Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 7, 2012

Ordered Liberty and Controlled Chaos

The National Civic Art Society has done yeoman’s work in highlighting the historical, cultural, and aesthetic follies of Frank Gehry’s proposed memorial to Dwight Eisenhower. Andrew Ferguson notes in the most recent Weekly Standard, the design is both “grandiose and pointless,” but as Jonathan has commented, the monument does in fact have a point: to revise and diminish Eisenhower. Its so-called tapestries remind the Society of a “rat’s nest of tangled steel,” though to my eye, they look more like metallic shoelaces fashioned into a post-modern memorial of mourning for Holocaust victims. There’s nothing heroic or triumphant about them, and that’s why they’re there. Entirely out of keeping with the rest of the Mall, and loathed by the Eisenhower family, they will–if constructed–soon go the way of most modern architecture: rain-stained, rusted, and broken, an enduring statement of our contempt for great men, our loss of the heroic vocabulary, and our refusal to stand up to the self-promoting cleverness of an artistic culture that exists to tell us we are not worthy of their genius.

Gehry’s philosophy of design reminds me of my encounters with deconstructionist theory in graduate school: disorienting, until you realize the point of the enterprise is not to convey meaning but to smash it, all the while assuming a pose of ironic, superior, unsmashed detachment in order to win immunity from criticism. Gehry’s leitmotif is that “life is chaotic, dangerous, and surprising,” democracy is either chaos or at best “controlled chaos,” and so buildings should be chaotic as well. This is the kind of thing that sounds good until you think about it for five seconds. Modern democracies are in fact the most unchaotic, predictable, secure societies in the history of the world – the only way they look chaotic is next to the Garden of Eden, or the paradise of the planner.

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The National Civic Art Society has done yeoman’s work in highlighting the historical, cultural, and aesthetic follies of Frank Gehry’s proposed memorial to Dwight Eisenhower. Andrew Ferguson notes in the most recent Weekly Standard, the design is both “grandiose and pointless,” but as Jonathan has commented, the monument does in fact have a point: to revise and diminish Eisenhower. Its so-called tapestries remind the Society of a “rat’s nest of tangled steel,” though to my eye, they look more like metallic shoelaces fashioned into a post-modern memorial of mourning for Holocaust victims. There’s nothing heroic or triumphant about them, and that’s why they’re there. Entirely out of keeping with the rest of the Mall, and loathed by the Eisenhower family, they will–if constructed–soon go the way of most modern architecture: rain-stained, rusted, and broken, an enduring statement of our contempt for great men, our loss of the heroic vocabulary, and our refusal to stand up to the self-promoting cleverness of an artistic culture that exists to tell us we are not worthy of their genius.

Gehry’s philosophy of design reminds me of my encounters with deconstructionist theory in graduate school: disorienting, until you realize the point of the enterprise is not to convey meaning but to smash it, all the while assuming a pose of ironic, superior, unsmashed detachment in order to win immunity from criticism. Gehry’s leitmotif is that “life is chaotic, dangerous, and surprising,” democracy is either chaos or at best “controlled chaos,” and so buildings should be chaotic as well. This is the kind of thing that sounds good until you think about it for five seconds. Modern democracies are in fact the most unchaotic, predictable, secure societies in the history of the world – the only way they look chaotic is next to the Garden of Eden, or the paradise of the planner.

Gehry’s vast metallic boils could hardly be built in societies lacking the exquisite organization and predictability of modern engineering and finance. It’s a waste of time to expect modern architects to recognize how lucky they are to live in a society that can afford to take their pretensions seriously, or to show any gratitude for their good fortune. But I would love to dispatch believers in democratic chaos to live in Sudan or Somalia for a few weeks, so they could get a sense of just how nasty, brutish, and short life is for lots of people outside the advanced democracies. The U.S. is not controlled chaos, which implies that the job of the government is to exercise control and the job of the people to be chaotic. It is an experiment in ordered liberty, where government and society rest on the popular moral sense that modern architecture seeks to debase by identifying it as the unwanted residue of the past. There are always going to be unexpected events in life – that’s the nature of it – but the purpose of memorial architecture in a democracy is to remember heroes who helped to stem for a while the tide of chaos, not to embody disorder and decay. The former is a human achievement; the latter is the normal state of affairs.

The proposed memorial has nothing to do with America’s ordered liberty, or Ike’s dedication to defending it. It’s heartening that Congressmen Dan Lungren (R-CA) and Aaron Schock (R-IL) have come out against this monstrosity, and today’s news that a House subcommittee will hold a hearing on the memorial – coupled with a letter from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) that hints at further hearings –  is even better. But where are Kansas’s representatives – in the House, Senate, and on the state level – on the question? It is one of their most famous native sons whom this memorial proposes to trivialize, and, on the political level, I doubt there are any votes to be lost in Kansas (or in Pennsylvania, around Eisenhower’s Gettysburg farm, for that matter) by stating that a hero of the Second World War and a two-term president deserves better than a stack of rusty steel shoelaces.

Anything sympathetic political leaders can do to draw broader attention to this travesty would do a world of good.

 

 

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Britain Shows No Sign of Shaking Addiction to Debt, Taxes and Regulations

With British Prime Minister David Cameron’s impending state visit next week, we can expect to hear a good deal about – though see nothing very much done about – Afghanistan, the NATO Summit, Libya, and Syria. But we’re also likely to get a smattering of commentary about Britain’s parlous fiscal position. If we’re lucky, the media will talk about “Tory spending cuts.” If we’re really lucky, they’ll call them “savage.”

Writ large, it’s useful to remember one thing about these spending cuts: they don’t exist. While some departments have indeed been trimmed, others – such as debt interest, healthcare spending, foreign aid, and contributions to the EU– have expanded. The net result is that state spending in Britain has not been cut – it is still going up. Most of the noise about cuts – nay, even savage cuts – simply reflects the media’s and the left’s definition of austerity, which they understand as meaning any increase that is not as large as they wish, or as a previous government had planned.

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With British Prime Minister David Cameron’s impending state visit next week, we can expect to hear a good deal about – though see nothing very much done about – Afghanistan, the NATO Summit, Libya, and Syria. But we’re also likely to get a smattering of commentary about Britain’s parlous fiscal position. If we’re lucky, the media will talk about “Tory spending cuts.” If we’re really lucky, they’ll call them “savage.”

Writ large, it’s useful to remember one thing about these spending cuts: they don’t exist. While some departments have indeed been trimmed, others – such as debt interest, healthcare spending, foreign aid, and contributions to the EU– have expanded. The net result is that state spending in Britain has not been cut – it is still going up. Most of the noise about cuts – nay, even savage cuts – simply reflects the media’s and the left’s definition of austerity, which they understand as meaning any increase that is not as large as they wish, or as a previous government had planned.

In Britain’s CityAM business newspaper, entrepreneur Alex Cheatle offers an increasingly common complaint: the Conservative led coalition government talks a good game on promoting growth, but it does too little. And that is the sad truth. Or almost the sad truth.  The full sad truth is that what few actions the government has taken have almost uniformly made matters worse. When the government came into power in 2010, its priority was to restore order to Britain’s finances. Given the course of events in Greece, Italy, and France, among others, that was a sensible point of emphasis. Unfortunately, it took the IMF-approved green-eyeshade bean-counter approach – an approach highly congenial to the Liberal Democrats, for entirely different reasons.  Thus, they decided that taxes needed to go up, while regulations could not go down. In a nation where the World Economic Forum finds that most problematic factors for business include high tax rates, an inefficient government, tax regulations, and a restrictive labor market, and where Heritage’s Index of Economic Freedom charts similar problems, that was a bad decision.

In February, the Institute for Fiscal Studies announced the unsurprising results: cuts to non-investment spending are by 2016-17 supposed to do almost 50 percent of the work of bringing Britain’s budget into balance, but only 6 percent of those cuts have actually happened. Cuts to benefits are supposed to contribute just shy of 15 percent of the total effort: only 12 percent of those cuts have happened. The only area where the government has showed a Stakhanovite commitment to carrying through on fiscal consolidation is, predictably, in the realm of taxation, which was supposed to contribute 20 percent of the consolidation, 73 percent of which has already happened. The net result is this: overall, Britain has barely slowed the growth in spending, and though some reforms in the realms of education and welfare are promising, there has been no bonfire of controls on the supply side. Instead, in the teeth of a fragile economy, Britain has persisted in doing the one thing that governments are really good at: raising taxes. In the circumstances, it is not surprising the British economy is doing poorly.

