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Posts For: April 27, 2012

Obama, Truman and Israel: An Unfortunate Comparison

As I wrote earlier today, most Israelis are unimpressed with the Obama administration’s Jewish charm offensive which is aimed at convincing Jews that the president’s first three years of fights with the Jewish state was a figment of our collective imagination. But the fact that three quarters of Israelis don’t seem him as friend isn’t stopping the Democratic campaign from doubling down on this push. Predictably, Vice President Joe Biden, a man for whom hyperbole is as natural as breathing, is taking this effort to extremes. While, as Alana noted, most of Biden’s foreign policy address at New York University yesterday was devoted to trashing Mitt Romney, one passage in which he waxed lyrical about the president’s devotion to Israel deserves our notice. In it, he not only exaggerated Obama’s record in terms of helping Israel, he went way out on a rhetorical limb and declared, “no president since Harry Truman has done more for Israel’s security than Barack Obama.” Read More

As I wrote earlier today, most Israelis are unimpressed with the Obama administration’s Jewish charm offensive which is aimed at convincing Jews that the president’s first three years of fights with the Jewish state was a figment of our collective imagination. But the fact that three quarters of Israelis don’t seem him as friend isn’t stopping the Democratic campaign from doubling down on this push. Predictably, Vice President Joe Biden, a man for whom hyperbole is as natural as breathing, is taking this effort to extremes. While, as Alana noted, most of Biden’s foreign policy address at New York University yesterday was devoted to trashing Mitt Romney, one passage in which he waxed lyrical about the president’s devotion to Israel deserves our notice. In it, he not only exaggerated Obama’s record in terms of helping Israel, he went way out on a rhetorical limb and declared, “no president since Harry Truman has done more for Israel’s security than Barack Obama.”

As I have written previously, there is a case to be made for Obama as a friend of Israel or at least not a foe. But Biden’s taking credit for the Iron Dome missile defense system without noting that the project was conceived, initiated and funded first by the Bush administration is absurd. His claims about Obama’s efforts to isolate Iran have a leg to stand on but may also be undermined by the fact that the diplomatic process the president has embarked on is more likely to lead to a result that will please Iran than Israel. But by claiming that Obama is a better friend to Israel than any president since Truman — and that includes men like Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush who were ardent friends of Israel — the vice president is making an assertion that is so detached from reality that it boggles the mind. Yet even as we sort out this piece of hyperbole it should also be pointed out that the comparison with Truman is not as flattering as Obama’s fans might think.

President Truman is rightly revered by friends of Israel for his courage in standing up to the foreign policy establishment when he chose to support the partition of Palestine into one Jewish state and one Arab state in 1947. He also bucked the State Department and his Secretary of State, General George Marshall, a legendary figure whom Truman practically idolized, when he famously became the first to recognize the newborn State of Israel on May 15, 1948. These acts, which help set in motion the process whereby Israel joined the community of nations were of inestimable help to Israel and for doing so he is rightly honored as among the great friends of the Jewish people in the 20th century.

But to claim, as Biden did, that Truman aided Israel’s security more than his successors — or did anything in that regard — is simply not true.

It is generally forgotten but prior to the Six Day War, the United States offered little aid to Israel of any sort. John F. Kennedy was the first president to authorize the sale of weaponry to Israel when he okayed a limit package of anti-aircraft equipment. It was only after 1967 that Washington began to look at Israel as a strategic asset and Lyndon Johnson helped lay the foundation for the alliance that blossomed under Ronald Reagan and was strengthened in turn by each successive administration.

As for Truman, as much as his diplomatic support was important, the United States never lifted a finger to help Israel during the life and death struggle of its War of Independence when approximately one percent of its population was killed. No arms were given or sold to Israel nor did the United States use its superpower clout to stop the Arab nations that invaded the new Jewish state on the date of its birth. In terms of its security situation, Israel was on its own during that war. Though Truman certainly wished it well, something that could not be said of his State Department, he was merely a bystander as the besieged and bombed new country fought for its existence.

