European Union minister, who has threatened that Turkey may unilaterally annex a third of Cyprus in which it has set up a puppet state, and whose oil resources it covets.

Perhaps for Erdoğan, not only the Jews are expendable, but the Syrians and Cypriots as well. Such is the price when one does not give sufficient honor to the Imam of Istanbul, as Erdoğan once described himself, or the Putin of Anatolia, as he’s increasingly known.

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Will the EU Back Down on Iran?

For the past several months, it has been the European Union that has taken the lead on ratcheting up sanctions against Iran. While President Obama was still dithering about implementing measures that would effectively create an international embargo against Iranian oil, the EU laid out its plans to actually shut down Tehran’s one source of foreign capital. But lurking behind this admirable boldness has always been a troubling sense that underneath their tough talk was an ardent desire to engage the Iranians and make all the unpleasantness go away.

That concern must go back to the front burner today with the announcement that EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has accepted an offer to meet with the Iranians to discuss some new proposals Tehran is putting on the table. While the talks don’t obligate the EU to back down on its threats and can be construed in one way as proof that sanctions have gotten the attention of the Islamist regime, there is also the very real chance that once the negotiations begin the dynamic of diplomacy will predominate and allow Iran to play for more time as their nuclear program progresses.

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For the past several months, it has been the European Union that has taken the lead on ratcheting up sanctions against Iran. While President Obama was still dithering about implementing measures that would effectively create an international embargo against Iranian oil, the EU laid out its plans to actually shut down Tehran’s one source of foreign capital. But lurking behind this admirable boldness has always been a troubling sense that underneath their tough talk was an ardent desire to engage the Iranians and make all the unpleasantness go away.

That concern must go back to the front burner today with the announcement that EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has accepted an offer to meet with the Iranians to discuss some new proposals Tehran is putting on the table. While the talks don’t obligate the EU to back down on its threats and can be construed in one way as proof that sanctions have gotten the attention of the Islamist regime, there is also the very real chance that once the negotiations begin the dynamic of diplomacy will predominate and allow Iran to play for more time as their nuclear program progresses.

It should be understood that the only reason why the Europeans have been so forward on the Iran issue is they are scared stiff an Israeli attempt to forestall the nuclear threat will play havoc with their economies. That isn’t to say that leaders such as French President Nicolas Sarkozy are not fully aware of Iran’s dangerous nuclear intentions or that they fail to understand that Tehran’s acquisition of such a weapon would not present a threat to European security. They understand this, yet absent pressure from Israel, it is doubtful the EU would have been as tough on Iran as it has been.

During the past several years, dating back to the Bush administration (which outsourced diplomacy on Iran to the French and the Germans), the Iranians have had only one objective in its nuclear talks with the West: using them as a way to distract the world from its ongoing progress towards a weapon. Though it can be argued that some good and no harm can come from just talking to the Iranians, there is no reason to believe they view negotiations as anything but an opportunity to detach the EU from the U.S. and Israel. The ayatollahs know the EU has every reason to accept an inadequate compromise on nuclear enrichment or some other measure as proof Iran has backed down and will allow this to serve as justification for standing down from their promise of what might prove to be a costly oil embargo.

Given President Obama’s own predilection for pointless talks with Iran as well as his own lack of enthusiasm for an oil embargo, Israel has good reason to fear that once talks with Iran get going they will have a life of their own. Though the Israelis have no way of preventing such talks, the EU must be reminded that should they fold on their heretofore tough stance on Iranian nukes, the Jewish state will not back down on its own resolution to prevent the Islamist regime from acquiring a genocidal capability. Moreover, if President Obama is as serious about stopping Iran as he wanted to appear to be while speaking at the AIPAC conference, he must speak out and remind both Iran and the EU that he, too, won’t stand for any compromise that leaves Tehran with a potential opportunity to create their own nuke.

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National Momentum is With Romney

The question tonight isn’t whether Mitt Romney captures the most delegates. That’s a given. The question is whether he’ll meet current polling predictions, which he failed to do in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri.

And the expectations are high this morning. Gallup shows Romney with a 16-point national lead on Rick Santorum, a sign that Romney may have an even better performance tonight than previously thought:

Mitt Romney leads Rick Santorum by 16 percentage points in Feb. 29-March 4 Gallup Daily tracking of national Republican registered voters’ preferences for their party’s nomination. Romney is at 38 percent, Santorum 22 percent, Newt Gingrich 15 percent, and Ron Paul 12 percent. Santorum led Romney by 10 points as recently as Feb. 20.