In recent days, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne made headlines by stating bluntly that “The British Government has run out of money.” The U.K. offers an object lesson in the fact that, if you make enough bad choices, you soon get to a point where, as Osborne recognizes, there are no attractive choices left. With almost all the tough cuts left to make, the political road for the coalition looks as rocky as the economic path of a nation that shows no sign of shaking its addiction to debt, taxes, and regulation. So when Cameron comes calling, anyone who talks about savage Tory cuts should be met with a sigh, and a muttered “if only.”

 

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Who Marginalized the Palestinians?

For decades, the chattering classes have been working hard to teach us that the central issue of the region was not the Shia-Sunni conflict or the struggle for freedom by Arabs longing to rid themselves of autocratic monarchs or dictators. The belief in the centrality of the Palestinian issue was so strong that every other consideration had to be subordinated to the cause of trying to assuage the anger of the Muslim world at their plight. But in the past year, the main subjects of discussion have been the Arab Spring revolts and the debate over how best to stop the Iranian nuclear threat. The result is that the world is getting on with its business these days without obsessing about the Palestinians. Even President Obama, who had picked an annual fight with Israel, chose this year to abandon his usual attempt to pressure Israel into concessions to the Palestinians.

All of which has left the Palestinians and their foreign cheerleaders mighty upset. As one Palestinian told the New York Times today, “The Arab world is busy. The Palestinians are becoming secondary.” The question is who’s responsible for this state of affairs? Predictably, the Palestinians blame everyone but themselves. Yet if they want the answer, they need only look in the mirror.

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For decades, the chattering classes have been working hard to teach us that the central issue of the region was not the Shia-Sunni conflict or the struggle for freedom by Arabs longing to rid themselves of autocratic monarchs or dictators. The belief in the centrality of the Palestinian issue was so strong that every other consideration had to be subordinated to the cause of trying to assuage the anger of the Muslim world at their plight. But in the past year, the main subjects of discussion have been the Arab Spring revolts and the debate over how best to stop the Iranian nuclear threat. The result is that the world is getting on with its business these days without obsessing about the Palestinians. Even President Obama, who had picked an annual fight with Israel, chose this year to abandon his usual attempt to pressure Israel into concessions to the Palestinians.

All of which has left the Palestinians and their foreign cheerleaders mighty upset. As one Palestinian told the New York Times today, “The Arab world is busy. The Palestinians are becoming secondary.” The question is who’s responsible for this state of affairs? Predictably, the Palestinians blame everyone but themselves. Yet if they want the answer, they need only look in the mirror.

Having refused Israeli peace offers of a state including a share of Jerusalem three times from 2000 to 2008 and with the Palestinian Authority now allying itself with the Islamists of Hamas, the Palestinians have effectively painted themselves into a diplomatic corner. Though many, including some Israelis, expected their attempt to get the United Nations to grant them independence without first making peace with Israel to be a diplomatic “tsunami,” it turned out to be a dud. Even their erstwhile supporters in Europe and the Third World largely abandoned them. Though many continue to pay lip service to their cause, there is a widespread realization that whatever sympathy one may feel for their plight, there is no helping people who won’t or can’t help themselves.

While a campaign for more pressure on Israel continues on the left, even the Obama administration, which did more to tilt the diplomatic playing field in the Palestinians’ favor than any of its predecessors, has discovered their efforts in that direction went for naught. All of Obama’s initiatives to push the Israelis to give in on Jerusalem, settlements and the 1967 borders have been rendered moot by the Palestinian refusal to negotiate. At this point, and with his campaign staff worried about shoring up his popularity in an election year, any further attention paid to the Palestinians is not only bad policy but also a waste of time. Though the Palestinians’ erstwhile European friends have no such worries, even they have figured out there are other more pressing issues.

Complaining about the attention given to the possibility that the Arab Spring is turning into a despotic winter or the worries about Iranian nukes (which are largely shared by both Israelis and most neighboring Arab states) does the Palestinians little good. But it is worthwhile pointing out that the notion of Palestinian centrality was always absurd. The Arab world did its best to keep the conflict alive and refused to resettle Palestinian refugees the way Israel did a nearly equal number of Jewish refugees from the Middle East after its birth. They promoted the false idea that theirs was the one post-World War II refugee problem that could not be dealt with without redrawing borders and creating a new state. The Arabs cared little for the Palestinians, but their rulers did find the notion of a permanent war to destroy the one Jewish state in the world useful in distracting their people from focusing on their own problems. That cause, which builds on a ready audience for the themes of Jew-hatred among Muslims, lives on, and will, no doubt, be revived by newly empowered Islamists. But the notion that Israel’s existence is a unique injustice around which all the world’s foreign policy problems must revolve is not one that can be credibly sustained when other more obvious problems present themselves.

The Palestinian answer to their dilemma is much like that of a child who threatens to hold his breath until he turns blue. That’s the substance of the Times article in which PA leaders hint darkly at renewed terrorism or a simple refusal to go on governing themselves under the autonomy agreements negotiated with Israel at Oslo. But even if the Palestinians decide to sacrifice their economic well being as well as their children on the altar of never-ending conflict with Israel (something that fits in nicely with the Islamist ideology of the PA’s Hamas partner), there is little the world can do for them unless they decide to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn. Until they do so — and that seems unlikely for the foreseeable future — they are going to have to reconcile themselves to being marginal players on the world stage rather than the focus of the world’s sympathy.

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Obama Would Want UN Permission for Syria Action – But Not Congress’s

Last time this happened with Libya, President Obama claimed he didn’t have time to meet with members of Congress to seek approval before taking military action. Now the Obama administration says it would need to seek UN or NATO approval before intervening in Syria, but not the consent of Congress.

Sen. Jeff Sessions pressed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on the issue during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing today:

SESSIONS: “Do you think you can act without Congress and initiate a no-fly zone in Syria without congressional approval?”

PANETTA: “Our goal would be to seek international permission… Whether or not we would want to get permission from the Congress—I think those are issues we would have to discuss as we decide what to do here.”

SESSIONS: “Well I am almost breathless about that because what I heard you say is, ‘we’re going to seek international approval and we’ll come and tell the Congress what we might do, and we might seek congressional approval’… Wouldn’t you agree that would be pretty breathtaking to the average American?”

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Last time this happened with Libya, President Obama claimed he didn’t have time to meet with members of Congress to seek approval before taking military action. Now the Obama administration says it would need to seek UN or NATO approval before intervening in Syria, but not the consent of Congress.

Sen. Jeff Sessions pressed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on the issue during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing today:

SESSIONS: “Do you think you can act without Congress and initiate a no-fly zone in Syria without congressional approval?”

PANETTA: “Our goal would be to seek international permission… Whether or not we would want to get permission from the Congress—I think those are issues we would have to discuss as we decide what to do here.”

SESSIONS: “Well I am almost breathless about that because what I heard you say is, ‘we’re going to seek international approval and we’ll come and tell the Congress what we might do, and we might seek congressional approval’… Wouldn’t you agree that would be pretty breathtaking to the average American?”

This isn’t to say there aren’t extenuating circumstances when a president might have to order military action before getting congressional approval, i.e. an imminent national security threat. But if President Bush managed to get congressional approval for Afghanistan and Iraq, President Obama should certainly have the time to get it for Syria.

His reluctance to do so seems purely political: If the administration decides to intervene in Syria, Obama doesn’t want to have to make the case to Congress, and he doesn’t want an official declaration.

But what’s most offensive is that Obama sees the approval of an international body as more important than the approval of the elected representatives of the American people. It’s yet another example of his leading-from-behind policy. The situation in Syria is getting more alarming by the day, and yet Obama won’t dare take action unless an international coalition is there to take the first step with him – and, assumedly, also take the political blame from the White House if things go wrong.

UPDATE: Video of the exchange between Panetta and Sessions added below.

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What Do University Clashes in Tunisia Portend for Arab Spring?

Most analysts agree the Arab Spring has been a mixed bag. In Egypt, the trajectory is poor: Islamists will shape the new constitution and the unholy alliance between the Muslim Brotherhood and Egyptian military seems intent on blackmailing the West. If Libyans can get militias under control, they may use their petrodollars to achieve true empowerment for their people. Yemen teeters on the verge of state failure, and Syria is in full-fledged civil war. Even as diplomats and the Arab Spring’s cheerleaders muzzle their enthusiasm, though, they all cite Tunisia as the country with the best chance for success. Islamists may have won in Tunisia—but they say the right things (at least to European and American audiences), and they appear to want to govern with a big tent, rather than drive secularists into the ground.