Indeed, in a touch of historical irony that is rarely appreciated, it might be said that the Soviet Union did more for Israel’s security in 1948 than the United States since it allowed its Czech satellite to sell vital arms and ammunition to the Jews that it could not obtain from any Western source. It was those guns and bullets and not Truman’s telegram of recognition that saved Israel on the battlefield. Indeed, as Israeli veterans of that conflict will invariably point out, it was the sacrifice of thousands of Jewish youngsters — the “Silver Platter” immortalized in verse by poet Natan Alterman — that secured the Jewish state, not the words of diplomats.

In the years after the War of Independence, Truman offered Israel no assistance and, despite his goodwill, it often found itself isolated in the diplomatic world with even the U.S. calling for it to retreat from the 1949 armistice lines to accommodate the Arabs.

As for Obama, it must be said that Truman did far less than the current resident of the White House for Israel’s security. But as far as the Israelis are concerned the question is whether, like Truman, he will stand by and watch passively, if their lives are placed in jeopardy. That is hardly a comparison that Biden or any other Democrat should wish to make.

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What Do Israelis Know About Obama that American Jews Are Missing?

The Obama administration has been conducting an all-out charm offensive in recent months aimed at convincing American Jews that the president is Israel’s best friend. Polls have shown that the effort has not been enough to prevent a precipitous drop in his share of the prospective Jewish vote from the 78 percent he garnered in 2008. However, it will probably help him maintain a comfortable majority of Jewish votes in November as most of this predominantly liberal demographic is prepared to either ignore his past history of conflict with Israel or actually believes in the sincerity of his election-year conversion. But even as American Jews argue about Obama’s attitude toward Israel, the intended objects of the supposed solicitude continue to hold starkly different views about him.

A new Smith Research poll sponsored by the Jerusalem Post shows that although perceptions of Obama in Israel have improved in the last year, most Israelis don’t consider him much of a friend. The survey showed that 36 percent of Israelis believe Obama is neutral in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians with 24 percent seeing him as pro-Palestinian and an equal number perceiving him as pro-Israel while 16 percent expressed no opinion. These numbers make one wonder what it is that the three quarters of Israelis who don’t see him as being in favor of their country know that the majority of American Jews who think he is pro-Israel haven’t figured out.

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The Obama administration has been conducting an all-out charm offensive in recent months aimed at convincing American Jews that the president is Israel’s best friend. Polls have shown that the effort has not been enough to prevent a precipitous drop in his share of the prospective Jewish vote from the 78 percent he garnered in 2008. However, it will probably help him maintain a comfortable majority of Jewish votes in November as most of this predominantly liberal demographic is prepared to either ignore his past history of conflict with Israel or actually believes in the sincerity of his election-year conversion. But even as American Jews argue about Obama’s attitude toward Israel, the intended objects of the supposed solicitude continue to hold starkly different views about him.

A new Smith Research poll sponsored by the Jerusalem Post shows that although perceptions of Obama in Israel have improved in the last year, most Israelis don’t consider him much of a friend. The survey showed that 36 percent of Israelis believe Obama is neutral in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians with 24 percent seeing him as pro-Palestinian and an equal number perceiving him as pro-Israel while 16 percent expressed no opinion. These numbers make one wonder what it is that the three quarters of Israelis who don’t see him as being in favor of their country know that the majority of American Jews who think he is pro-Israel haven’t figured out.

The contrast between Israeli public opinion of the president and the views of American Jews is all the more startling when one realizes that these dismal numbers are actually a vast improvement for Obama over past polls conducted by the same firm. In the summer of 2009 after the first fight picked by the president with Israel and his Cairo speech to the Arab world in which he equated the plight of the Palestinians with the Holocaust, only 6 percent of Israelis saw him as their ally while 50 percent saw him as pro-Palestinian. Last year after his ambush of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in which he expressed support for the 1967 borders being the starting point for future Middle East negotiations, only 12 percent of Israelis saw him as pro-Israel.

While few American Jews are single issue voters and most consider liberal positions on domestic issues a higher priority than support for the Jewish state when choosing a president, Israelis are only focused on whether the resident of the White House is seeking to undermine their security or force them into unwanted and dangerous concessions. That’s why, although it is fair for Democrats to argue that Obama has not sought to unravel the U.S.-Israel security alliance, most Israelis still see the president as either neutral or hostile to their fate.