Romney’s current 38 percent of the vote is the highest percentage any candidate has obtained since Gallup Daily tracking of the race began on Dec. 1, and comes in the wake of Romney’s wins in the Feb. 28 Michigan and Arizona primaries.

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The question tonight isn’t whether Mitt Romney captures the most delegates. That’s a given. The question is whether he’ll meet current polling predictions, which he failed to do in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri.

And the expectations are high this morning. Gallup shows Romney with a 16-point national lead on Rick Santorum, a sign that Romney may have an even better performance tonight than previously thought:

Mitt Romney leads Rick Santorum by 16 percentage points in Feb. 29-March 4 Gallup Daily tracking of national Republican registered voters’ preferences for their party’s nomination. Romney is at 38 percent, Santorum 22 percent, Newt Gingrich 15 percent, and Ron Paul 12 percent. Santorum led Romney by 10 points as recently as Feb. 20.

Romney’s current 38 percent of the vote is the highest percentage any candidate has obtained since Gallup Daily tracking of the race began on Dec. 1, and comes in the wake of Romney’s wins in the Feb. 28 Michigan and Arizona primaries.

Other polls also indicate similar movement for Romney. In Ohio, he’s pulled into the lead in most polls in the last few days, but Santorum is still ahead in Rasmussen and Suffolk, and the margins are way too close to call.

The polls are a blessing and a curse for Romney. They suggest that the momentum is moving in his direction, which could mean he’ll collect even more than the 267 delegates that Nate Silver is projecting – a landslide victory. On the other hand, if he falls short of expectations, the narrative will once again be that Romney doesn’t have what it takes to appeal to Republican voters..

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Liberal Double Standards

Kirsten Powers is a woman of liberal leanings but impressively independent judgments. That was demonstrated again with her recent column in The Daily Beast, in which she takes to task what she calls “the army of swine on the left” who are engaging in a “war on women.”

In the words of Powers, “Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, Bill Maher, Matt Taibbi, and Ed Schultz have been waging it for years with their misogynist outbursts.” She provides chapter and verse on all five men, but declares that the “grand pooh-bah of media misogyny is without a doubt Bill Maher.” That would be the same Bill Maher who has given $1 million to President Obama’s super PAC. So I wonder: Do you think Obama, who has placed himself in the middle of the Rush Limbaugh-Sandra Fluke controversy, will be hounded by the press about Maher’s comments in light of his contributions? And why, by the way, are Limbaugh’s comments getting so much media attention while Maher’s comments have been overlooked, accepted, or even bring a knowing smile to the faces of some journalists, many of whom seem eager to appear on his program?

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Kirsten Powers is a woman of liberal leanings but impressively independent judgments. That was demonstrated again with her recent column in The Daily Beast, in which she takes to task what she calls “the army of swine on the left” who are engaging in a “war on women.”

In the words of Powers, “Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, Bill Maher, Matt Taibbi, and Ed Schultz have been waging it for years with their misogynist outbursts.” She provides chapter and verse on all five men, but declares that the “grand pooh-bah of media misogyny is without a doubt Bill Maher.” That would be the same Bill Maher who has given $1 million to President Obama’s super PAC. So I wonder: Do you think Obama, who has placed himself in the middle of the Rush Limbaugh-Sandra Fluke controversy, will be hounded by the press about Maher’s comments in light of his contributions? And why, by the way, are Limbaugh’s comments getting so much media attention while Maher’s comments have been overlooked, accepted, or even bring a knowing smile to the faces of some journalists, many of whom seem eager to appear on his program?

It’s not sufficient to say that Limbaugh is far more prominent than Maher, especially as Maher is now one of the larger financial supporters of President Obama.

We all know what’s going on here. The left, by and large, can say things about their political opponents that are cruel and defamatory and mostly get away with it, while those on the right are called on the carpet. That’s not true in every case, but it’s certainly true often enough to draw a reasonable conclusion.

What we have a right to expect is even-handedness rather than glaring double standards. My guess is that for many journalists and commentators, what’s happening is less a conscious bias than a sub-conscious one. When conservative women are savaged by liberal men, it’s boys will be boys/politics ain’t beanbag/sticks and stones may break my bones. But when liberal women are savaged by conservative men, it’s an assault on reason, decency and civilized standards. This is what Powers seems to be arguing, and for a woman who leans left to make that case in such an ironclad way is a tribute to her even as it’s an indictment of many in her profession.