Alas, appearances may be deceiving. A clash between liberal administrators and Islamist students at the University of Manouba portends a cold front moving through Tunisia:

Clashes erupted today between Salafists and students affiliated with the the student union at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of Manouba, following an altercation that ensued yesterday between two female students wearing the niqab – a veil revealing only the eyes – and the dean. Demonstrators, mainly Salafists, gathered in front of the administration building in protest of yesterday’s incident, and demanded the right for female students to wear the niqab during classes and exams. As the situation on the campus escalated, one of the Salafist students replaced the Tunisian flag with a black flag bearing the shahada – the Islamic declaration of faith. The act provoked an eruption of violence between members of the student union and other students.

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Most analysts agree the Arab Spring has been a mixed bag. In Egypt, the trajectory is poor: Islamists will shape the new constitution and the unholy alliance between the Muslim Brotherhood and Egyptian military seems intent on blackmailing the West. If Libyans can get militias under control, they may use their petrodollars to achieve true empowerment for their people. Yemen teeters on the verge of state failure, and Syria is in full-fledged civil war. Even as diplomats and the Arab Spring’s cheerleaders muzzle their enthusiasm, though, they all cite Tunisia as the country with the best chance for success. Islamists may have won in Tunisia—but they say the right things (at least to European and American audiences), and they appear to want to govern with a big tent, rather than drive secularists into the ground.

Alas, appearances may be deceiving. A clash between liberal administrators and Islamist students at the University of Manouba portends a cold front moving through Tunisia:

Clashes erupted today between Salafists and students affiliated with the the student union at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of Manouba, following an altercation that ensued yesterday between two female students wearing the niqab – a veil revealing only the eyes – and the dean. Demonstrators, mainly Salafists, gathered in front of the administration building in protest of yesterday’s incident, and demanded the right for female students to wear the niqab during classes and exams. As the situation on the campus escalated, one of the Salafist students replaced the Tunisian flag with a black flag bearing the shahada – the Islamic declaration of faith. The act provoked an eruption of violence between members of the student union and other students.

According to one Islamist student, the violence was justified. “Members of the student union were provoking us, mentioning God’s name in vain,” she said. “That was the main reason for the violence this morning.” The whole article is worth reading.

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Debating Romney’s Path to Nomination

As Rick Santorum tries to elbow Newt Gingrich out of the race, and Mitt Romney attempts to pressure them both to throw in the towel, the Daily Beast reports that none of the three candidates – not even Romney – have a clear path to the nomination at this point. Here’s the latest on Romney’s thorny delegate math.

Even if Mitt somehow won every delegate in every coming contest, he still wouldn’t clinch the nomination until Oregon’s primary on May 15.

And if Romney musters only 40 percent of the proportional delegates going forward—equivalent to his share of the popular vote total to date—it would mean the first Republican race undecided when the convention opened in a generation. …

Santorum, Gingrich, and Paul individually have no real path to winning the delegate fight—but collectively they are positioned to deny the nomination to Romney and kick the contest to the convention in Tampa, where all delegates are released after the first ballot.

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As Rick Santorum tries to elbow Newt Gingrich out of the race, and Mitt Romney attempts to pressure them both to throw in the towel, the Daily Beast reports that none of the three candidates – not even Romney – have a clear path to the nomination at this point. Here’s the latest on Romney’s thorny delegate math.

Even if Mitt somehow won every delegate in every coming contest, he still wouldn’t clinch the nomination until Oregon’s primary on May 15.

And if Romney musters only 40 percent of the proportional delegates going forward—equivalent to his share of the popular vote total to date—it would mean the first Republican race undecided when the convention opened in a generation. …

Santorum, Gingrich, and Paul individually have no real path to winning the delegate fight—but collectively they are positioned to deny the nomination to Romney and kick the contest to the convention in Tampa, where all delegates are released after the first ballot.

Note that the Daily Beast reporters came to a different conclusion than Frontloading HQ’s Josh Putnam, a political scientist, who still believes Romney has a realistic chance of getting to the magic 1144:

What if you put Mitt Romney in the same model(s) under the same circumstances? Ah, I’m glad you asked.

  • In the first model where Romney would be at 50 percent support statewide and in each congressional district, the former Massachusetts governor would net 1254 delegates.
  • In the second model that accounts for a likely bare minimum of candidates over the threshold, Romney would surpass 1300 delegates at 1341.

Even if we simulate a scenario where Romney continues to only win half of the congressional districts, he still gets to 1152 delegates in the second more realistic model….

The bottom line here is that Romney has enough of a delegate advantage right now and especially coming out of today’s contests it is very unlikely that anyone will catch him, much less catch him and get to 1144.

The conclusions are strikingly different, and while Putnam shows his work, the Daily Beast doesn’t explain its math in as much detail. As someone who never majored in statistics, I won’t even begin to try to parse out the true answer at this point. Just know there are cases being made on both sides right now.

Beyond that, there was one point the Daily Beast article mentioned that is absolutely relevant in all scenarios: Barring a miracle, neither Santorum nor Gingrich have a path to reaching 1144. And yet they can make Romney’s route incredibly difficult at the very least, and in some scenarios even block him from being able to collect enough delegates.

The media is happy to drag the battle out as long as possible. But it’s unclear how much patience Republican voters have left for this race. Many conservatives have been supportive of a prolonged primary so far, ostensibly out of the hope it will lead to a brokered convention or a “thorough” vetting process. But the vetting of the Republican field has been pretty complete so far, and the longer the primary race remains a media distraction, the longer it will take before the GOP can fully focus on publicly airing out Obama’s record – and that’s pretty important if the party wants a shot at taking back the White House next November. There will come a time soon when the extended race will stop being a good thing for the Republican Party. And if the battle spills into June? Well, then it becomes a bad thing.

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Arrest Made in India Attack on Israeli

Indian officials have arrested an Indian journalist freelancing for Iran’s state Islamic Republic News Agency in the assassination attempt on an Israeli diplomat in New Delhi. According to the New York Times report:

The Press Trust of India news agency reported that Mr. [Mohammad] Kazmi, 50, worked for an Iranian news agency in New Delhi. Reuters, citing Mr. Kazmi’s lawyer and family members, said he worked for the Indian state television channel, Doordarshan, and freelanced for Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency. A police spokesman, Rajan Bhagat, would not comment directly on specific reports but said obliquely that details reported broadly in the Indian press on Wednesday were correct. “This is a very sensitive matter and nothing more can be divulged at this stage,” Officer Bhagat said. Mr. Kazmi has been charged with criminal conspiracy. The Press Trust reported that an investigation showed that Mr. Kazmi had been in touch with a suspect believed to have actually carried out the attack, in which a motorcyclist pulled up in traffic and attached an explosive device to the targeted vehicle. The diplomat’s wife, who was injured along with several others, was apparently en route to the American Embassy School in New Delhi to collect her children.

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Indian officials have arrested an Indian journalist freelancing for Iran’s state Islamic Republic News Agency in the assassination attempt on an Israeli diplomat in New Delhi. According to the New York Times report:

The Press Trust of India news agency reported that Mr. [Mohammad] Kazmi, 50, worked for an Iranian news agency in New Delhi. Reuters, citing Mr. Kazmi’s lawyer and family members, said he worked for the Indian state television channel, Doordarshan, and freelanced for Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency. A police spokesman, Rajan Bhagat, would not comment directly on specific reports but said obliquely that details reported broadly in the Indian press on Wednesday were correct. “This is a very sensitive matter and nothing more can be divulged at this stage,” Officer Bhagat said. Mr. Kazmi has been charged with criminal conspiracy. The Press Trust reported that an investigation showed that Mr. Kazmi had been in touch with a suspect believed to have actually carried out the attack, in which a motorcyclist pulled up in traffic and attached an explosive device to the targeted vehicle. The diplomat’s wife, who was injured along with several others, was apparently en route to the American Embassy School in New Delhi to collect her children.

The Indians have bent over backward to deny an Iranian link to terrorism. We should not condemn them too hard. After all, their realism is little different from that of the Clinton administration, which sought to bury the linkage between Iran and the Khobar Towers attack back in 1996. In 1997, Clinton went so far as to order a recall to the electronic dissemination of the FBI’s finding and the destruction of any reports which had been printed out. Needless to say, not all were destroyed. Then as now, the truth emerges. It’s time for India to step up and learn the same lesson other democracies—Argentina, Austria, Germany, Great Britain and the United States—have learned. A conciliatory approach toward Iran does not immunize one from Iranian terrorism; it invites it. Furthermore, turning a blind eye toward terrorism conducted against another democracy only erodes sympathy in a country which faces a terrorist threat almost as grave.