The opinions of Israelis ought not be dispositive to American voters on any issue. But those Democrats who will spend the year loudly proclaiming Obama to be Israel’s best friend ever to sit in the White House might want to take a moment and consider the fact that most of the people who they claim to support have a very different view of the question.

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Rubio and the Mexican-American Vote

At CNN, Ruben Navarrette dismisses the notion that tapping Marco Rubio for the VP nomination would give Republicans an edge with Hispanic voters. Navarrette writes that the preferred status given to Cuban immigrants is a sore spot with the Mexican-American community, and that rift could become an election issue if Rubio’s the VP pick:

When it comes to immigrating to the United States, Cubans get preferred status. Thanks to the Cuban Adjustment Act, which was enacted in 1966 — or four years after Rubio’s grandfather came to the United States — Cuban refugees who flee the Island and reach the U.S. shoreline have a clear path to legal residency and eventual citizenship.

Mexican immigrants aren’t so fortunate. So when Cuban-Americans do what Rubio has done since arriving in the Senate 16 months ago and take a hard line against illegal immigration, Mexicans and Mexican-Americans have been known to cringe. After all, that’s easy for them to say. …

What good does it do the ticket for Rubio to be popular with whites and Cuban-Americans? Republicans are likely to get the majority of those votes anyway. His value is all wrapped up in how well he plays with Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. And right now, the answer is “not well.”

Navarrette’s point on the Cuban-American vote is important. While Obama swept the Hispanic vote in 2008, John McCain still won with the conservative Cuban-American community. The Romney campaign’s big electoral argument for choosing Rubio as VP would be that he could deliver Florida, and in that scenario, winning the Cuban-American vote by a landslide is redundant.

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At CNN, Ruben Navarrette dismisses the notion that tapping Marco Rubio for the VP nomination would give Republicans an edge with Hispanic voters. Navarrette writes that the preferred status given to Cuban immigrants is a sore spot with the Mexican-American community, and that rift could become an election issue if Rubio’s the VP pick:

When it comes to immigrating to the United States, Cubans get preferred status. Thanks to the Cuban Adjustment Act, which was enacted in 1966 — or four years after Rubio’s grandfather came to the United States — Cuban refugees who flee the Island and reach the U.S. shoreline have a clear path to legal residency and eventual citizenship.

Mexican immigrants aren’t so fortunate. So when Cuban-Americans do what Rubio has done since arriving in the Senate 16 months ago and take a hard line against illegal immigration, Mexicans and Mexican-Americans have been known to cringe. After all, that’s easy for them to say. …

What good does it do the ticket for Rubio to be popular with whites and Cuban-Americans? Republicans are likely to get the majority of those votes anyway. His value is all wrapped up in how well he plays with Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. And right now, the answer is “not well.”

Navarrette’s point on the Cuban-American vote is important. While Obama swept the Hispanic vote in 2008, John McCain still won with the conservative Cuban-American community. The Romney campaign’s big electoral argument for choosing Rubio as VP would be that he could deliver Florida, and in that scenario, winning the Cuban-American vote by a landslide is redundant.

Rubio is a strong candidate and there are plenty of other reasons for Romney to consider him. He’s charismatic, serious, bridges the conservative grassroots and the Republican establishment, and has a compelling personal narrative. Of course, there are plenty of other potential VP choices out there with comparable qualities. As Karl Rove argued persuasively in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, choosing the best person for the job should outweigh political considerations when picking a VP. Rubio’s ability to help Republicans make inroads with the Hispanic vote shouldn’t be the chief factor in the equation.

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Obama’s Super PAC Problems

President Obama has a huge lead on Mitt Romney when it comes to campaign fundraising, but that margin shrinks significantly when Super PACs are added into the pictures. Pro-Romney Super PACs have been raising cash steadily, but the pro-Obama Priorities USA group has had trouble bringing in donors, Bloomberg reports:

Through March, only 12 of Obama’s 532 top fundraisers had donated to Priorities USA Action, a super political action committee created to support his re-election. Priorities has only raised about $9 million compared to a combined $80 million brought in by the two main super-PACs dedicated to defeating Obama: American Crossroads, formed by Karl Rove, and Restore Our Future, a group backing presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

The leaders of Priorities have asked former President Bill Clinton to tap the pool of donors who helped fund his campaign and Hillary Clinton’s White House run. Yet Priorities lacks on its donor list most of the core group of Chicagoans who backed Obama’s presidential ambitions four years ago.

