I can see why some influential Republicans on Capitol Hill would be reluctant to support the administration’s request to provide $450 million in emergency aid to Egypt. The recent mob attack on our embassy in Cairo, and President Mohammad Morsi’s slowness in condemning the attack, are hardly an advertisement for the new regime. But ask yourself this: Is Egypt likely to produce more or fewer terrorists if its economy collapses?
The question answers itself, and to the extent that an emergency infusion of cash from the U.S. and IMF can tide over the Egyptian economy for a while, it is likely to promote stability and deter the potential radicalization of Egyptian youth. It may even buy time for the new Muslim Brotherhood government to implement some of the free-market reforms it promised during the campaign, if it is so inclined and if it can overcome intense internal resistance from many sectors including the army. Conversely if the Egyptian debt crisis blows up, a la Greece or Iceland, the results are likely to be much more serious than in those countries, given the number of Salafist radicals already present in Egypt and given Egypt’s important strategic position as the largest Arab state.
Last week, Michael Doran of the Brookings Institution and I had an op-ed in the New York Times arguing for a greater level of American involvement in Syria. Among the steps we advocated was putting an initial focus on helping the rebels to take Aleppo, the country’s second-largest city and commercial hub.
Today you can read in the Weekly Standard a first-hand report on how the battle of Aleppo is progressing by Jonathan Spyer, a Jerusalem Post columnist. Spyer, who recently visited the area, confirms the extent to which Assad has lost control of the land between Aleppo and the Turkish border:
I entered Aleppo governorate in broad daylight, crossing through an olive grove on the Turkish border. Once over, I was picked up by a driver affiliated with the Free Syrian Army, and we continued on our peaceful way, taking the highway to the warzone of Aleppo city. The Assad regime no longer exists as a functioning presence in the surrounding countryside. The FSA, in its various local manifestations and with its various political allies, has the final word.
“We live in a sacrifice-free bubble of volitional delusion.” If Mitt Romney put his private fundraising speeches through a syllable-multiplying machine he might come up with something like that—generalizing, demonizing, and dismissive of entitlement-happy American moochers. And liberal columnists would mug him for it.
But in fact a liberal columnist wrote it. The line appeared in Frank Bruni’s Sunday New York Times column about the lost American virtue of sacrifice. “It’s odd,” writes Bruni. “We revere the Americans who lived through World War II and call them the ‘greatest generation’ precisely because of the sacrifices they made. But we seem more than content to let that brand of greatness pass us by.”
The Office of Management and Budget is now promising to compensate defense contractors for any legal penalties that would stem from violating the WARN Act, a federal law that requires employers to warn employees at least 60 days in advance of mass layoffs. The Obama administration had already been urging contractors to ignore the WARN Act in the case of the looming sequestration cuts, since the 60-day-minimum would mean hundreds of thousands of employees could get notices of pending layoffs just days before the presidential election.
But it’s one thing for the Obama administration to tell contractors that they shouldn’t worry about the law. It’s quite another to promise that the cost of any resulting lawsuits will be covered by the government (read: the taxpayers):
But the Friday guidance from the Office of Management and Budget raised the stakes in the dispute, telling contractors that they would be compensated for legal costs if layoffs occur due to contract cancellations under sequestration — but only if the contractors follow the Labor guidance.
The guidance said that if plant closings or mass layoffs occur under sequestration, then “employee compensation costs for [Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification] WARN act liability as determined by a court” would be paid for covered by the contracting federal agency.
It’s been over 20 days since the attack in Libya, and while the Obama administration has finally acknowledged that it was an act of terrorism, it’s still being handled as a law enforcement issue. Reports indicate that the FBI still hasn’t been able to get into Benghazi to investigate, due to security concerns — concerns that are apparently very new, since the consulate was not heavily secured before the attack.