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Gingrich’s Delegate Math Hard to Figure

This afternoon, Newt Gingrich’s Twitter account linked to a video with the following teaser, “Take a look at some interesting delegate math. The race is far from over and we will win this nomination.” The video, uploaded to Newt’s YouTube account, is of one of his senior advisers outlining how it’s possible for Gingrich to clinch the Republican nomination, despite only having won the states of South Carolina and Georgia to date. It appears that Gingrich’s camp is relying on states that assign their delegates as late as May and early June, hoping to win large winner-take-all states like Texas to clinch the nomination.

Strangely, the video uploaded by Gingrich’s own staff also include Karl Rove’s immediate and stinging rebuke, where he explains that the Gingrich campaign cannot stay alive until May to compete in Texas when most states where Gingrich could be competitive proportionally allocate their delegates. Rove states,

You cannot win the nomination if like in tonight, in Virginia, where Mitt Romney got 41 delegates, at minimum, to zero for Gingrich and Santorum. So, you know, it’s plausible to say ‘stay alive til Texas’ and ‘win in Texas in the end.’ But between now and then you got to close the gap and you can’t close the gap a delegate, or two or three or four at a time. Particularly when you ran third in Tennessee and Oklahoma.

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This afternoon, Newt Gingrich’s Twitter account linked to a video with the following teaser, “Take a look at some interesting delegate math. The race is far from over and we will win this nomination.” The video, uploaded to Newt’s YouTube account, is of one of his senior advisers outlining how it’s possible for Gingrich to clinch the Republican nomination, despite only having won the states of South Carolina and Georgia to date. It appears that Gingrich’s camp is relying on states that assign their delegates as late as May and early June, hoping to win large winner-take-all states like Texas to clinch the nomination.

Strangely, the video uploaded by Gingrich’s own staff also include Karl Rove’s immediate and stinging rebuke, where he explains that the Gingrich campaign cannot stay alive until May to compete in Texas when most states where Gingrich could be competitive proportionally allocate their delegates. Rove states,

You cannot win the nomination if like in tonight, in Virginia, where Mitt Romney got 41 delegates, at minimum, to zero for Gingrich and Santorum. So, you know, it’s plausible to say ‘stay alive til Texas’ and ‘win in Texas in the end.’ But between now and then you got to close the gap and you can’t close the gap a delegate, or two or three or four at a time. Particularly when you ran third in Tennessee and Oklahoma.

Gingrich’s claims that a nomination is possible, despite these extreme mathematical improbabilities, reminds me of the 2008 primary season where Gov. Mike Huckabee stayed in the race far longer than he should have against Sen. John McCain. In what remains my favorite “Saturday Night Live” sketch of all time, Weekend Update’s Seth Meyers asks Huckabee why he had yet to concede, despite the mathematical impossibility of winning. The back and forth is great television, well-acted on Huckabee’s part, and ends with Huckabee admitting that while he could not possibly win, he would not be conceding in the near future.

In the four years since that appearance, Huckabee wrote a best-selling book, became a Fox News contributor and began hosting a Fox News program. What was inexplicable at the time of the SNL appearance suddenly became clear: Huckabee rode the coattails of his candidacy all the way to the bank.

As my colleague Alana Goodman explained today, the only path forward for Santorum to clinch the nomination is if Newt Gingrich drops out of the race, leaving the field open for Santorum to capture the not-Romney vote. In countless debates, Gingrich continually took the path of taking on Obama versus his Republican opponents. He has claimed taking down the president is his number one priority while at the same time, during his speech last night, explaining:

I don’t believe the Romney technique of outspending your opponent four- or five-to-one with negative ads will work against Barack Obama, because there is no possibility that any Republican is going to out-raise the incumbent president of the United States. Therefore, you can’t follow that strategy.

What you have to have is somebody who knows what they believe, understands how to articulate it so it cuts through all the media, offsets the bias of the elite media who are desperate to re-elect the president and has the guts to take the president head-on every single time he’s wrong.

If Gingrich truly believes this, if he thinks Romney cannot win against the incumbent president, I cannot fathom that a man as intelligent as he is actually believes he’s the man who can do it. What price tag does Gingrich put on the free publicity he’s garnering while he remains in the race? Is it high enough to forfeit what he’s claimed is the Republicans’ only chance at victory in November?

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Obama’s Strategic Blunder With Syria

Remember the summer of 2009 when the Green Movement was on the streets of Iran and a revolution appeared possible, but the Obama administration stayed on the sidelines? Perhaps greater American support would not have tipped the balance, but it would have been worth trying. Obama’s failure to engage against the mullahs because he was eager to talk to them must be counted as a major strategic blunder. I fear he may be making a similar blunder today in Syria where an anti-Assad revolution has been going on for a year now.

The administration has imposed sanctions on the regime and pulled our ambassador but has refused to go further—rejecting Senator John McCain’s call for air strikes and refusing even to send arms to the Syrian rebels or to endorse plans to create “safe havens” within the country. While the administration dithers, issuing harshly worded denunciations of Assad but refusing to back them up, the dictator and his minions have been acting. They mounted a full-scale assault, complete with artillery, to reduce opposition in the city of Homs. That offensive seems to have succeeded. Now regime forces are moving on to other centers of rebellion. What is to stop them from reducing the rebellious areas to rubble? Certainly not communiqués emanating from the world’s capitals.

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Remember the summer of 2009 when the Green Movement was on the streets of Iran and a revolution appeared possible, but the Obama administration stayed on the sidelines? Perhaps greater American support would not have tipped the balance, but it would have been worth trying. Obama’s failure to engage against the mullahs because he was eager to talk to them must be counted as a major strategic blunder. I fear he may be making a similar blunder today in Syria where an anti-Assad revolution has been going on for a year now.

The administration has imposed sanctions on the regime and pulled our ambassador but has refused to go further—rejecting Senator John McCain’s call for air strikes and refusing even to send arms to the Syrian rebels or to endorse plans to create “safe havens” within the country. While the administration dithers, issuing harshly worded denunciations of Assad but refusing to back them up, the dictator and his minions have been acting. They mounted a full-scale assault, complete with artillery, to reduce opposition in the city of Homs. That offensive seems to have succeeded. Now regime forces are moving on to other centers of rebellion. What is to stop them from reducing the rebellious areas to rubble? Certainly not communiqués emanating from the world’s capitals.

The longer the Assad assault goes on, the more people will die—and the greater the odds the regime will be able to maintain itself in power. That would be not only a human rights catastrophe but also a serious strategic setback for the U.S. and our allies, because as long as Assad is in Damascus, the Iranian regime will have a beachhead from which to project its malign influence into the Levant. It is still not too late for the U.S. and our allies to act to prevent the regime from consolidating control, but time is running out, and the body count is piling up.

President Obama has missed important opportunities before in the Middle East. He is in danger of missing another one in Syria.

 

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Who is the Biggest Leak in Iran Sanctions?

President Obama, after his ill-conceived outreach to Iran, has yet to learn the lesson each of his predecessors also learned, be they Democrat or Republican: The problem with diplomacy with the Islamic Republic isn’t the American will, but rather the lack of Iranian sincerity.

The Senate, however, has a longer strategic memory and voted 100-0 to impose sanctions and is at least less likely to be taken for fools. These sanctions were successful: The Iranian currency crashed and, in December, a group of 30 parliamentarians in Iran—hardliners all—asked for a closed session to have a serious discussion about the real impact of sanctions. Likewise, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ economic wing acknowledged that sanctions have had bite. Bluster remains strong from among Iranian hardliners that sanctions have had no effect, but it is clear they doth protest too much.

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President Obama, after his ill-conceived outreach to Iran, has yet to learn the lesson each of his predecessors also learned, be they Democrat or Republican: The problem with diplomacy with the Islamic Republic isn’t the American will, but rather the lack of Iranian sincerity.

The Senate, however, has a longer strategic memory and voted 100-0 to impose sanctions and is at least less likely to be taken for fools. These sanctions were successful: The Iranian currency crashed and, in December, a group of 30 parliamentarians in Iran—hardliners all—asked for a closed session to have a serious discussion about the real impact of sanctions. Likewise, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ economic wing acknowledged that sanctions have had bite. Bluster remains strong from among Iranian hardliners that sanctions have had no effect, but it is clear they doth protest too much.

Still, holes remain in sanctions. The biggest two, of course, are Russia and China. The Kremlin believes it has a win-win strategy. On one hand, it can sell Iran billions of dollars in nuclear supplies and weapons systems. On the other hand, if there is a strike that spikes oil production, Putin can laugh himself and his faltering economy to the bank. Unless the White House signals that the entirety of the U.S.-Russian relationship—including many things Russia desires from the United States—depends on Russian flexibility on the Iran issue, Russia is unlikely to budge. After all, as Russian TV recently let slip, Iran’s Supreme Leader is perhaps the Soviet educational system’s greatest alum.