One government professor quoted in the story speculated that Democrats are wary about giving money to Priorities USA because they feel that negative advertising is unseemly. That’s absurd. Democrats are just as ruthless when it comes to negative ads as Republicans are. But there are other political reasons these Democrats might be hesitant about donating to Super PACs. Liberals almost universally condemn the Citizens United ruling. People give to politicians in part because it makes them feel good, like they’re behind a worthy cause. But many liberals would probably feel like hypocrites – like they’re betraying their ideals – if they give through a fundraising channel they’ve claimed is corrupting politics.

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President Obama has a huge lead on Mitt Romney when it comes to campaign fundraising, but that margin shrinks significantly when Super PACs are added into the pictures. Pro-Romney Super PACs have been raising cash steadily, but the pro-Obama Priorities USA group has had trouble bringing in donors, Bloomberg reports:

Through March, only 12 of Obama’s 532 top fundraisers had donated to Priorities USA Action, a super political action committee created to support his re-election. Priorities has only raised about $9 million compared to a combined $80 million brought in by the two main super-PACs dedicated to defeating Obama: American Crossroads, formed by Karl Rove, and Restore Our Future, a group backing presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

The leaders of Priorities have asked former President Bill Clinton to tap the pool of donors who helped fund his campaign and Hillary Clinton’s White House run. Yet Priorities lacks on its donor list most of the core group of Chicagoans who backed Obama’s presidential ambitions four years ago.

One government professor quoted in the story speculated that Democrats are wary about giving money to Priorities USA because they feel that negative advertising is unseemly. That’s absurd. Democrats are just as ruthless when it comes to negative ads as Republicans are. But there are other political reasons these Democrats might be hesitant about donating to Super PACs. Liberals almost universally condemn the Citizens United ruling. People give to politicians in part because it makes them feel good, like they’re behind a worthy cause. But many liberals would probably feel like hypocrites – like they’re betraying their ideals – if they give through a fundraising channel they’ve claimed is corrupting politics.

Some may also be nervously eyeing the attacks the Obama campaign has launched against top pro-Romney donors. Kimberly Strassel reports that the campaign is targeting these donors on its website, criticizing their businesses and work histories:

Save Mr. Obama, who acknowledges no rules. This past week, one of his campaign websites posted an item entitled “Behind the curtain: A brief history of Romney’s donors.” In the post, the Obama campaign named and shamed eight private citizens who had donated to his opponent. Describing the givers as all having “less-than-reputable records,” the post went on to make the extraordinary accusations that “quite a few” have also been “on the wrong side of the law” and profiting at “the expense of so many Americans.”

These are people like Paul Schorr and Sam and Jeffrey Fox, investors who the site outed for the crime of having “outsourced” jobs. T. Martin Fiorentino is scored for his work for a firm that forecloses on homes. Louis Bacon (a hedge-fund manager), Kent Burton (a “lobbyist”) and Thomas O’Malley (an energy CEO) stand accused of profiting from oil. Frank VanderSloot, the CEO of a home-products firm, is slimed as a “bitter foe of the gay rights movement.”

These are wealthy individuals, to be sure, but private citizens nonetheless. Not one holds elected office. Not one is a criminal. Not one has the barest fraction of the position or the power of the U.S. leader who is publicly assaulting them.

Donors to political campaigns and Super PACs are required to disclose for a reason. Journalists, watchdog groups, and opposing campaigns are certainly within their rights to report on conflicts of interest, ethics issues, or the backgrounds of these donors. But the Obama campaign goes too far with this. Claiming someone is “less-than-reputable” or “on the wrong side of the law” when he has committed no crime – outside of the offense of giving large sums of money to a political opponent – is not appropriate behavior by a political campaign. If Obama is setting this precedent, it’s no wonder Democrats are reluctant to cut large checks to his supporting Super PAC.

