William McGurn of the Wall Street Journal and George Weigel, my colleague at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, have intelligent columns (here and here) about Representative Paul Ryan’s address at Georgetown University last week. There are two elements to the speech worth drawing attention to.
The first is a commendable modesty in Ryan’s remarks. While Ryan, a committed Catholic, provided a robust defense of his budget, he readily admits there is plenty of room for differences over the prudential application of Christian principles to matters of public policy. Too often people on both the left and the right insist the New Testament and Hebrew Bible provide a governing blueprint. In fact, they say virtually nothing about what we would consider public policy. They simply do not offer detailed guidance on (to name just a handful of issues) trade; education; welfare, crime; health care; affirmative action, immigration; foreign aid; legal reform; climate change; and much else. And even on issues that many people believe the Bible does speak to, if sometimes indirectly – including poverty and wealth, abortion and same-sex marriage, capital punishment and euthanasia – nothing in the text speaks to the nature or extent of legislation or the kind of prudential steps that ought to be pursued.
Alana Goodman is absolutely correct that the Obama administration’s treatment of Chen Guangcheng is abominable. But the betrayal of dissidents is simply the bread-and-butter both of realists and the UN’s breed of internationalists, both philosophies to which Obama aspires.
In the 1970s, realists sought to kill the Jackson-Vanik Amendment which tied relations with the Soviet Union to freedom of emigration. Realists claimed that emigration—predominantly by Soviet Jewry—was not a core U.S. interest and that congressional meddling risked rapprochement with the Soviet Union. It was only after the fall of the Soviet Union that dissidents and ex-communist officials both testified as to how Jackson-Vanik de-legitimized the Soviet Union and shook it to its core. Alas, few realists are students of history. As Sen. John Kerry auditions for a second-term Obama administration secretary of state appointment, he burnishes his credentials by undercutting any attempt to tie U.S. relations with Russia to human rights. Indeed, when it comes to the Magnitsky bill, it is clear he was for it before he was against it.
In 2008, Chris Matthews famously said this after listening to Barack Obama’s speech: “I felt this thrill going up my leg. I mean, I don’t have that too often.”
Let’s hope not.
Now, in 2012, after President Obama’s speech in Kabul, Afghanistan, the Obama Legend grows even larger.
“It was right out of Henry V actually,” Matthews said, “a touch of Barry, in this case, in the night for those soldiers risking their lives over there.”
So Obama, whom his press courtiers have compared to Lincoln, can now take his place next to Shakespeare.
Both President Obama and Governor Romney have spoken a good deal about Iran and have outlined general principles if not specific strategies. President Obama believes in the efficacy of diplomacy and continues to place faith that the Islamic Republic wants only nuclear weapons capability and will not take the final half step of actualizing nuclear weapons ambitions. Presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, on the other hand, declares that he will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, although, beyond the campaign rhetoric, how he would go about this is far from clear.
Both Obama and Romney, however, avoid talking about the key to the problem: The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The IRGC is important for several reasons:
- Custody, control, and perhaps command of any nuclear weapon would be in the hands of the IRGC.
- The IRGC controls perhaps 40 percent of Iran’s economy.
- While the Islamic Republic grants the IRGC an annual budget of perhaps $5 billion, since 2007, the IRGC economic wing has won over $35 billion in state contracts; it makes an additional $12 billion annually through its “invisible jetties” and smuggling networks. This means that the IRGC is now financially independent from the control of the very people whom the Obama administration seeks to strike a deal.
The IRGC is not a simple military, but rather an ideological army. Today, it operates as the Supreme Leader’s Praetorian Guard. Since 2007, its chief, Mohammad Ali Jafari, has identified Iranians themselves rather than external armies as posing the greatest threat to the Islamic Republic. It was Jafari’s “mosaic doctrine” and the subsequent reorganization of the IRGC into provincial units which helped the regime put down the 2009 student uprising.
Disgraceful beyond words:
Speaking by phone from his hospital room in Beijing on Wednesday night, a shaken Chen Guangcheng told the Associated Press that U.S. officials relayed the threat from the Chinese side.
Chen, who fled to the embassy six day ago, left under an agreement in which he would receive medical care, be reunited with his family and allowed to attend university in a safe place. He says he now fears for his safety and wants to leave.
A U.S. official denies knowledge of the threat, but says Chen was told his family would be sent back home if he stayed in the embassy.
On August 20, 2009, a Scottish court released Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the only man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing; he served 11.5 days for each person he murdered. British and Scottish officials explained that Megrahi’s release was “compassionate.” After all, the doctor who examined him said he had terminal prostate cancer and had only three months to live. Of course, he was wrong by more than a factor of ten, but compassion most likely was not the reason for his release.
Megrahi is once again reportedly near death. But, then again, Western journalists have dutifully reported the same story for years. When Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi fell, reporters raced to interview Megrahi only to be told that he was in the hospital and might never recover, yet he seems to have gone home as soon as cameramen filmed him looking frail in a hospital bed.