China, of course, cares about its energy security. The Obama administration’s strategy to leverage Saudi influence and force China to choose between Iran and Saudi oil has yet to succeed. Alas, until the Obama administration convinces China the status quo is not an option and failure to reverse Iran’s nuclear trajectory will lead to war and a disruption in China’s energy supply, Beijing is unlikely to budge.

The biggest disappointments, however, have been India and Turkey. India is simply predatory, and Indian bureaucrats do not understand or care that they have a real opportunity to build a meaningful alliance with the United States that will serve them well against both the immediate Pakistani threat and the longer term Chinese threat. Delhi continues to show the world it’s not ready for prime time, as it sacrifices long term interests for a mediocre short-term gain.

That Obama continues to turn a blind eye to Turkey’s double-dealing is diplomatic and strategic malpractice. According to the Turkish press, Turkish banks—with the tacit support of Obama’s personal friend Recep Tayyip Erdogan—have been providing their Iranian counterparts and Iranian businesses with an outlet to avoid sanctions. When Iran develops its nuclear warhead and throws the region into chaos, Turkey will be able to at least claim some credit for Iran’s success. Obama and Secretary of State Clinton like to refer to Turkey as a model; alas, it once again proves itself not an ally, only a model for deceit.

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Why Do Arabs and Muslims Keep Trying to Move to the “Apartheid State”?

As Israel Apartheid Week circumnavigates the globe this month, a Jordan-based Palestinian journalist has offered an eloquent rebuttal that every Israel supporter should memorize and quote. If Israel is really an “apartheid state,” asks Ramzi Abu Hadid, “Why has it become the dream of many Arab Christians and Muslims to emigrate to the ‘apartheid state’? Is it possible that all these people are uninformed? Or do they really know the truth about Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East?”

Specifically, he noted, “thousands of the Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip … try to infiltrate into Israel every morning in search of work and a better life,” while “tens of thousands of Arabs and Muslims have put their lives at risk by crossing the border into Israel from Egypt, where border guards often open fire at women and children.” In addition, “many Christian families from Bethlehem and even the Gaza Strip have moved to live in Israel because they feel safer in the ‘apartheid state’ than they do among their Muslim ‘brothers.’”

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As Israel Apartheid Week circumnavigates the globe this month, a Jordan-based Palestinian journalist has offered an eloquent rebuttal that every Israel supporter should memorize and quote. If Israel is really an “apartheid state,” asks Ramzi Abu Hadid, “Why has it become the dream of many Arab Christians and Muslims to emigrate to the ‘apartheid state’? Is it possible that all these people are uninformed? Or do they really know the truth about Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East?”

Specifically, he noted, “thousands of the Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip … try to infiltrate into Israel every morning in search of work and a better life,” while “tens of thousands of Arabs and Muslims have put their lives at risk by crossing the border into Israel from Egypt, where border guards often open fire at women and children.” In addition, “many Christian families from Bethlehem and even the Gaza Strip have moved to live in Israel because they feel safer in the ‘apartheid state’ than they do among their Muslim ‘brothers.’”

Abu Hadid doesn’t provide hard numbers, but the data amply prove his claims. During the first 11 months of last year alone, for instance, 13,851  illegal migrants entered Israel from Sinai; the biggest contingents were Muslim refugees from Sudan and Eritrea. And the risk of being shot by Egyptian guards is just one of the dangers they braved to reach “the apartheid state”: Migrants also face horrific abuse from the Sinai Bedouin who smuggle them over the border.

As for Palestinians, those who “try to infiltrate into Israel every morning” are only part of the story. To that, add the tens of thousands of Palestinians who have moved to Jerusalem in recent years rather than remain on the Palestinian side of Israel’s West Bank security barrier. Then add the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who have sought and obtained Israeli citizenship by marrying Israeli Arabs.

Altogether, some 350,000 Palestinians have acquired citizenship through “family reunification” since Israel’s founding in 1948, according to veteran journalist Nadav Shragai. But the numbers surged following the 1993 Oslo Accord – i.e., precisely when Palestinian statehood for the first time looked like a real possibility: In 1994-2002, fully 137,000 Palestinians acquired Israeli citizenship through marriage. The numbers have since dropped drastically, but that isn’t because Palestinian demand has fallen: It’s because in 2003, Israel enacted new restrictions on family reunification in response to the second intifada.

Abu Hadid’s argument also has a flip side, as he himself noted: Unlike Israel, many of its Arab neighbors do engage in legalized discrimination against Palestinians. In Jordan, for instance, “the government has been trying to strip thousands of us Palestinians of our Jordanian citizenship – a move Israel never made against its Christians and Muslims.” He might also have mentioned a long list of other discriminatory practices: Until recently, for instance, Jordan barred Palestinians from Gaza from owning property or working in any job except manual labor and farming, while Lebanon also bars Palestinians from owning property or working in a long list of professions.

In short, the simplest response to the “apartheid” charge is the one Americans once used to counter Soviet propaganda: Just look at the direction of the population flow. It turns out Arabs and Muslims are voting with their feet in favor of the “apartheid state.”

 

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The Purim Parallels

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu often deploys historical analogies to help other world leaders understand the mindset of the Jewish people when faced with current threats or challenges. Tomorrow is Purim, the story of which Netanyahu brings up this time of year, each year, because of certain (mostly geographic) parallels.

The story begins on an alarming note when the evil Haman engineers a decree from the king he serves, Ahasuerus of Persia, calling for the annihilation of the empire’s Jews. The story ends with the humble Mordechai saving the king’s life and Queen Esther convincing her husband the king to sign a second decree discouraging the slaughter of the Jews and allowing and enabling the Jews to defend themselves against anyone who still attempted to carry out their annihilation. Esther, who was Jewish, fasted before making this request of the king, and so we fast today, the day before Purim, in solemn recognition both of Esther’s fast and the close call. But the point of the story and of Netanyahu’s decision to give President Obama a copy of the Book of Esther have been slightly misinterpreted.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu often deploys historical analogies to help other world leaders understand the mindset of the Jewish people when faced with current threats or challenges. Tomorrow is Purim, the story of which Netanyahu brings up this time of year, each year, because of certain (mostly geographic) parallels.

The story begins on an alarming note when the evil Haman engineers a decree from the king he serves, Ahasuerus of Persia, calling for the annihilation of the empire’s Jews. The story ends with the humble Mordechai saving the king’s life and Queen Esther convincing her husband the king to sign a second decree discouraging the slaughter of the Jews and allowing and enabling the Jews to defend themselves against anyone who still attempted to carry out their annihilation. Esther, who was Jewish, fasted before making this request of the king, and so we fast today, the day before Purim, in solemn recognition both of Esther’s fast and the close call. But the point of the story and of Netanyahu’s decision to give President Obama a copy of the Book of Esther have been slightly misinterpreted.

First, the story of Purim is not about the “defeat” of the Persian empire, per se. Indeed, Mordechai went on to serve in the administration of Ahasuerus, and Esther remained the queen. Nor is it a story about Jewish power—the Jews needed the king to enable their self-defense, and the prayer and material deprivation of Jewish fast days is about faith and divine providence, not proud self-reliance. That’s why the primary purpose of raising the Purim analogy is to elucidate the differences. The Economist doesn’t like Netanyahu’s use of the Purim story and is tiring of his “Auschwitz complex,” as the magazine refers to it in a post on its Democracy in America blog.

“Mr Netanyahu is less attractive than Esther, but he seems to be wooing Mr. Obama and the American public just as effectively,” the Economist writes in a clumsy and undercooked metaphor of its own. The magazine faults Netanyahu for saying the following:

After all, that’s the very purpose of the Jewish state, to restore to the Jewish people control over our destiny. That’s why my supreme responsibility as prime minister of Israel is to ensure that Israel remains master of its fate.

“News flash: Israel is not master of its fate,” the Economist interrupts. But neither, it says, is the United States–or Britain, Serbia, China, or Sweden. And that’s just fine. But that misses the point. It’s true that Israel isn’t, in the literal sense, the master of its own fate. Part of the lesson of Purim is about faith. But Netanyahu doesn’t mean Israel is in total control of everyone’s actions. In a January article for the New York Times Magazine, Ronen Bergman asked Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak about those within the Israeli military and political establishment who vocally oppose a strike on Iran’s nuclear installations. Barak offered a memorable response:

It’s good to have diversity in thinking and for people to voice their opinions. But at the end of the day, when the military command looks up, it sees us — the minister of defense and the prime minister. When we look up, we see nothing but the sky above us.