 

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How Different Would the GOP Be on Iran?

The New York Times hammers the Republican presidential field this morning in a piece that attempts to point out that despite their criticisms of President Obama on his handling of Iran, their policy prescriptions differ little from his. In particular, Mitt Romney is skewered for an approach to the Iranian nuclear threat (detailed here in his op-ed published in yesterday’s Washington Post) that seemingly is centered on the same belief in sanctions that would be followed by the use of force as only a last resort. There is some truth to this, and the same can be said of the strikingly similar stands of Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich.

But despite the evident liberal satisfaction in highlighting what they believe is an example of GOP hypocrisy, there is a problem with this proposition that goes to the heart of America’s failure to adequately deal with Iran. The problem lies in Obama’s credibility. Though the incumbent is now talking of doing many of the same things Republicans say they want to do, the difference is that for most of his presidency Obama has taken a very different course. If Romney can claim the Iranians will get a nuclear weapon if Obama is re-elected but not if he is sworn in next January, it is not so much a function of different policies as it is that the Iranians believe the incumbent will let them get away with murder.

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The New York Times hammers the Republican presidential field this morning in a piece that attempts to point out that despite their criticisms of President Obama on his handling of Iran, their policy prescriptions differ little from his. In particular, Mitt Romney is skewered for an approach to the Iranian nuclear threat (detailed here in his op-ed published in yesterday’s Washington Post) that seemingly is centered on the same belief in sanctions that would be followed by the use of force as only a last resort. There is some truth to this, and the same can be said of the strikingly similar stands of Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich.

But despite the evident liberal satisfaction in highlighting what they believe is an example of GOP hypocrisy, there is a problem with this proposition that goes to the heart of America’s failure to adequately deal with Iran. The problem lies in Obama’s credibility. Though the incumbent is now talking of doing many of the same things Republicans say they want to do, the difference is that for most of his presidency Obama has taken a very different course. If Romney can claim the Iranians will get a nuclear weapon if Obama is re-elected but not if he is sworn in next January, it is not so much a function of different policies as it is that the Iranians believe the incumbent will let them get away with murder.

It must be admitted that Romney is untested as an international statesman, but though the president’s cheerleaders are doing their best to puff up his image, he has not acquired a reputation as a leader our enemies take very seriously. The Times’ editorial page may believe, as it stated this morning, that “Israel should not doubt this president’s mettle. Neither should Iran.” But the problem is that the Iranians do very much doubt his mettle.

The Obama administration began its foreign policy career with a comical attempt at “engagement” with Iran. That was followed by an effort to forge an international consensus in favor of crippling sanctions that are being openly flouted by Russia and China. It has been the Europeans, not the U.S. that has displayed some enthusiasm about an embargo of Iranian oil — the only type of sanctions that have a prayer of success in influencing the Iranians — but that has been handicapped by the clear reluctance Obama has demonstrated over the measure.

On top of that are the obvious signals sent out that not only is the U.S. not contemplating the use of force against Iran but that it is going all out to try to prevent Israel from doing so.

After all this, it would be astonishing if the Iranians took the president’s threats seriously. Far from underestimating his mettle, they may well see his insistence on allowing a further window for negotiations with Tehran as an indication that they can resume their past diplomatic gamesmanship in which they have sought to run out the clock until their nuclear project comes to fruition.

To those who argue that the president’s decision to launch the fatal strike at Osama bin Laden is proof of Obama’s toughness, it should be pointed out that the assassination of one terrorist might not weigh as heavily in the minds of the Iranian leadership as the way he is orchestrating premature American withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is true that President Obama is now saying much that is helpful on the subject, especially his disavowals of any thought of containing a nuclear Iran. But having observed him in action during the course of his presidency, Obama’s characteristic reluctance to confront Iran may have more influence on the ayatollah’s evaluation of his intent than the tough talk we heard during his speech to the AIPAC conference.

Though there is no guarantee that Obama’s likely Republican challenger will prove equal to the task of leadership, the Iranians have already judged Barack Obama and found him wanting. As things stand today, that is the real difference between the parties on Iran.