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Crucifying the Oil and Gas Industry

It is often said that the definition of the word gaffe in Washington-speak is when someone accidentally tells the truth. Al Armendariz, the EPA administrator for Texas and surrounding states, certainly made a gaffe when he said in a speech in 2010, that the best way to enforce environmental laws was to crucify a few oil companies so that the rest will fall in line. He noted that the Romans used this technique when they conquered a new town, crucifying the first five people they could get their hands on so that the place would be very easy to manage for the next few years. (I expect that that is actually a slander against the Romans, although they had no scruples against selling whole populations into slavery.)

Armendariz was, let us hope, using a metaphor. But his actions indicate that he is all too willing to act first and get, well, evidence of wrong doing, later. The New York Times reported on December 8th, 2010, that he had signed an emergency order:

Dallas-based EPA Regional Director Al Armendariz issued an emergency order yesterday against Range Resources Corp., charging that its drilling in the Barnett Shale contaminated at least two water wells with methane and benzene. The order gave Range 48 hours to provide clean drinking water to affected residents and begin taking steps to resolve the problem.

Armendariz’s order is not simply an action against the company, but a slap at regulators at the Texas Railroad Commission, whom he accused of not doing enough to help the people living near the drilling operations in the Fort Worth area.

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It is often said that the definition of the word gaffe in Washington-speak is when someone accidentally tells the truth. Al Armendariz, the EPA administrator for Texas and surrounding states, certainly made a gaffe when he said in a speech in 2010, that the best way to enforce environmental laws was to crucify a few oil companies so that the rest will fall in line. He noted that the Romans used this technique when they conquered a new town, crucifying the first five people they could get their hands on so that the place would be very easy to manage for the next few years. (I expect that that is actually a slander against the Romans, although they had no scruples against selling whole populations into slavery.)

Armendariz was, let us hope, using a metaphor. But his actions indicate that he is all too willing to act first and get, well, evidence of wrong doing, later. The New York Times reported on December 8th, 2010, that he had signed an emergency order:

Dallas-based EPA Regional Director Al Armendariz issued an emergency order yesterday against Range Resources Corp., charging that its drilling in the Barnett Shale contaminated at least two water wells with methane and benzene. The order gave Range 48 hours to provide clean drinking water to affected residents and begin taking steps to resolve the problem.

Armendariz’s order is not simply an action against the company, but a slap at regulators at the Texas Railroad Commission, whom he accused of not doing enough to help the people living near the drilling operations in the Fort Worth area.

Earlier this month, the EPA finally withdrew the order, having been able to produce no evidence whatever that Range Resources was in any way responsible.  (It might be noted in passing that while the emergency order was a major story in the Times, its withdrawal was not news fit to print. Nor is the news of  Armendariz’s recently revealed remarks.)

The United States, which invented both the petroleum industry, in 1859, and the transportation of natural gas over long distances by pipeline, in 1891, is on the cusp of what could be the greatest boom in energy production in its history, a boom that would not only reduce the price of energy—a major input into the struggling economy–but would greatly improve the country’s trade balance, help the dollar, and improve America’s foreign policy options.

The Obama administration, in thrall to the anti-capitalist environmental lobby, is doing everything possible to prevent it.

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What are North Koreans Doing in Iran?

President George W. Bush was widely—and unfairly—castigated for referring to Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as “The Axis of Evil.” Academics denied that such diverse countries could cooperate, while diplomats condemned Bush for saying such mean things about Ayatollah Ali Khamenei or Dear Leader Kim Jong-il. In hindsight, of course, Bush was right. The only legitimate criticism of the Axis of Evil was that he defined it too narrowly: Certainly, there might have been room for Venezuelan despot Hugo Chavez and Sudan’s murderous dictator Omar Al-Bashir, among others.

Blogger Challah Hu Akbar, whom I do not know personally but whose blog I always find interesting, has done some important analysis of Iranian media pictures and asks just what North Korean military officers are doing in Iran?

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President George W. Bush was widely—and unfairly—castigated for referring to Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as “The Axis of Evil.” Academics denied that such diverse countries could cooperate, while diplomats condemned Bush for saying such mean things about Ayatollah Ali Khamenei or Dear Leader Kim Jong-il. In hindsight, of course, Bush was right. The only legitimate criticism of the Axis of Evil was that he defined it too narrowly: Certainly, there might have been room for Venezuelan despot Hugo Chavez and Sudan’s murderous dictator Omar Al-Bashir, among others.