Another way of saying this would be the old Hebrew National slogan: “We answer to a higher authority.” The Economist calls this the “ghetto mentality,” and says Netanyahu’s gift to Obama of the Book of Esther proves “he’s still in it.” But the Economist gives the game away when faulting Netanyahu for Israel’s siege mentality, claiming “As prime minister in the late 1990s, he did more than any other Israeli leader to destroy the peace process.” The Economist elaborates:

Violent clashes and provocations erupted whenever the peace process seemed on the verge of concrete steps forward; the most charitable spin would be that the Israelis failed to exercise the restraint they might have shown in retaliating against Palestinian terrorism, had they been truly interested in progress towards a two-state solution.

That paragraph says it all. When the peace process gained momentum, the Palestinians engaged in terrorism to destroy the process. But “the most charitable spin” is that Netanyahu deserves blame for not rolling over. Even the Economist’s phrasing tells you where they are coming from: “the most charitable spin” is a dismissive way of saying “attempting to see the other side’s point of view.” But the Economist prejudges that view. It’s spin–no matter what it is, it’s spin.

Doubtless that same hostility will be displayed toward Netanyahu if one day the Economist wakes up to the news that Iran’s nuclear installations have been reduced to rubble. And that will be a sign that Netanyahu didn’t give Obama the Book of Esther as a map to the current reality. He will have been reminding the president of just the opposite: this time, the decree allowing and enabling the Jews to defend themselves won’t be signed, sealed, and delivered in a foreign capital.

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New Iran Talks Put Obama’s Window of Diplomacy to the Test

There may have been some in Tehran, as well as in Washington, who viewed Monday’s announcement that European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton had accepted an offer to resume face-to-face negotiations with Iran with relief. While the Europeans have failed repeatedly in previous attempts to entice the Iranians to stand down from their bid for nuclear weapons, the new talks would at least accomplish one very important thing. As far as the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China — the nations that Ashton has the brief to represent in the talks —  are concerned, the main thing is so long as these negotiations are ongoing, Israel is highly unlikely to use force to forestall an Iranian nuclear program that represents an existential threat to the existence of the Jewish state. It is this specter of an Israeli strike that has driven the EU and the United States to threaten Iran with an oil embargo.

President Obama and many of his European counterparts, not to mention his even less enthusiastic partners in Russia and China, would not have gone so far with their sometimes half-hearted push for sanctions if they were not convinced that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would not hesitate to act on behalf of his country’s security. But as long as someone is talking to the Iranians, the reasoning goes, the Israelis would not dare to attack Iran, even though they rightly believe the ayatollahs haven’t the slightest intention of giving up their nuclear ambitions no matter how much the West offers in return. Yet the problem for Iran in this strategy is that they must do everything they can to drag out the talks because their failure will make it difficult if not impossible for Obama to continue to argue that the window for diplomacy must be kept open.

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There may have been some in Tehran, as well as in Washington, who viewed Monday’s announcement that European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton had accepted an offer to resume face-to-face negotiations with Iran with relief. While the Europeans have failed repeatedly in previous attempts to entice the Iranians to stand down from their bid for nuclear weapons, the new talks would at least accomplish one very important thing. As far as the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China — the nations that Ashton has the brief to represent in the talks —  are concerned, the main thing is so long as these negotiations are ongoing, Israel is highly unlikely to use force to forestall an Iranian nuclear program that represents an existential threat to the existence of the Jewish state. It is this specter of an Israeli strike that has driven the EU and the United States to threaten Iran with an oil embargo.

President Obama and many of his European counterparts, not to mention his even less enthusiastic partners in Russia and China, would not have gone so far with their sometimes half-hearted push for sanctions if they were not convinced that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would not hesitate to act on behalf of his country’s security. But as long as someone is talking to the Iranians, the reasoning goes, the Israelis would not dare to attack Iran, even though they rightly believe the ayatollahs haven’t the slightest intention of giving up their nuclear ambitions no matter how much the West offers in return. Yet the problem for Iran in this strategy is that they must do everything they can to drag out the talks because their failure will make it difficult if not impossible for Obama to continue to argue that the window for diplomacy must be kept open.

Israeli officials have made plain their skepticism about this latest initiative. As Shabtai Shavit, a former director of the Mossad, was quoted as saying yesterday in an interview with Israel Radio:

In the past, every time the Iranians agreed to talk, the reason for their agreeing was in order to buy time in order to advance the development of their nuclear program. They didn’t invent this ruse, they learned it from the North Koreans.

Only the most naïve diplomats can believe the Iranians have any other objective in mind in agreeing to such talks other than playing for more time for their nuclear program to get closer to weaponization.

But by agreeing to negotiations so soon after President Obama’s plea for more time to allow diplomacy to work, the Iranians have set a trap for themselves. The talks will provide a clear test for Obama’s theory about the window of diplomacy. If, after the threats of an oil embargo and tighter sanctions as well as the president’s vow that he will not be content to “contain” a nuclear Iran, these new negotiations are seen to have failed as ignominiously as past efforts, then Obama and others who have argued that Israel’s demands for action are too hasty will be put in an embarrassing position.

Once the Iranians play Ashton and her clients for fools, as they have before, the notion of a diplomatic window that must be left open will be seen for what it is: merely an excuse to avoid action to avert the peril of a nuclear Iran.

Iran may think it can string along its Western dupes for a few more months and then perhaps think of some other ruse to put off a confrontation. But unlike the North Koreans, the Iranians need to understand that Israel will jump on the next failure of diplomacy as a justification for the use of force, and President Obama will, despite his own reluctance to come to grips with the imperative for action, be left with little wriggle room if he is to make good on his own promises to put a halt to Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. In agreeing to these talks, the ayatollahs may have unwittingly cleared the path for an Israeli attack.

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Why Obama Is Wrong on Iran Red Lines

The dispute which President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu failed to resolve during their sit down earlier this week revolved around what the red line should be that outside powers would forbid Iran from crossing.

Prime Minister Netanyahu says Iran must not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapons capability. President Obama disagrees, and insists the red line should instead be actual Iranian production of nuclear weapons.  That Obama would allow an Iranian nuclear weapons capability, however, is akin to allowing Iran to develop nuclear weapons.

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The dispute which President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu failed to resolve during their sit down earlier this week revolved around what the red line should be that outside powers would forbid Iran from crossing.

Prime Minister Netanyahu says Iran must not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapons capability. President Obama disagrees, and insists the red line should instead be actual Iranian production of nuclear weapons.  That Obama would allow an Iranian nuclear weapons capability, however, is akin to allowing Iran to develop nuclear weapons.

Iran, the White House suggests, should be allowed to become like Japan, a state that has all the technology to put together a nuclear weapon but simply has not chosen to do so. Never mind that Iran is not Japan, and that the two states have very different ideologies. Cultural and moral relativism, however popular they may be in this administration, should never mean turning a blind eye toward an enemy achieving superior weapons technology just because an ally has it.

American policymakers have used the red line controversy to delude themselves into believing that intelligence reports which suggest Iran has yet to make a decision to develop nuclear weapons means the West still has time to allow diplomacy to work. The problem is that once Iran develops nuclear weapons capability—a capability which the IAEA suggests they aim to achieve—it would only take a few days to develop nuclear weapons.

Red lines are important, but so too is a basic understanding of the Iranian threat. Obama may mesmerize progressives with his rhetoric, but sometimes charisma is not enough to cover up basic facts. By defining red lines where he does, Obama is acknowledging he is prepared to see Iran develop nuclear weapons. That is not in the U.S. national interest, and it is disingenuous for Obama to suggest otherwise.

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Notorious Dictator Apologist Loses Primary

While the media was focused on the Romney-Santorum nail-biter in Ohio last night, crackpot conspiracy theorist and national embarrassment Rep. Dennis Kucinich lost in a landslide in the state’s 9th district Democratic primary. The winner of the race, Rep. Marcy Kaptur, who was pitted against Kucinich because of redistricting, is far from perfect. But at least she hasn’t openly provided comfort to dictators via state-controlled media outlets.

WaPo reports on Kucinich’s defeat in an oddly favorable article:

Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio), the two-time presidential candidate and icon of the antiwar left, suffered a bruising primary defeat Tuesday as a new Republican-drawn congressional map threatened to end the career of one of the most colorful figures in Congress. ….

With about 90 percent of the vote in, Kaptur led 60 to 36 percent.

From his stint as Cleveland’s “Boy Mayor” in the late 1970s, including two debt defaults and the forced sale of the city’s electric plant, to his unsuccessful effort to impeach Vice President Richard B. Cheney in 2007, Kucinich has repeatedly thrust himself into the national spotlight. Often coming up on the short end of his fights, Kucinich, 65, never stopped swing­ing but usually did so in a friendly spirit.