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Obama Snubs Mark Kirk at AIPAC

Even though Sen. Mark Kirk is still home recovering from his recent stroke, his presence loomed large at AIPAC this week. Sen. Mitch McConnell gave a nod to Kirk during his speech at the gala, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued this sincere request during his keynote:

I want to send a special message to a great friend of Israel who is not here tonight: Senator Mark Kirk, the co-author of the Kirk-Menendez Iran Sanctions Act. Senator Kirk, I know you’re watching this tonight. Please get well soon. America needs you;  Israel needs you. I send you wishes for a speedy recovery. So get well and get back to work.

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Even though Sen. Mark Kirk is still home recovering from his recent stroke, his presence loomed large at AIPAC this week. Sen. Mitch McConnell gave a nod to Kirk during his speech at the gala, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued this sincere request during his keynote:

I want to send a special message to a great friend of Israel who is not here tonight: Senator Mark Kirk, the co-author of the Kirk-Menendez Iran Sanctions Act. Senator Kirk, I know you’re watching this tonight. Please get well soon. America needs you;  Israel needs you. I send you wishes for a speedy recovery. So get well and get back to work.

Kirk has been one of the strongest friends of Israel in the Senate, and co-authored the latest, and toughest, Iran sanctions legislation with Sen. Robert Menendez. After months of foot-dragging and pushback, President Obama finally signed the sanctions into law in February.

Despite his initial opposition to the legislation, Obama was perfectly happy to take credit for these sanctions during his AIPAC speech on Sunday, which included no mention of Kirk or his ongoing recovery:

I have said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say. That includes all elements of American power: a political effort aimed at isolating Iran, a diplomatic effort to sustain our coalition and ensure that the Iranian program is monitored, an economic effort that imposes crippling sanctions and, yes, a military effort to be prepared for any contingency.

This is the third time Obama had an opportunity to mention Kirk in an address and declined to do so. At the last State of the Union, Obama gave a warm hug to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, but made no acknowledgement of Kirk, who had the stroke just days earlier. This is despite the fact that Kirk holds the same Illinois Senate seat that Obama held before he became president.

Obama also neglected to mention Kirk in a statement he sent to Congress after signing the Executive Order on the latest Iran sanctions. In the note, the president took full credit for the policy.

It’s not that Obama should have to give Kirk a nod every time he mentions the sanctions. But a brief acknowledgment for the man who had the foresight to fight for them – even when the president was reluctant to support them – would be the classy thing to do.

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Purim 2.0(12)

In Ali’s days it comes to pass,
A scary tale, one all but farce.
Admittedly it’s not the end,
But we’ll try yet to comprehend.

The sixth and tenth year of his reign,
Despite the oil, a sad domain.
Devout was he so nought to drink,
Nor in the land were men of pink. Read More

In Ali’s days it comes to pass,
A scary tale, one all but farce.
Admittedly it’s not the end,
But we’ll try yet to comprehend.

The sixth and tenth year of his reign,
Despite the oil, a sad domain.
Devout was he so nought to drink,
Nor in the land were men of pink.

For one day he’d need to account –
Although his lands did not amount
To twenty seven and a cent,
For heaven was he still hellbent.

That is if he once and for all
Did heed the heavens’ mighty call.
His foe to devastate at last
With marvel and a mighty blast.

Ambrosia he could not enjoy
Unless those cities he’d destroy.
No virgins would be given him
Unless he blew up kibbutzim.

His title says on earth are signs
Which help the faithful shape designs.
And soon he would complete his task
And therefore in divine light bask.

Ali and he who came before
Have long sought surety galore.
And Satan Minor they’d rebuke,
A final time, with holy nuke.

And so together he did call
His trusted circle, wherewithal,
To see which from that godly group
Could push his plan, the world to dupe.

Mahmoud, and Abba and Akhbar,
Gholam and Hammed and Modar,
Another Hammed, one more too,
And Mir and Ahmad, were the few

Ahmad it was who most impressed.
And so in him Ali’d invest.
Thus from this group, this Camelot,
To Ahmad would he power allot.

Ahmad the people did ‘elect’ –
Though Ali did of course direct.
And re-elect they’d later do
(If meaning says to words ‘adieu’).

Ahmad the country’s cunning chief
From tyrants’ book took he a leaf:
So rarely do his lips speak truth
Nor to the people show he ruth.

And never does he wear a tie –
The one whom no-one dare defy –
And always sporting that grey suit
And surely that white coat to boot.

As year by year new sites arose
The threat from him – it grows and grows
Bushehr, Natanz, Arak and Qom
Ahmad defends with great aplomb.

