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.
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.
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.
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?”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.’”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.