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While the media was focused on the Romney-Santorum nail-biter in Ohio last night, crackpot conspiracy theorist and national embarrassment Rep. Dennis Kucinich lost in a landslide in the state’s 9th district Democratic primary. The winner of the race, Rep. Marcy Kaptur, who was pitted against Kucinich because of redistricting, is far from perfect. But at least she hasn’t openly provided comfort to dictators via state-controlled media outlets.

WaPo reports on Kucinich’s defeat in an oddly favorable article:

Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio), the two-time presidential candidate and icon of the antiwar left, suffered a bruising primary defeat Tuesday as a new Republican-drawn congressional map threatened to end the career of one of the most colorful figures in Congress. ….

With about 90 percent of the vote in, Kaptur led 60 to 36 percent.

From his stint as Cleveland’s “Boy Mayor” in the late 1970s, including two debt defaults and the forced sale of the city’s electric plant, to his unsuccessful effort to impeach Vice President Richard B. Cheney in 2007, Kucinich has repeatedly thrust himself into the national spotlight. Often coming up on the short end of his fights, Kucinich, 65, never stopped swing­ing but usually did so in a friendly spirit.

The loss hasn’t completely put an end to Kucinich’s political aspirations. He’s reportedly considering running for a congressional seat in Washington state, despite the fact that he has no meaningful ties there. If that doesn’t work out, best of luck to Kucinich in his future career as a TV talk show host/international peacekeeping activist.

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Romney’s Good Night

I have a more hopeful take than some others, especially Jonathan, regarding the outcome of Super Tuesday. To be sure, Mitt Romney did not wrap it up. But he did very well, taking six of the ten states up for grabs. Crucially, he took Ohio, which was favorable territory for Rick Santorum, with a large rural and evangelical population. Romney had been down by double digits only two weeks ago, and he fought back to a victory. It was a narrow one, but, in this case, winning was what was important.

Even more important is the new delegate count. Romney now has 415, Santorum 176, Gingrich 105, Paul 47 (and drop-out Huntsman 2). 1144 are needed for the nomination. As Dick Morris pointed out on “Fox and Friends” this morning, for Santorum or Gingrich to eventually catch up and pass Romney, one of them will need to take two-thirds of the delegates yet to be selected, an almost impossible task unless Romney commits a really major mistake. Nothing if not cautious (and perhaps with his father’s infamous “brainwashing” gaffe firmly in mind) he is unlikely to do so.

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I have a more hopeful take than some others, especially Jonathan, regarding the outcome of Super Tuesday. To be sure, Mitt Romney did not wrap it up. But he did very well, taking six of the ten states up for grabs. Crucially, he took Ohio, which was favorable territory for Rick Santorum, with a large rural and evangelical population. Romney had been down by double digits only two weeks ago, and he fought back to a victory. It was a narrow one, but, in this case, winning was what was important.

Even more important is the new delegate count. Romney now has 415, Santorum 176, Gingrich 105, Paul 47 (and drop-out Huntsman 2). 1144 are needed for the nomination. As Dick Morris pointed out on “Fox and Friends” this morning, for Santorum or Gingrich to eventually catch up and pass Romney, one of them will need to take two-thirds of the delegates yet to be selected, an almost impossible task unless Romney commits a really major mistake. Nothing if not cautious (and perhaps with his father’s infamous “brainwashing” gaffe firmly in mind) he is unlikely to do so.

This mathematical reality, I think, will begin to permeate through the Republican ranks in the next few days. And as Romney’s “political gravity” increases, more and more Republicans will flow into his camp. Belief in inevitability begets inevitability. More, everyone realizes the sooner the nomination is settled, the better for Republican chances in the fall. There will be more money left for the general campaign and more time for the party to heal any wounds (although I think the wounds have been greatly exaggerated). And winning in the fall, according to yesterday’s exit polls, is far and away the most important consideration for Republican voters, well more than two times as important as conservative purity.

Barring a major mistake or other unforeseeable development, I think Romney won the nomination last night.

 

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The Communal Conversation on Israel

Bret Stephens’ burner of a column published yesterday in the Wall Street Journal is sure to make the rounds. He is also right to largely dismiss the political importance of American-Jewish attitudes toward Israel. Still, it’s worth considering why the perpetually boiling Jewish communal conversation on Israel never seems to have much practical political import.

The central fallacy and problem with the discussion is the idea that American Jewish attitudes are the primary influence on American policy toward Israel. If you look at the thing without much nuance, it’s easy to see why. The recently closed AIPAC policy conference attracted no less than 13,000 delegates, the largest in its history, a healthy jump from 10,000 a year ago, and probably a doubling in five years. AIPAC also claims 100,000 members and has an annual budget of around $70 million, making it the biggest American Jewish advocacy organization (although it’s worth noting it was only relatively recently that it passed the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League in this regard).

In short, the central Jewish and pro-Israel lobbying address is no cupcake, and it is getting dramatically stronger every year. It deserves extraordinary credit for its successes and growth.

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Bret Stephens’ burner of a column published yesterday in the Wall Street Journal is sure to make the rounds. He is also right to largely dismiss the political importance of American-Jewish attitudes toward Israel. Still, it’s worth considering why the perpetually boiling Jewish communal conversation on Israel never seems to have much practical political import.

The central fallacy and problem with the discussion is the idea that American Jewish attitudes are the primary influence on American policy toward Israel. If you look at the thing without much nuance, it’s easy to see why. The recently closed AIPAC policy conference attracted no less than 13,000 delegates, the largest in its history, a healthy jump from 10,000 a year ago, and probably a doubling in five years. AIPAC also claims 100,000 members and has an annual budget of around $70 million, making it the biggest American Jewish advocacy organization (although it’s worth noting it was only relatively recently that it passed the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League in this regard).

In short, the central Jewish and pro-Israel lobbying address is no cupcake, and it is getting dramatically stronger every year. It deserves extraordinary credit for its successes and growth.

But AIPAC and the Jews are not the reason America supports Israel. Like any successful lobby, AIPAC can ensure and push the margins on specific Israel-related legislation enacted by Congress. In the same way the NRA can make gun-control legislation very tough to pass, other successful grassroots lobbies are successful because they speak for policies that have the general backing of the American people.

The most influential Jewish organizations weren’t always with them. In 1922, the United States Congress may have unanimously endorsed the Balfour Declaration, but there was no organized pro-Israel lobby of any significance that made it so. The biggest and most important Jewish advocacy organizations of the day, as well as many of their leaders (as exemplified by the life of Cyrus Adler, who served as a head and founder of both the Jewish Theological Seminary and the American Jewish Committee, among many other important leadership roles) were non-Zionist, and far more concerned with unsuccessful attempts to loosen eventual restrictions to Jewish immigration to the United States than to restrictions placed on entry to Palestine.

Zionist organizations and leaders eventually became more prominent, both because they reflected the feelings of the Jewish street and because the Jewish state was a far more effective opener of the doors of power than other concerns.

It’s an argument that has been made often and much better than I can by Walter Russell Mead. It nevertheless seems to need perpetual repeating in light of the strange views that seem to dominate so much of the public debate about American Jews and Israel.

There is much that would be spiritually and culturally disconcerting about an American Jewry that really had decided it had no special affection for the Jews of Israel. But even if that happens, nobody should be surprised if a large contingent of those Jews who remained supportive of the Jewish state still continued to show up in D.C. and effectively lobby their political leaders.

In short, even if American Jews in their majority turn against the Jewish state, the United States likely will not.

 

 

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Why is Obama Allowing Turkey to Reverse Engineer American Weaponry?

While teaching on an aircraft carrier last year somewhere in the North Atlantic, a number of European dignitaries arrived to tour the ship and watch operations. I struck up a conversation on the bridge with a retired American naval officer who, in the course of his career, had been involved with a number of foreign delegations which had wanted to observe American aircraft carriers in action. He said that during the 1990s, however, the Pentagon pushed back on allowing Chinese delegations to board the ships. It was clear even then that the purpose of the Chinese visitors was to determine how to run an aircraft carrier, as they launched an attempt to acquire the same blue water force projection capability. The Chinese would endlessly take but would never reciprocate. That the Clinton administration and George W. Bush administration continued the informal ban for a time was a wise move, given the transparency of Chinese ambitions.

Alas, the Obama administration seems impervious to the same lessons when it comes to Turkey. Turkey makes no secret of its desire to bolster its domestic armament industry. And yet President Obama has provided Prime Minister Erdogan with the exact same technology which Turkey now seeks to manufacture. Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that Turkey now brags it has reaped billions of dollars during the past few years selling advanced weaponry. It should come as no surprise that Saudi Arabia is Turkey’s best customer.