That land thus does again conspire
To wipe out Israel entire.
It’s clear thus, since once more they try
The Bible failed to edify.

No lots be drawn, we take no chance
To stop the stealthy scheme’s advance.
The world need not one more ‘j’accuse!’
And much besides it has to lose.

As things now stand, Isra’l’s been sold
For which it can its allies scold.
This farce has gone on long enough:
It’s time to call the mullahs’ bluff.

But this round too a Binyamite
Might yet frustrate their appetite.
We pray him in this season strength
So that our days can live their length.

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Obama Letting Turkey Drive a Wedge Between NATO and Israel

President Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan share a warm friendship. The Turkish PM is considered a close foreign friend to a president who notoriously has very few. And though American diplomatic cables concluded years ago that the AKP harbors neo-Ottoman ambitions, risking “‘creeping’ Islamization, naivete, and anti-Westernism,” the president has continued boosting Turkey’s regional posture and insulating the AKP’s domestic position.

The Obama administration has supported a leading role for Turkey on Syria. It has tried to put Bulgaria in Turkey’s orbit. It has even transferred Super Cobra helicopters from Afghanistan to Turkey so Turkish troops could use them against Kurds, part of the Turkish army’s cross-border bombing campaign. For the first time in 100 years, the Turkish navy is conducting general-purpose patrols in the Mediterranean. They’re threatening Israel and Cyprus, telling energy companies that they might get attacked by Turkish troops, freaking out the Greeks, and pledging maritime dominance. The White House is seemingly unable or unwilling to stop these provocations.

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President Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan share a warm friendship. The Turkish PM is considered a close foreign friend to a president who notoriously has very few. And though American diplomatic cables concluded years ago that the AKP harbors neo-Ottoman ambitions, risking “‘creeping’ Islamization, naivete, and anti-Westernism,” the president has continued boosting Turkey’s regional posture and insulating the AKP’s domestic position.

The Obama administration has supported a leading role for Turkey on Syria. It has tried to put Bulgaria in Turkey’s orbit. It has even transferred Super Cobra helicopters from Afghanistan to Turkey so Turkish troops could use them against Kurds, part of the Turkish army’s cross-border bombing campaign. For the first time in 100 years, the Turkish navy is conducting general-purpose patrols in the Mediterranean. They’re threatening Israel and Cyprus, telling energy companies that they might get attacked by Turkish troops, freaking out the Greeks, and pledging maritime dominance. The White House is seemingly unable or unwilling to stop these provocations.

The Turks have responded to Obama’s indulgence by sabotaging American policy in Central Asia and the Middle East: voting against international Iran sanctions, refusing to implement U.S. Iran sanctions, and undermining the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, which has been the central pillar of U.S. strategy in the region for decades.

Now Erdogan and his Foreign Minister Davutoglu have dragged NATO into their campaign to force Israel to “kneel down” to Turkey.

In the last few months, Turkey has vetoed a new Israel office from opening at NATO headquarters. It has blocked joint military exercises between Israel and NATO. It has categorically refused to share any intelligence from NATO’s X-Band missile defense radars with Israel – forever – over the objections of Congress but apparently with administration assent. As the radars were deployed, Turkey even demanded that NATO remove all references linking the arrays to Iranian threats, emptying what could have been a symbol of international unity against the mullahs.

Many of the AKP’s worst inclinations converge at blocking Israeli/NATO cooperation. The neo-Ottoman itch to throw around Turkish weight gets scratched by asserting “control” over the radars. Turkey also gets to exert some influence over NATO itself, which currently imposes some constraints on Ankara (the Turks had also previously blocked alliance action in Libya). Even Turkey’s strategy of isolating its enemies in international forums – something Ankara also does to Cyprus in the EU – gets advanced.

Above and beyond the harm this does to Israel directly, Turkey’s actions are directly endangering American national security. As a matter of like-it-or-not geostrategic reality, Israel is a critical Western ally and a regional power. Coordination between Israel and the U.S., and Israel and NATO, is critical to American power projection in the region. Turkey is undermining that cooperation out of sheer pique, and hurting American interests in the process. The diplomatic onslaught is also making the Israelis incredibly nervous about the constancy of multilateral and bilateral assurances and alliances, at a time when sraeli nervousness on those issues is less than opportune.

And yet the anti-Israel foreign policy experts, who regularly invent newer and more fantastic scenarios as to why Israel is a net drag on U.S. interests, are either silent or blaming Israel for Turkish intransigence. Strange, that.

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