Blogger Challah Hu Akbar, whom I do not know personally but whose blog I always find interesting, has done some important analysis of Iranian media pictures and asks just what North Korean military officers are doing in Iran?

Somehow, I doubt they are teaching the Iranians about effective agriculture or the service industry. They are probably not exporting heavy fuel oil. Nor are they the world’s go-to guys for domestic energy generation. Fatwa or no fatwa, the remaining explanations don’t look good. Perhaps its time for the Obama administration to recognize what the Iranians say openly: Negotiations are a ruse, and it’s full steam ahead on their nuclear program.

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Obama’s Bin Laden Pitch Jumps the Shark

A year ago even as relentlessly positive a chronicler of the Obama administration as the New York Times noted that the president had begun to use the killing of Osama bin Laden as an integral part of his standard political stump speech. Since then, the president and even Vice President Biden have rarely disappointed listeners waiting for the obligatory bin Laden reference. While President Obama deserves credit for ordering the operation and he was entitled to spike the ball over this a few times, the transformation of the tracking down of the arch terrorist into the central achievement of their years in power says a lot about just how thin their list of victories has turned out to be.

Indeed, as I first noted last May, it should be remembered that Biden made one of the few genuinely witty remarks in the 2008 campaign when he noted that a Rudy Giuliani campaign speech consisted solely of, “a noun, a verb and 9/11,” but in the last year the addresses of Obama and Biden have rarely omitted “a noun, a verb and bin Laden.” Yet as tiresome as the president’s attempt to drape himself in the heroism of the Navy Seals has been up until now, it just got a lot worse. The Obama campaign is not only highlighting the bin Laden killing but it is now, believe it or not, actually putting forward a counter-factual video asserting that a President Mitt Romney would never have tried to take out the al Qaeda leader.

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A year ago even as relentlessly positive a chronicler of the Obama administration as the New York Times noted that the president had begun to use the killing of Osama bin Laden as an integral part of his standard political stump speech. Since then, the president and even Vice President Biden have rarely disappointed listeners waiting for the obligatory bin Laden reference. While President Obama deserves credit for ordering the operation and he was entitled to spike the ball over this a few times, the transformation of the tracking down of the arch terrorist into the central achievement of their years in power says a lot about just how thin their list of victories has turned out to be.

Indeed, as I first noted last May, it should be remembered that Biden made one of the few genuinely witty remarks in the 2008 campaign when he noted that a Rudy Giuliani campaign speech consisted solely of, “a noun, a verb and 9/11,” but in the last year the addresses of Obama and Biden have rarely omitted “a noun, a verb and bin Laden.” Yet as tiresome as the president’s attempt to drape himself in the heroism of the Navy Seals has been up until now, it just got a lot worse. The Obama campaign is not only highlighting the bin Laden killing but it is now, believe it or not, actually putting forward a counter-factual video asserting that a President Mitt Romney would never have tried to take out the al Qaeda leader.

 As Politico reports, a new Obama campaign video not only lavishes the president with extravagant praise for ordering the operation against bin Laden but also attempts to claim that Romney wouldn’t have done the same. The basis for this assertion is the fact that in 2007 Romney questioned whether the United States should be attacking targets in Pakistan and an out-of-context quote from that year in which the GOP nominee said, “It’s not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person.”

That doesn’t sound very good in retrospect but it reflected two sound positions. One was that the U.S. needed Pakistan if it was going to effectively fight the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The other was that the priority in the war on terror needed to be on ensuring that al Qaeda did have the capability to launch more terror attacks rather than merely getting bin Laden. While it can be construed as being one of many Romney verbal gaffes, it did not mean he was opposed to tracking down bin Laden if he could be found.

U.S. forces had been actively hunting Osama bin Laden for years. It was Barack Obama’s good fortune that, thanks to the Bush administration’s decision to conduct a war on terror and to use tactics that he largely opposed before entering the White House that the terrorist was found on his watch. The idea, put forward by former President Clinton (who did little to stop al Qaeda in the years after the first bombing of the World Trade Center and whose negligence materially contributed to the 9/11 disaster) in the campaign video, that there was a down side for Obama in ordering the mission is also, at best, an exaggeration. Though there were risks attached to the operation, the idea that Obama would have been lambasted for ordering an attack aimed at getting bin Laden is unfounded. Few Americans would have faulted him for trying, even if bin Laden had escaped again.