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While teaching on an aircraft carrier last year somewhere in the North Atlantic, a number of European dignitaries arrived to tour the ship and watch operations. I struck up a conversation on the bridge with a retired American naval officer who, in the course of his career, had been involved with a number of foreign delegations which had wanted to observe American aircraft carriers in action. He said that during the 1990s, however, the Pentagon pushed back on allowing Chinese delegations to board the ships. It was clear even then that the purpose of the Chinese visitors was to determine how to run an aircraft carrier, as they launched an attempt to acquire the same blue water force projection capability. The Chinese would endlessly take but would never reciprocate. That the Clinton administration and George W. Bush administration continued the informal ban for a time was a wise move, given the transparency of Chinese ambitions.

Alas, the Obama administration seems impervious to the same lessons when it comes to Turkey. Turkey makes no secret of its desire to bolster its domestic armament industry. And yet President Obama has provided Prime Minister Erdogan with the exact same technology which Turkey now seeks to manufacture. Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that Turkey now brags it has reaped billions of dollars during the past few years selling advanced weaponry. It should come as no surprise that Saudi Arabia is Turkey’s best customer.

Providing Turkey with advanced weaponry — Predators, the stealth F-35 Joint Strike Fighter for which Turkey now demands the software codes, or other key platforms — is little different than providing state-of-the-art technology to China. In both cases, the regimes involved will reverse engineer the technology and allow it to be used to kill Americans for both fun and profit.

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Only Path for Santorum: Gingrich Has to Go

Despite Mitt Romney’s less-than-exceptional performance last night, neither Newt Gingrich nor Rick Santorum has a viable path to the nomination from here. At Frontloading HQ, Josh Putnam crunches the numbers and finds that while it’s not mathematically impossible for either candidate to get to the 1144 delegates needed to win, the chances are so low that it might as well be.

For Santorum, the possibility is more likely if Gingrich – who has been trailing in the race, but still siphoning off potential Santorum supporters – drops out. The Wall Street Journal describes the impact this had on the primaries last night:

Mr. Santorum and Mr. Gingrich effectively split the southern states in Tuesday’s contest: The former Pennsylvania senator won in Tennessee, Oklahoma and North Dakota, and the former House speaker claimed the richest delegate prize in his home state of Georgia. Mr. Santorum also claimed North Dakota. Both men used the results to argue they were the conservative alternative to Mr. Romney. …

Mr. Gingrich has siphoned off just enough votes in key states to cost Mr. Santorum wins and delegates, [campaign strategist] Mr. Brabender said. In last week’s Michigan primary, Mr. Santorum lost to Mr. Romney by 3 percentage points.

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Despite Mitt Romney’s less-than-exceptional performance last night, neither Newt Gingrich nor Rick Santorum has a viable path to the nomination from here. At Frontloading HQ, Josh Putnam crunches the numbers and finds that while it’s not mathematically impossible for either candidate to get to the 1144 delegates needed to win, the chances are so low that it might as well be.

For Santorum, the possibility is more likely if Gingrich – who has been trailing in the race, but still siphoning off potential Santorum supporters – drops out. The Wall Street Journal describes the impact this had on the primaries last night:

Mr. Santorum and Mr. Gingrich effectively split the southern states in Tuesday’s contest: The former Pennsylvania senator won in Tennessee, Oklahoma and North Dakota, and the former House speaker claimed the richest delegate prize in his home state of Georgia. Mr. Santorum also claimed North Dakota. Both men used the results to argue they were the conservative alternative to Mr. Romney. …

Mr. Gingrich has siphoned off just enough votes in key states to cost Mr. Santorum wins and delegates, [campaign strategist] Mr. Brabender said. In last week’s Michigan primary, Mr. Santorum lost to Mr. Romney by 3 percentage points.

Realizing the problem, Santorum’s campaign is now all but calling for Gingrich to drop out:

Senior campaign strategist John Brabender said the key for the campaign going forward will be creating an opportunity to challenge Mitt Romney one-on-one, though Brabender maintained the Santorum campaign would not directly call on Gingrich to drop out of the race.

Based on Gingrich’s speech last night – in which he enlightened us with a protracted, completely inaccurate history of the race so far – he seems to have no intention of dropping out anytime soon. As untenable as his path to victory is, he may just be delusional enough to think he can pull it off.

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Mr. Inevitable Survives Another Scare

It was not the easiest of nights for Mitt Romney, who spent much of the evening on Super Tuesday watching Rick Santorum pile up unexpected victories in three states while taking an early lead in the big prize of Ohio. Yet when the dust had settled, Romney wound up squeaking out a 10,000-vote win in Ohio and could claim triumph in six of the ten states that held elections. This allowed him to pad his already large lead in delegates.  Just as important, Newt Gingrich’s win in his home state of Georgia gave the former speaker an excuse to stay in the race and therefore deny Santorum the opportunity to go head-to-head with Romney as the sole conservative in the race.

Santorum can claim to have exceeded expectations and to have held his own across the nation despite the grave financial and organizational advantages Romney holds over him. That Romney is a weak frontrunner who will continue to be damaged by a lengthy and nasty race cannot be denied. But unless Santorum can get Gingrich to drop out almost immediately — something that is not going to happen — the only reasonable conclusion to be drawn from a long evening of watching results from around the country is that Romney is still the only one of the GOP quartet who has a path to the nomination.

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It was not the easiest of nights for Mitt Romney, who spent much of the evening on Super Tuesday watching Rick Santorum pile up unexpected victories in three states while taking an early lead in the big prize of Ohio. Yet when the dust had settled, Romney wound up squeaking out a 10,000-vote win in Ohio and could claim triumph in six of the ten states that held elections. This allowed him to pad his already large lead in delegates.  Just as important, Newt Gingrich’s win in his home state of Georgia gave the former speaker an excuse to stay in the race and therefore deny Santorum the opportunity to go head-to-head with Romney as the sole conservative in the race.

Santorum can claim to have exceeded expectations and to have held his own across the nation despite the grave financial and organizational advantages Romney holds over him. That Romney is a weak frontrunner who will continue to be damaged by a lengthy and nasty race cannot be denied. But unless Santorum can get Gingrich to drop out almost immediately — something that is not going to happen — the only reasonable conclusion to be drawn from a long evening of watching results from around the country is that Romney is still the only one of the GOP quartet who has a path to the nomination.

Romney is still losing conservatives and evangelicals as the GOP grassroots continue to resist the likely nominee. That’s why he had such a scare in Ohio and lost Tennessee, Oklahoma and North Dakota to Santorum. If he had but one conservative opponent that might be fatal, but so long as Gingrich continues to drain right-wing votes from Santorum, it will allow Romney to squeeze by with pluralities.

Yet, Romney is also the only candidate with the organization and the financial wherewithal to compete in every region of the country, allowing him to amass wins one way or the other. With Massachusetts, Vermont, Virginia, Idaho, Alaska and Ohio now in his column, Romney’s share of delegates will grow. At this stage of the race, the delegate math is more important than Santorum’s moral victories, meaning that despite the bad optics of the near loss in Ohio, Romney must still be considered the eventual nominee.

But so long as his opponents continue to win states, they will not drop out. The exception to this is Ron Paul, who failed again to win a single state but who will continue flogging his libertarian extremism. In the case of Gingrich’s taking Georgia, that is very much to Romney’s advantage. So far, Gingrich has flopped everywhere but in Georgia and neighboring South Carolina. In his speech last night, Gingrich again put on display the petulance and lack of grace that has become the hallmark of his presidential run as he spent most of his half-hour address whining about opposition from elites, “Wall Street” and Romney’s negative ads. Though his continued presence in the race seems motivated as much by spite against Romney as his own ambition, it is no small irony that by doing so he is providing inestimable aid to the former Massachusetts governor by taking away support from Santorum.

Santorum cannot help but be encouraged by his three wins as well as by the narrow loss in Ohio. That will allow him to continue to raise the money he needs to keep running though not enough to compete with the Romney juggernaut. One can look at the Pennsylvanian’s candidacy and ponder just how well he would be doing if Gingrich had dropped out weeks ago when it became apparent he had no chance of being the nominee. But even another couple of months of Santorum upsets and near-wins are not likely to accomplish anything more than to do further damage to the eventual nominee.

That’s a problem for Romney, who will spend the rest of the spring trying in vain to convince conservatives he is one of them while being belabored by Santorum for his Massachusetts health care law. But as trying as this process is for him, he must content himself with the fact that most of those now voting against him in GOP primaries and caucuses will eventually rally to his side once the alternative becomes another four years of Barack Obama.

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