Sen. Bob Corker sent a letter to the administration yesterday, demanding to know when and why the security situation became so perilous in Benghazi that even the FBI could not get to the city:
As of this morning, reports indicate that our well-trained FBI agents still have not been able to get into Benghazi to investigate. Yet just 18 days ago the administration apparently judged that it was appropriate for our consulate to be lightly guarded and it was safe for our ambassador to come through the city with a small security detail. What has changed in Libya in such a short time that even FBI agents, our most elite investigative personnel, cannot safely enter the city?
What has led to such a precipitous decline?
This weekend saw the convention of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), Turkey’s ruling Islamist party. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that he would remain active in politics until 2023, thereby confirming his role as the Turkish equivalent of Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
The AKP’s convention played host to a number of foreign officials, including the leader of Hamas:
Among the many high-profile leaders from around the world, Khaled Meshaal, the head of the Hamas movement, was by far the most popular foreign guest for the thousands of supporters of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) who gathered for the party’s convention in Ankara yesterday. In his opening remarks, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan introduced all foreign dignitaries attending the convention one by one. The biggest applause from the AKP supporters present came for Meshaal, prompting him to stand up and greet the audience. While Meshaal was greeting the audience, slogans such as “Damn Israel” echoed around the convention hall.
That President Obama describes Erdoğan as one of his closest foreign friends is scandalous. Erdoğan has transformed Turkey from an aspiring democracy to a country which ranks below even Russia in terms of basic freedoms. And it has transformed Turkey from a country fighting terrorism to, in effect, a country cheerleading terrorists.
Over the last week, indications have emerged from Venezuela that the fourteen year rule of President Hugo Chavez may be coming to an end this Sunday, when voters will choose between El Comandante and his dynamic opposition rival, Henrique Capriles. There are the polls from local companies like Datanalisis and Consultores 21 which show that Capriles has slashed Chavez’s lead, and may even be edging ahead. There is the large pool of “undecided” voters—anywhere between 10 and 20 percent—who will probably vote for Capriles, but are too afraid to let a pollster know. And there was the opposition rally in Caracas yesterday which drew tens of thousands onto the streets of the capital, all chanting “You See It! You Feel It! President Capriles!”
Perhaps the most striking suggestion that change is in the air came from a group of Cuban doctors who were sent to Venezuela under the Misión Barrio Adentro, a Chavez-financed social welfare program whose core purpose is to lock up the votes of poorer Venezuelans for the current regime. Back in 2006, the George W. Bush administration, having registered the large number of Cuban medical personnel working on such solidarity missions in countries like Venezuela, created the Cuban Medical Professional Parole program to assist those wishing to defect. Now, the Venezuelan newspaper El Universal reports (English translation here) that the Cubans are deserting their posts at a rate of 80 per month, in large part because they anticipate a Capriles victory in Sunday’s election.
The Romney campaign has been oddly mute on the questions surrounding the Benghazi attacks, giving the political media yet another excuse to ignore the story altogether. But now that the Obama administration’s narrative on Libya has collapsed and the drumbeat of questions has started getting louder, the Romney campaign seems finally to be picking up the issue. The candidate penned an op-ed on Middle East policy for the Wall Street Journal today, and his campaign is slamming the White House over its conflicting story on Libya:
Ryan Williams, Romney campaign spokesman, said in a statement: “The Obama White House and the Obama campaign can’t seem to get their stories straight on the attack on our consulate in Libya. This morning, they offered conflicting stories on if and when the President thought the attack in Benghazi was a terrorist act.”
“These inconsistencies raise even more questions about the confusion and mixed messages that have marked the White House’s response from the very beginning,” Williams added.
Well, pardon me for repeating myself, but we’ve just been treated to another sure sign that the Obama media cult is the littlest bit worried about Wednesday’s debate. This time it’s in the form of a “Political Memo” in the New York Times from CNBC Chief Washington Correspondent John Harwood.
Mr. Harwood’s memo, “Debates Can Shift a Race’s Outcome, but It’s Not Easy,” takes a different tack from Gwen Ifill’s debates-don’t-really-matter op-ed in yesterday’s Washington Post.