Former Arab League Chairman Amr Moussa leads a field of 13 presidential candidates in Egypt, according to a survey by the Al-Ahram Political Studies Center. Moussa received 41.1 percent of the vote, compared to surging Islamist but ex-Muslim Brotherhood candidate Abdel Moneim Abul-Fotouh, who took 27.3 percent of the vote. The poll does not reflect the impact of the Salafist Nour Party and Salafist Scholar Shura Council’s endorsement of Abul-Fotouh.
It would be a mistake to get lost in the horse race among the candidates at this point, though. It may be tempting for many to embrace Amr Moussa because he is not an Islamist, but when it comes to any issues about which Western liberals and proponents of Middle East peace and tolerance care, Amr Moussa is little better than his Salafist opponents.
Rather, it’s time the United States look ahead to Egypt’s future. Each candidate has promised their constituents the world. The Muslim Brotherhood and an-Nour rose to victory in parliamentary elections not only on the back of Saudi and Qatari petrodollars, but also because their representatives could condemn corruption and promise the poor and dispossessed almost anything: Guaranteed jobs, housing, and higher education; good salaries; and set prices in the markets.
That was fast. Newt Gingrich will formally end his campaign in Virginia this afternoon, and he’s reportedly already getting on board with bitter rival Mitt Romney. The Republican National Committee says it’s going to help Gingrich pay down debt, a nice gesture that may at least help keep him in line for the rest of the campaign season:
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, on the eve of suspending his roller coaster presidential bid, said in an interview with USA TODAY that he will embrace Mitt Romney‘s candidacy Wednesday and is ready to campaign for his former rival.
The two men will make a joint appearance in a few weeks, when Gingrich will make an official endorsement. The Romney campaign and the Republican National Committee have offered to be helpful as Gingrich works to retire his campaign debt.
From a Rasmussen poll taken late last week:
Voters overwhelmingly reject the idea that the war on terror is over one year after the death of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden, although most feel his al-Qaeda terrorist group is weaker today. But a majority also still thinks a terrorist attack is possible in the next year.
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 11 percent of Likely U.S. Voters think the war on terror is over. Seventy-nine percent say that war, declared after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on America, is not over. Another 11 percent are undecided.
President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have made diplomacy with the Taliban the cornerstone of their diplomatic strategy in Afghanistan. Never mind that neither the late Richard Holbrooke nor his successor Marc Grossman have ever bothered to conduct lessons learned from the Clinton administration’s disastrous experience talking to the Taliban.
The Taliban launched another attack on the Western presence in Afghanistan overnight as they attacked the Green Village, a major compound housing thousands of Western contractors and NGOs. Rather than being weak, the Taliban are demonstrating renewed vigor and operational capacity in the heart of ISAF territory. The same Taliban groups with whom the Americans and British now negotiate have, since the beginning of dialogue, attacked hotels in Kabul, the British and American embassies, and Afghan government buildings. There appears to be a direct correlation between the urgency of State Department outreach and the boldness of Taliban attacks.
Israel just began construction of a high cement wall on its northern border between the Israeli town of Metulla and the Lebanese town of Kfar Kila. The wall will only be a kilometer long, so it’s clearly not being placed there to prevent anyone from crossing the border per se. It’s being placed there to prevent anyone from crossing the border—or shooting across the border—at that specific location.
In 2005, I drove down there from Beirut with a Lebanese woman who grew up in the area. I was thunderstruck when we arrived at Kfar Kila. Israeli houses were mere feet from the border fence. Some of those homes are so close to it that a person could walk right up to an Israeli backyard and, while remaining inside Lebanese territory, throw a hand grenade through somebody’s window. And remember, this is the part of Lebanon that’s controlled by Hezbollah.
If you’re an American, how would you feel if the Taliban set up shop a few feet from your yard? Comfy?
If President Obama wrote a thesaurus, he’d probably list “friendship” and “respect” as synonyms. When he and his allies seek affirmation for their foreign policy, they cite the friendly relations they have with some of the world’s worst dictators and would-be dictators.
Obama is willing to hand dissidents and defectors back to their oppressors; write human rights off the agenda with Russia; and calls Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan one of his closest friends. Previously, he reached out to Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi and Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez.
Establishing friendly relations with dictators is not hard: All one needs to do is cede all principle and give them everything they want. Take Kim Jong-un: While even Obama would not go so far, he could make the young North Korean demigod America’s closest ally if only he would abandon South Korea, withdraw U.S. forces from the Korean peninsula, and provide all the luxury goods money could buy.
You have to hand it to President Obama. He delivered a great speech from Bagram Air Base last night — one that sounded tough yet reasonable, even while skillfully eliding all the tough questions about his Afghan policy.
In fact, he won even before he opened his mouth: the image of the president, standing in front of two hulking MRAP armored vehicles, at a military base in a war zone, was a powerful visual reminder of the stature and power of the commander-in-chief. President Bush certainly made good use of the prerogatives of the office to establish himself in the public’s eye as a strong leader, and Obama showed he was a worthy successor in that regard.