While it is to be expected that any president will take credit for the actions of the armed forces of which he is the commander-in-chief, it appears that in trying to make Romney look as if he was soft on al Qaeda, the president’s henchmen appear to have jumped the shark in a way that will do him little good. Such excesses serve only to diminish what may well be the one real foreign policy victory of his four years in office.

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The End of the Northern Ireland Model for Negotiating with Terrorists?

For the past few days I’ve been in London, where I was presenting a paper at the Counter Terror Expo. I had the privilege to sit-in on other talks far more interesting than mine revolving around British preparations for the Summer Olympics; strategies to counteract terrorist charities; and very practical tactical approaches to the counter terror fight.

A few items jumped out at me during the course of the two-day conference which I simply had not known or previously thought about at length. For example, while American counter terror officials will confront terrorist charities and shut them down, the British believe (naively, in my view) that they can excise the terror influence yet preserve the charity. Likewise, while the U.S. Treasury Department is expert at tracking U.S. dollar transactions in order to deny terrorists funding, I had never fully considered the problem of laundering such transactions via the Mexican Peso, an increasing problem especially given the interplay between terrorists and drug gangs and the prevalence of informal Peso transactions in the American southwest.

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For the past few days I’ve been in London, where I was presenting a paper at the Counter Terror Expo. I had the privilege to sit-in on other talks far more interesting than mine revolving around British preparations for the Summer Olympics; strategies to counteract terrorist charities; and very practical tactical approaches to the counter terror fight.

A few items jumped out at me during the course of the two-day conference which I simply had not known or previously thought about at length. For example, while American counter terror officials will confront terrorist charities and shut them down, the British believe (naively, in my view) that they can excise the terror influence yet preserve the charity. Likewise, while the U.S. Treasury Department is expert at tracking U.S. dollar transactions in order to deny terrorists funding, I had never fully considered the problem of laundering such transactions via the Mexican Peso, an increasing problem especially given the interplay between terrorists and drug gangs and the prevalence of informal Peso transactions in the American southwest.

Perhaps the most important fact I learned was that British security officials believe that their pact with the Irish Republican Army (IRA) may be unraveling.  British intelligence and counter terror officials are now tracking and interrupting more IRA terror planning that at any time since before the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. The problem is not simply IRA dissidents, as some reports suggest, but mainstream IRA upset that their goals are not being fully met through the political process.  The reason why the collapse of the IRA model is so important is because it has increasingly been the key justification for negotiation with terrorists. When former Sen. George Mitchell took over as President Obama’s Middle East envoy, he repeatedly justified Obama administration actions with the IRA analogy.  “In a sense, in Northern Ireland, we had about 700 days of failure and one day of success,” Mitchell remarked in 2010. The Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl noted that there was seldom a press conference in which Mitchell did not make reference to the Northern Ireland peace process as a model and inspiration. German diplomats have also cited the IRA model to justify their engagement with Hezbollah, and British and American diplomats have cited the Northern Ireland process to justify negotiation with the Taliban.

The analogy has always been faulty. The IRA never had a Pakistan or Iran to support it, nor was it committed to wiping Great Britain from the map. The IRA may have been noxious, but its basic platform did not seek to deny women schooling. Still, if the British could bite their lower lip, talk to terrorist enemies, and strike a deal, why couldn’t other Europeans or Americans?

With the IRA’s resurgence, hopefully the arguments for engaging and appeasing terrorists can be put to rest. The Northern Ireland process rewarded IRA violence and may have brought some quiet. But just as terrorist leaders like Muammar Qaddafi never change their stripes no matter how much money they donate to British universities or how they enrich Western diplomats, terrorist groups never fully embrace rule-of-law and the democratic process. Rather, they abide by the philosophy so elegantly stated by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan: ‘Democracy is like a streetcar. You ride it as far as you need, and then you get off.’ It’s time Western policymakers deny them entry in the first place, rather than fall all over themselves to provide free tickets.

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